School system and partners unveil new workforce development plan
About 100 people gathered in the Oak Room of Ogeechee Technical College over breakfast on Wednesday to show their support beyond the school gates for a new county workforce development plan from Bulloch.
The Bulloch County Pre-K through 12 Schools District renamed its former Vocational, Technical and Agricultural Education, or CTAE, Steering Committee, simply the Manpower Steering Committee. Three sub-committees – a collaboration team, an education team and a community team – were formed.
Together with members from business and industry, higher education, local governments, economic development organizations and the military, they are expected to promote the plan and expand efforts to show students the local career opportunities and provide high school students with employability training, work-based apprenticeships and college dual enrollment opportunities.
“One of the main things we want to get across today is that this plan can’t be done with Bulloch County schools alone,” said Julie Chance, executive director of school system program improvement. . “We need to have the support of this community, of you in this room and others around Bulloch County and the area to make this happen.”
She and Bulloch County Development Authority Economic Development Programs Manager Rachel Barnwell and Ogeechee Tech Business and Industry Training Manager Kathleen Kosmoski provided an overview of the plan and its goals. They had also led the development of the plan in the previous CTAE steering committee.
The 3 pillars
The plan adopted as a “three-pillar foundation” a stated goal of the Georgia Department of Education to have all students ready to enroll in college or university, enlist in the military, or find successful employment when they graduate from high school. Georgia Southern University President Kyle Marrero also used this “enrolled, enlisted, or employed” slogan to promote a collaboration between kindergarten and college education in the university’s larger service region.
“What we especially want for our students is that when they graduate, they won’t be categorized into just one piece of this,” Chance said. “We want them to have a choice.”
So if the student’s chosen path leads directly to a job after high school, they should “a job with good pay and benefits,” she said.
The Workforce Steering Committee aims for schools and post-secondary institutions to build a workforce that meets the needs of local and regional industries and businesses which, in turn, will provide “sustainable employment to citizens of Bulloch County, Barnwell said.
The Welding Technology and Manufacturing Engineering Assistant, or META, certificate programs at Ogeechee Technical College were cited as examples of direct routes to relatively well-paying jobs for some high school students.
The college also offers diploma and associate degree programs in manufacturing engineering, but META 1 and META 2 are short-term certificate programs for which specific industry partners, such as Great Dane Trailers and Koyo Bearings guarantees to provide a job interview upon completion and for OTC publishes starting salaries on its website. These programs are open to 11th and 12th graders who are at least 16 years old.
“These are the certificates we’ve designed specifically as a pathway for our high school partners…” said Ryan Foley, OTC Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs. “It’s a basic industrial maintenance kind of thing, but they’ll start it with a higher salary than someone on the street. Then they have a path that allows them to come to OTC and finish the degree or associate’s degree.”
The college is also working on an agreement with Georgia Southern for students to continue their education toward a bachelor’s degree in manufacturing engineering.
Learning in the workplace
Statesboro High School, Southeast Bulloch High School, and Portal Middle High School all have work-based learning programs in which 11th and 12th graders work part-time with off-campus employers. Students are graded on meeting their job responsibilities and learning on the job.
But some CTAE courses offered by schools do not have work sites available.
“Currently, there are 137 work-based learning sites, but there is not a site for every course. …,” Kosmoski said. “Statesboro High School recently added a sports medicine track, but there is no workplace learning site aligned with this track, and the same can be said for several others, such as accounting .”
Of the approximately 1,500 students enrolled in grades 11 and 12 at Bulloch County schools, only 213 are now participating in work-based learning, she reported.
The Steering Committee is therefore seeking additional work-based learning sites and encouraging greater student participation. Support is also sought to increase the educational experiences available through “technical career student organizations,” such as Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, or FCCLA, Future Business Leaders of America, or FBLA, SkillsUSA and the FFA National Organization.
Student members of some of these clubs opened the doors to the Jack Hill Building and greeted participants on their way to breakfast in the Oak Room.
past and future
Bulloch County Development Authority CEO Benjy Thompson and Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson traced the development of the new Workforce Development Plan to conversations that they had over a decade ago, as well as a 2014 report on Bulloch County by the Harvard Graduate School of Education-based Pathways to Prosperity Network.
In 2015, Barnwell hosted DABC’s first Manufacturing Day event, working with Ogeechee Tech, the school system and local industries. Every year on Manufacturing Day, eighth graders visit industries and the college to learn about potential future careers. This led to the creation of a whole series of different “discovery events” throughout the year, but also the realization that several organizations were doing separate work on workforce development that could be better coordinated, Thompson said.
Wilson concluded the meeting by asking attendees to complete a survey, which asked how they or their organizations could contribute to the effort.
“I think this gives us an opportunity to show our common purpose, to help our children find their way to being enrolled, enlisted or employed,” Wilson said.
The plan, he said, also demands accountability. He calls for regular evaluations of his own effectiveness and an annual retreat to review progress.