Schools in Louisiana and elsewhere need to push aside outdated notions that every child has to go to a four-year university to achieve a successful career, a consultant told hundreds of Lafayette educators at a training session Thursday.
Mark Perna, founder of the Ohio-based consulting firm Tools for Schools, said educators have to do a better job of preparing students for life after high school by exposing them to workforce training and more options to receive college credit.
Perna spoke to the hundreds of Lafayette Parish School System teachers, counselors and administrators who work directly with the parish’s high school students during a college and career readiness training.
His keynote address focused on the changing landscape of education and workforce needs and the millenial mindset of the students who fill their classrooms. The daylong training was designed to make high school staff aware of the state’s Jump Start initiative and the high-demand, high-wage career options available in Acadiana and Louisiana.
“It’s not just career and tech ed teachers here. We wanted all our high school teachers to be aware of what is coming down from the state for Jump Start,” said interim schools Superintendent Burnell LeJeune, who was previously the school system’s director of career and technical education.
The state has streamlined its high school diploma system to help direct students to either a four-year university prep coursework or to courses that prepare them for a career diploma. The latter track is called Jump Start and requires students to also achieve industry-based certification to graduate.
The effort is to ensure students are better prepared for life after high school, and part of that is helping students create a plan of what that future looks like by choosing a career pathway.
Paul Bourgeois, dual enrollment director at South Louisiana Community College, said at least 65 percent of jobs today require an associate degree or advanced training and only 20 percent of jobs require a four-year degree. Yet, he said, only 32 percent of students enter associate or advanced training programs.
Bourgeois discussed industry-based certification with a group of high school counselors on Thursday afternoon, addressing questions about the cost of certification exams and the process of creating and getting a new career pathway approved.
Bourgeois said the state has made funding available through the Jump Start initiative and money also is available to help high school juniors and seniors through the state-funded TOPS Early Start scholarship program.
The state has approved more than 30 career pathways that lead to industry-based certification. The certification could lead to work or serve as a stepping stone for students to continue their training, Bourgeois said.
Beverly Breaux, the school system’s director of student services, said only 1 percent of the school system’s ninth-graders in the past four years entered college with the goal of obtaining a career diploma. That means the remaining 99 percent entered high school with plans to attend a four-year university, which may not have been the most ideal option to achieve their career goals, Breaux said.
“Students need to find a best fit curriculumwise,” she said. “It’s not about academic ability. It’s about interest and what their passion is. It’s about finding a good match for them.”
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.