Christensen encourages telling students and parents of the opportunities available
Greene County school superintendent Tim Christensen knows building a career academy doesn’t ensure students will come. He began recruiting students last Wednesday at a presentation that included representatives of many of the employers who hope to hire career academy graduates.
Christensen said he is “extremely excited” about the opportunities the career academy will provide. He’s excited students will have an opportunity “to learn skills and get a quality job without necessarily incurring significant college debt,” and about the opportunity for local businesses “to hire quality employees.”
Dr Dan Kinney, president of Iowa Central Community College, and Neale Adams, dean of business and industrial technology at Iowa Central, were the first speakers of the evening.
Kinney said an important aspect of the career academy is regionalization, that the programs that will be taught there are among the most expensive to teach. He said putting equipment like that used for welding where many students have access saves taxpayers money and will help keep rural students close to home.
Iowa Central already has a regional career academy in Eagle Grove, and another will open at Laurens the same time the Greene County academy opens.
Adams said the goal of the career academy will be to prepare students either for the job market or to continue in post-secondary education. Students will attend the career academy for one year, earning between 12 and 18 college credits and as many professional credentials as possible.
He said a benefit is that students can spend a year learning about a career path they’re considering without incurring any expense. “If they change their career path, no harm done. They can go ahead and do what they want in post-secondary education,” he said.
He also explained the career academy will use the Iowa Central academic calendar, not the Greene County Schools calendar.
Christensen, Kinney and Adams have worked with AAI/Spalding, Power Lift, Scranton Manufacturing and Bauer Built in developing the advanced manufacturing/welding career strand.
All four manufacturers have agreed to offer apprenticeships for welding students. Students who take first-year welding classes during their junior year will be able to interview for apprenticeships in April. If they’re accepted they’ll spend eight weeks during the summer working for $13 an hour. During their senior year they’ll work half-time at the same wage, and then after graduation they’ll move up to $16 an hour.
Steve Goetsch of Scranton Manufacturing, Chris Conner of Power Lift, Mark Lane and Kristin Russell of AAI/Spalding, and Harold Boeset of Bauer Built all spoke of what the career academy and apprenticeship programs will mean for their companies. Lane said he likes the depth of the curriculum that will be offered. “Employers will know the students have the skills they need because we helped design the curriculum,” he said.
Boeset said the apprenticeships will provide skilled tradesmen “a perfect opportunity to mentor young students.”
Christensen said he’s working with employers in healthcare and culinary/hospitality to develop apprenticeships.
John Hansen, dean of science, technology, engineering, math and medical (STEMM) at Iowa Central and instructors David Busch and Scott Kehrberg spoke about the computer science/programming curriculum being developed for the academy. Students will be prepared to begin advanced training in coding at The Forge in Jefferson or to continue their education at a four-year college. “It’s a well-thought out curriculum designed not only for students who want a two-year degree or to work at The Forge, but for students who want to go to a four-year college, too,” Hansen said. “Students can jump off at any point,” Hansen said.
The coding/programming strand will be implemented next fall so students. Busch teaches programming at Iowa Central and will teach at the career academy. Kehrberg will teach with him. The curriculum will be implemented when school starts in August, ahead of the career academy opening. The first students will be ready to apply for training at The Forge (a worksite of Accenture, formerly Pillar Technology) in the spring of 2020.
The Forge will open in the early fall of 2019 in Jefferson.
Link Kroeger, David Kessler and A.J. Whatling all explained their roles in Accenture and The Forge. Whatling plans to move to Jefferson this summer; he’ll be the lead artisan at The Forge, training coders in the company’s creative approach to coding and programming.
In closing the presentation, superintendent Christensen said, “There are schools and communities across Iowa and across the country that are dying for this opportunity (the academy) and we’ve got it. But the challenge is to talk to kids and to parents, and we’ve got to make them understand the opportunity they have. If we don’t have that, we’re missing the boat. We can’t have another generation with all the kids thinking a four-year college is the only opportunity…. We’ve got to sell our kids, and the parents, on how great an opportunity this is…. I encourage all of you to help sell that.”