Helen Rice, state Board of Education member for the Third Congressional District and LaGrange resident, told attendees at a meeting Tuesday that a college and career academy would allow local students to be more “work ready.”
Troup County leaders plan to create a college and career academy locally with start-up funds from Kia as part of an agreement for locally issued bonds. The academy is envisioned to help students who may otherwise decide to drop out and go into the work force to continue in school and graduate, while giving them skills to prepare them for the working world.
An attendee asked why Troup County would need to establish an academy when students have opportunities for dual enrollment at West Georgia Technical College, where they may learn trade skills. Rice responded that a career academy offers “a different, on-hand experience.”
Rice described college and career academies as offering opportunities for students to have work-based learning. The courses “promotes individual students to broaden their score, their resource.”
“If you have a passion for a certain job or trade, these college and career academies focus on those trades and they are aligned with your community,” Rice said. “Your community sort of says ‘these are the skills and things that are necessary to turn out work-force ready,’ so these college and career academies are doing that. They’re listening to their communities, lining up with their school boards and offering different classes so that when those kids graduate … they’re ready to go out into the work force.”
Rice said West Georgia Technical College offers some of the trade courses students would seek, but a college and career academy also would focus more on “soft skills.”
“What we hear from a lot of the business and industries is that a lot of these kids need to know how to read graphs and write effectively,” Rice said, explaining what soft skills entail. “They need to know how to show up to work in the right clothes, look someone in the eye and speak to them. A college and career academy will afford that and internalize in students a sense of self-worth.”
Rice said the academy also would be more tailored toward preparing students to work locally by aligning with local businesses and being under the purview of the local school board, so students will be taught what they need to get jobs in the area. Part of the design of the academy, leaders have said, is to help create more local graduates who are qualified to work at Kia and its suppliers.
Other topics came up in the hour-long meeting. A student attending addressed the pathways program, comparing it to communism because it requires students to choose a course of study in sixth grade. The high school senior said she has not decided her career path, and that classes she has taken that wouldn’t fall into her pathway have given her different ideas of what she may want to study after high school.
Rice said that may be true of some students, but many have a passion or an idea of what area they want to study. The idea of pathways is to allow students to study classes that are within their interest and keep them from getting discouraged with school.
Pathways may also allow students to find out earlier whether they are truly interested in the careers they think they want. She said many that choose to become veterinarians at sixth grade change their mind when they see the full scope of the job — like cleaning out kennels. Students have the flexibility to change their pathway and explore other options if they want.
A teacher attending the meeting said that state plans for what kind of standards and curriculum will be taught is too often changing, and that teachers and students have a hard time keeping up. The teacher said they don’t have a chance to implement anything, because it seems that it’s changed when they begin to use it.
Rice responded that changes are due, in part, to negative feedback received from teachers and districts when implementing new standards. The state changes to try and address the issues, and pull back on implementing programs or standards if they don’t believe the change is working.