One Key Of Program
Is Emphasis On
Track As An Option
BY LAUREN HENRY
The Workforce Education (WE) Committee hopes to transform local education into a series of pathways to equip students for skilled, high-paying local jobs.
The WE Committee is composed of individuals from the Greene County and Greeneville school systems, Walters State Community College (WSCC), and the Greene County Partnership, as well as local industry.
The committee has been meeting since last summer and now hopes that it will be ready to introduce the pathways program to students in time for January registration.
"We are bringing in the principals because we are getting to the point we need to roll out with this," said Wayland Seaton, Greene County supervisor of high schools.
What the committee has been working on is called the Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathways program. It is designed to give students a clear path to follow for education.
"What I really like about this is, it is not one way to be successful," said Director of County Schools Dr. Vicki Kirk. "There are multiple ways to be successful."
The students can leave the pathway at any point and will know what jobs are available for that particular level of education along the path.
The idea is to divide education into broad educational categories rather than split students into either a university track or a vocational track.
Then, through the pathways program, if a student is interested in a certain career, there will be a set pathway to follow, showing what classes and post-secondary work is needed for success along that path.
The program calls for counselors to coach students and parents beginning in sixth grade.
By the student's freshman year of high school, the student will be required to declare a pathway -- but the student will remain free to change pathways if he or she wishes to do so.
According to data presented by the Greene County Partnership, the four largest categories of jobs in this area are manufacturing, retail, health care and education.
"Sometime in the future," Seaton told the committee Monday, "this group needs to decide what the pathways are going to look like and how many."
He said that he hopes that four or five categories will serve students in Greene County and Greeneville.
The categories, he said, would most likely be health and science, manufacturing, business, education, and possibly transportation.
The WE Committee recently finished outlining its first pathway. The health and science pathway will lead students to careers within that category.
"Instead of saying, 'I want to be a doctor or a lawyer,' we want them to say, 'I want to be in the health care field' -- and go as far along the path as they want to," Seaton said.
The committee presented the printed poster for the health and science pathway that visually lays out education and needed skills.
If a student stops along the path, then that student can re-enter the path whenever he or she wants, Seaton said.
A handmade manufacturing poster shows the preliminary design of the pathway for the manufacturing category, which differs from the health and science pathway.
The poster included soft skills that numerous business surveys have indicated are necessary for success within the field, according to Seaton.
"This is the minimum we need to be doing for our students," Seaton said.
Those in attendance reviewed the poster and offered suggestions to be used in creating a more definitive pathway poster.
Transportation was the newest category of discussion for the group.
According to Seaton, there are 1,000 truck-driving jobs in the region. Local industries such as Landair support a heavy transportation industry.
"The pathways need to fit each individual community, and because we have such a heavy opportunity in transportation, that may very well be a separate pathway in our community," Director of City Schools Dr. Linda Stroud said.
Currently, the committee has no pathway planned for transportation.
The committee also heard from Bryan Summers, area director of Profile International, about possibly partnering with JobFit, a job placement assessment tool designed to determine career compatibility.
The schools would use the assessments to help students choose pathways or find job opportunities.
According to Summers, achieving "job fit" matters. The goal is determine where an individual will feel the most fulfilled and thus be the most productive.
"We found it [JobFit] very accurate and true to form," said Robbie Bailey, John Deere Power Products manager of employer relations. John Deere currently uses JobFit assessment for the company's employees.
Bailey said that, at first, she was "very skeptical" about JobFit. Later, she found the assessment useful, she said.
"It was pretty amazing how you could go back later and see a real strong correlation," she added.
If the school systems partnered with JobFit, students would take a self-administered online test to help assess their potential "job fit."
Students would have a digital resume at the end of the assessment as well as access to a variety of other tools and resources for job-searching and area job availability.
"We want to keep kids interested and their eyes targeted on a particular position, and if we can keep them local, it is better for everyone," Summers said.
Many of the people who attended Monday's WE Committee had also attended an Education & Workplace Development Summit last November, which was sponsored by the Greene County Partnership.
The goal of the summit was to identify problems that manufacturers in Greene County face as they relate to education of the local workforce, and begin to define what needs to be done to resolve those problems.
The summit was separate from the WE Committee, which focuses on problems with education as they relate to preparing skilled workers for local employment.
The two ventures now exist with almost parallel goals, though they began with separate purposes.
According to Seaton, the scope of the WE Committee has expanded since its creation last summer.
NO TECH CENTER
A major stumbling block for the goals of both ventures is lack of a true adult center in Greene County for career and technology students.
According to Seaton, Walters State could offer some of the needed classes, but students would not qualify for technology-based financial assistance.
He said the easiest solution would be for WSCC to offer the classes and students use Tennessee Lottery scholarship money to pay for the classes.
The Tennessee Department of Education's Dr. Danielle Mezera was present for the meeting.
The next meeting of the WE Committee will be Oct. 30, when the group will continue preparing CTE Pathways, including creating the business, education, and possibly transportation pathways.