Building bridges to business, professions

First Posted: 2/26/2014

LIMA — Before Gov. John Kasich revealed his proposal to initiate vocational education starting with seventh-graders, Lima schools administrators and area economic development leaders had talks for a collaborative effort to expose students as young as kindergarteners to possible careers and to eventually explain the educational pathway needed to enter that job field.

Lima schools Superintendent Jill Ackerman explained school administrators brainstormed with officials at the Lima-Allen County Chamber of Commerce and the Allen Economic Development Group on a program to develop, retain and promote the region’s work force. They also want to create a work force development program so that every individual can be prepared to enter the work force with the necessary skills needed for success.

“I think we need to find a way to expose our students to everything they can possibly do in our community,” said Ackerman, who explained district administrators are working with Allen Economic Development Group Strategic Workforce Development coordinator Eric Davis on developing the program.

Attempts to reach Davis were unsuccessful on Wednesday.

She said this fits in with two of many educational obligations of the district are to the students by exposing them to possible job opportunities and to the business community by educating students to fill the jobs available.

Providing an example, elementary school students may take field trips to manufacturing and business sites to see what jobs are available and to hopefully pique student interest.

“When they get to high school, they will have pathways which we already have laid out,” Ackerman said. “The kid will know or will have a good idea about what path they want to take whether it is to be doctor or a veterinarian and this is the pathway to take and the courses you need to take. We are developing this awareness early on and then carrying it all the way through high school.”

She said students can, and have, switched career fields while in the high school program but they are aware of the subjects they need to take to be successful.

School officials also want to build a parent component to the program.

The program, which would be funded through a state grant if awarded, would start with kindergarten students and continue until high school graduation.

The superintendent also said she also wants to break down stereotypes about skilled trades and college graduates.

“I think our industry can help us with that message because there are welding jobs that will pay six figures out there for the right welder and not every kid is going to go to a four-year college and that is OK,” Ackerman said. “If a four-year college is not for you, there are these skilled trades out there that you can take a look at, and they are good jobs.”

She voiced an interest in developing internships for the skilled trades similar to the post-secondary and dual enrollment programs for college-bound students.

Ackerman revealed the district is working on a grant application for money through the state’s $250 million Straight A Fund to pay for educational and supplemental materials and a director to oversee the program. Kasich created the fund in 2013 to encourage educators to try new approaches to meet the learning needs of its students, reduce the cost of running a school or school district and drive more dollars to the classroom.

During the first round, 24 grants were awarded to more than 150 school districts and partnering organizations were awarded $88.6 million.

They are working on the program details now and the application is due in early April. Ackerman, who shared the district had a career exploration program in the past, said she would like to see the program in operation when school resumes in late summer.

“Once we get something like this up and running then it should be just run because partnerships have been developed, programs put in place and it should be able to sustain itself,” Ackerman said.

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