National Ed. Leader: Companies Must Invest Early in Diverse Workforce

D.C.’s Digital Pioneers Academy CEO and Principal Mashea Ashton Backs Computer Science Requirement, Touts Remote Learning Benefits, Calls Closing Pandemic Learning Loss Gap a ‘Long Game’


May 6, 2021 (Washington, D.C.)--Companies that want to stay competitive and succeed in today’s economy must have a diverse workforce says national education leader Mashea Ashton. And, cultivating that talent starts early with businesses investing in schools and teachers.

Ms. Ashton is the founder, CEO and principal of Digital Pioneers Academy, the first and only computer science focused middle school in Washington, D.C. She discussed this and other key education issues, including what we have learned one year later from pandemic induced remote learning, on Pinkston’s Coffee with Closers podcast. [WATCH MS. ASHTON’S FULL INTERVIEW HERE].

On the need for a diverse workforce, Ms. Ashton said “to the extent that these corporations want to be competitive, they want to make sure their products go to the masses, they have got to have a diverse workforce and that doesn’t start when you actually need the job. It starts with investing in that pipeline way earlier than day one of the interview with HR. I would say investing in schools that have a unique mission but investing in leaders, investing in teachers and really partnering with colleges and universities as well. It really is a continuum.” [WATCH HERE]

In terms of the critical skills scholars need to have successful careers, Ashton points to computer science learning as the gateway, especially for students and families in “the most under-resourced neighborhoods and communities,” because one thing the pandemic has taught us is that having “high paying, high demand jobs help you survive even in a pandemic.” She further observed that “the reality is that mostly middle class or upper class families have taken advantage of those [computer science] opportunities.” [WATCH HERE]

On remote learning in a pandemic, Ashton said that this model has worked really well for some students who are easily distracted. She said of remote learning “there are some lessons learned around personalization, the limiting of distractions.” [WATCH HERE] She also noted that virtual learning and Zoom’s “private chat function has been so empowering for some of our kids who don’t like to raise their hands or are afraid to make a mistake.” [WATCH HERE]

In terms of closing the pandemic learning gap, Ashton said “this is a long game. We are not going to close the gaps that we lost in this pandemic in one month, one year. Quite honestly, it is probably an 18 month plan. And, so what I hope after is there is some element of remote learning that just continues because it allows us to personalize the experience for many of our kids.” [WATCH HERE]

As for how schools can succeed post pandemic, she said “one thing that I think is mission critical is the social-emotional needs of our kids and our adults. What we have learned during this time is the building of the community, staying connected is so important in a pandemic and even more important when we come back.” [WATCH HERE]

Coffee with Closers is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon and iHeart Radio Podcasts.

About Coffee with Closers:

Coffee with Closers is a podcast created by a team of public relations professionals at Pinkston, a leading Washington, D.C.-based strategic communications firm. From media personalities, to pioneers in healthcare and disruptors in business, Coffee with Closers engages with some of America’s most interesting people who not only tell interesting stories but are making an impact in their field and society.


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