NEW IBERIA — About 200 educators from across Acadiana met Thursday to discuss how to guide high school students toward the right courses that will allow them to become trained and ready for a career or college after graduation.
This school year, the state implemented a streamlined diploma system to ensure students are better prepared for universities or the workforce and additional college training.
Aside from a university-prep track, the state carved out a new career diploma — Jump Start — that enables high school students to graduate with industry-recognized credentials to enter the workforce or continue their college education.
At the Jump Start Transitions Conference held Thursday at the South Louisiana Community College New Iberia Campus, high school educators from across Acadiana learned more about resources available to them as they continue to implement the revamped career training initiatives.
For too long, educators said, the public —and especially parents — have viewed career and technical training as a second or lesser choice. The state’s push and revamp of career readiness for high school students has added more credibility to educators’ efforts to encourage students to pursue their interests and talents, which they may not find on a four-year university campus, educators said.
“It’s not saying you can’t do anything else, so this is where we’re going to put you,” said Patricia Felder, the Louisiana Community and Technical College System’s career and technical education director, referring to the stigma placed on career and technical education.
Educating parents and industry and business leaders of the benefits of the Jump Start credential options is a major focus for school districts, said Chris Broussard, principal of the Iberia Parish Career Center.
“We have to look at what’s best for the child,” Broussard said. “We have to help them understand that these are good jobs, and the child will be prepared for life after high school, whether that’s with a four-year degree or credentials and college.”
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has approved more than 30 career pathways that lead students to industry credentials in such fields as welding, manufacturing, business management and Web design.
The Jump Start effort empowers school systems, colleges, and business and industry to work together to choose which career pathways are in demand in their region and develop those courses for students, said Ken Bradford, Louisiana Department of Education assistant superintendent.
Broussard said the pathways offered students will vary even within a region, depending upon the available resources of a school system.
Examples of career pathway options for Acadiana students include: automobile service; carpenter; certified mechanical drafter; certified nurse assistant; collision repair; electrician; emergency medical technician; fashion design for costume in film; four-stroke engine technician; heating, ventilation and air conditioning; industrial maintenance mechanic; Internet Web foundations; oil and gas/T2 safety; manufacturing specialist; mobile crane operator; pipefitter; ProStart (culinary); Web design professional; and welder.
Some Acadiana school systems may offer two region-specific options for students to become credentialed as a commercial driver or a mason.
More than 6,000 high school students across the state are enrolled in Jump Start pathways this school year, Bradford said.
He said school systems received additional revenue to support the initiative, including separate funding to support training for teachers to instruct industry-based courses.
“Last year, the Department of Education partnered with SLCC to train 300 teachers across the state so they can obtain their industry credentials,” Bradford said.
He said another training event is planned this summer in partnership with SLCC.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.