County School Bd.
Meets This Evening
BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
Deciding which job is best for an individual can be difficult enough, but not having the proper skill-set prepared to fill a student's desired role may be even worse.
On Wednesday, the Workforce Education Committee met to grant final approval of five "career pathways" that members have spent nearly a year-and-a-half developing.
These pathways are designed to provide a structured means for a student to decide on a career direction and to gain the necessary education to reach the specific job and earning level the student desires.
The committee includes representatives of the county and city school systems, local industry, and civic leaders.
The group collaborated on efforts in order to aid local students in the difficult process of selecting and preparing for their future careers and, most importantly to the committee, preparing them for good-paying, local jobs.
This evening, the Greene County Board of Education will consider these five pathways for approval as a new structure for high school electives and curriculum.
In the Greeneville City School System, the pathways will be a key tool for use by guidance counselors in scheduling classes and guiding students, according to Greene Technology Center Principal Jerry Ayers.
There are a total of five pathways representing 95 percent of the jobs expected to exist within the next five years in East Tennessee, according to Greene County Partnership data.
Of these pathways, the written material for two of them is already complete. Those two are health science and manufacturing.
The drafts of the material for the remaining three pathways -- transportation, business/finance, and education/professional services -- received the committee's final approval on Wednesday.
These pathways begin directly out of high school and can take students straight into a job, to a certification, or to some level of degree, depending on the area of study.
A large copy of each of the five pathways, graphically designed to appear as a road or pinwheel, depending on the career, will be located in a hallway in every high school, according to county High School Supervisor Wayland Seaton.
Seaton has been instrumental in creating the pathways and has served as chairman of the Workforce Education Committee.
He also noted on Wednesday that the pathways now include various recommendations for the development of "soft skills," based on industry leaders' recommendations.
Such skills include good communication, appropriate dress, proper behavior at a workplace, and work ethic.
"The soft skills are the most important to a company," he said. "If you have that, you can build everything else on top of it."
Judy Phillips, the county's elementary and middle school supervisor, noted that the county intends to implement these ideas within the middle school curriculum as well.
In sixth grade, students will begin to learn about how careers are "clustered."
In seventh grade, students will be introduced to the system's specific pathways.
Finally, in eighth grade, counselors and teachers will encourage the students to narrow their focus to a specific pathway.
In keeping with this progression, the system is also studying the benefits of a workplace readiness assessment tool known as JobFit.
Walters State Community College Assistant Dean of Community Education Anita Ricker has been studying this program for the committee, and reported that four students at each of the area high schools have taken a demonstration version of the assessment.
For the demonstration assessments, schools selected two students who were already college-bound and two students who were undecided about their future pathway, she said.
While almost all students received return results that they agreed matched their interests and talents, at least one student had "eye-opener" results that included housekeeping, she noted. Ricker explained that this upset the student, who is now exhibiting motivation to obtain more advanced skills to avoid such often-minimum wage labor.
Ricker estimated that the cost of the program would be about $12 or less per test, per student.
Depending on the availability of system finances, Ricker recommended that students take the assessment their sophomore year in order to guide their class selection.
She also recommended the program for senior students, however, because many area industries use the program to locate prospective employees.
Moreover, the assessment also makes recommendations for improvement on interview skills, she said.
TECH CENTER UPDATE
The committee also heard an update from Ayers related to the proposed implementation of night courses at the Greene Technology Center (GTC).
The center would serve as a satellite school for the Tennessee Technology Center in Morristown in order to alleviate the long wait list facing students interested in post-secondary certifications.
The Tennessee Board of Regents will first have to approve this proposal, Ayers reported, a decision which may not occur until April.
If this approval is given, the satellite school would begin with four programs: welding, machine tool, industrial electricity, and industrial maintenance.
Class schedules at the GTC will be reworked to allow advanced students to come in the afternoons instead of the mornings so that they can stay for the evening classes and begin working on their certifications while they are still in high school, Ayers said.
"The devil is in the details. We've got a lot of work to do," he added.