We have all read the statistics: The United States continues its downward spiral in ranking of the education and preparation of our students for college. A global education study reports when it comes to math, reading and science, teens in the U.S. rank 36th in the world.

The assessment administered by the 2012 Program for International Student Association (PISA), included more than half a million students from 65 countries and is recognized as the benchmark for assessing the skill level of 15-year-old teens worldwide. It is not surprising that students in East Asian countries scored the highest, with Shanghai, Singapore, and Hong Kong claiming the top three spots. Performance by students from the U.S. was lackluster in the areas of reading and science and well below the average in math as compared to that of other countries.

In addressing these critically low scores, Education Secretary Ame Duncan stated, “The brutal truth…that urgent reality…must serve as a wake up call against educational complacency and low expectations.” Secretary Duncan goes on to say, “The problem is not that our 15-year-olds are performing worse today than before…the problem, instead, is that they are simply not making progress. Yet students in many other nations…are advancing, instead of standing still.”

This problem cannot be left to the government to fix: this is the responsibility of all citizens, most especially those in leadership positions within their companies. The serious business of engaging with our students is the single best investment a company can make, both in the immediate present and far into the future. A strong, vibrant and consistent commitment to our leaders of tomorrow will not only provide the tools and training necessary to attain the highest level of education for our students, it will also reinforce your company’s responsibility to give back to the community in a meaningful and impactful way.

The Northrop Grumman Foundation and the National Society of Black Engineers have launched a three-year, $2-million program designed to expand the nation’s engineering workforce through a partnership with Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The Northrop Grumman Corporation/NSBE Integrated Pipeline Program, funded by the Northrop Grumman Foundation, will provide 72 engineering students with $8,000 scholarship grants, internships with Northrop Grumman and year-round academic and professional development support.

Consumers at every level are wielding their purchasing power in the name of “doing good.” Their buying decisions are increasingly based upon a demand for your corporation’s commitment to social responsibility and philanthropic initiatives. A socially responsible business will engage their team in an active and consistent campaign, providing the necessary transparency and gravitas to grow your company from the inside out, dramatically impacting the lives of everyone involved in ways you never imagined.

Here are two platforms for the development of compelling initiatives to involve your company in the critical and rewarding work of building a better future, one student at a time.

Company Sponsored Scholarships

As someone who sit on the board of directors of a highly respected scholarship fund, I have experienced first-hand the direct impact a company can have that dedicates the time and resources to lifting a less fortunate, yet highly eager student in acquiring the necessary skill set and hands-on experience that determines their future, and ours. It is important to note that there are a handful of 501(c)3 entities that target those students who “fall through the cracks,” yet are able to maintain an acceptable GPA, while balancing jobs necessary to put food on the table, taking care of their siblings, physical/mental/emotional abuse, and the lack of love or guidance from one or more family members who are either incarcerated, dead or cannot be found.

Corporate partners and other concerned individuals have generously served as active participants in ongoing life skills classes that include career advising, financial planning, and the reality of the college experience through programs centered on the best courses to take and how to study by prioritizing your time. In addition, there are numerous opportunities to engage experts in the presentation of business and professional etiquette classes, interview skills, and financial management.

Make Your Mission Mentorship

There are those visionary companies that feel a deep sense of stewardship towards their respective communities. They are implementing active and meaningful initiatives to marry the young and older talent within their organizations through the establishment of mentorship programs.  They are tackling a gap that plagues their industries from a workforce vantage through optimizing a combination of young and mature talent. This May-December workforce serves to complement their respective skill sets: the older, more experienced players (the ones being laid off or who have retired early, but are not ready to stop working) are teamed with younger players who have strong technical skills. This multi-generational approach is resulting in a cross-mentoring model wherein the talents and expertise of the respective players are maximized for cross-functionality and tremendous results.