Governor Jack Markell fielded questions from Delaware high school journalists during a multi-school teleconference today at Dover High School.
The hour-long Q&A with the governor covered topics including higher education, jobs and unemployment and school safety.
Gov. Markell told the group of budding journalists that it’s important for young people being involved in state, local and federal issues. And it seems many Delaware high schoolers are paying attention to the hot topic issues in the state.
Several students asked questions about the future of jobs and the state’s unemployment rate. One Archmere Academy student asked how teens can help tackle unemployment especially with the demise of Fisker, one of Delaware’s most promising job creators, as well as the mass job cuts at AstraZeneca.
Markell said that while the state has reduced the unemployment rate from 7.3 percent to 6.5 percent in the past three months, the best thing students can do is prepare for future jobs through education.
“The most important thing you can do is apply yourself in school and get a good education,” said Markell. “The reason I say that is because when we talk to businesses about setting up shop here in Delaware, and employing people here and investing here, we ask them, what are the most important factors that they look at when deciding where to create jobs? The number one thing they always mention has to do with the quality of the workforce.”
Markell said some of the growing career fields include financial services, IT innovation, health care and agriculture. He highlighted the state’s initiatives to bring more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education to the state as well as more language immersion programs so students can compete in the global economy.
When it comes to higher education, students seemed most concerned about college affordability.
Even Borrelli, a Brandywine High School senior and student council president said college application fees can be as much as $75 per school and asked the governor if there’s any state help out there for students.
Markell noted that a recent study showed many Delaware students are missing the chance to go to college because they don’t think it’s affordable.
“In Delaware there are 1,000 students who could be successful in college but who do not apply, and we want to get that number to zero,” said Markell.
Markell said through a new partnership with the College Board, underprivileged students who score high on the SAT will have the opportunity to get up to eight college application fees waived.
With the recent one year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, school safety is a top concern for students.
Markell said the state has been working on the Ominous School Safety Plan for the past few years and has invested in technology to help prepare first responders, educators and students for a variety of school emergencies.
“It’s a portal but its where all the relevant information about the school can be entered,” explained Markell. “First of all we know the most important people in any school in terms of keeping it safe are the people who are already within the school including teachers and faculty and at your age, students. There are some very good training materials available in the portal. In addition one of the things that are really important is when a first responder is responding to an incident, it’s really important that they know what they’re walking in to.”
Markell is set to make is annual state of the state address later this month, where more of Delaware’s top issues will be addressed.