Opportunities for local youth to receive vocational training in high school or immediately after – as opposed to pursuing a bachelor’s degree – have increased in recent years, but too few are taking advantage of it, local leaders involved in such efforts said on Monday. .
“The challenge is to make it known that these opportunities are available,” said John Williams, deputy director general of the city and parish government of Baton Rouge.
Then there is the added challenge of connecting people and their new skills with the jobs they need.
“There is probably something for everyone,” said Williams. “The challenge is to put these people in front of the right people.
Today, most of Louisiana’s youth miss these opportunities.
“Our current system only works for 18-23% of our students,” said Tonnisha Ellis, policy and research project manager at the Baton Rouge Area Chamber.
Ellis based his commentary on research from the Louisiana Board of Regents showing that only about this percentage of students who enter high school in the state end up earning a post-secondary degree or an associate’s or bachelor’s degree later. .
Monday’s panel, titled “The Future of Career and Technical Education” was hosted by the non-profit group Volunteers in Public Schools. Williams and Ellis were joined by Willie Smith, Chancellor of Baton Rouge Community College and Ben Necaise, Associate Superintendent for Workforce Development with the East Baton Rouge Parish School System.
The BRCC and the parish school system have joined forces in recent years to create more ways for students to earn college credit while still in high school, as well as to receive training in high-demand areas of employment. .
“We have some really good secrets but they really shouldn’t be secrets,” Necaise said.
These include the EBR Career and Technical Education Center and Tara High School’s P-TECH program, a partnership with IBM, both of which opened in 2018.
This fall, the school system launched Pathways to Bright Futures, with a pilot program at Glen Oaks High. Necaise said Pathways is a more structured approach to dual registration. Rather than students enrolling in dual enrollment ‘à la carte’ courses, high school students starting in Grade 9 follow a sequence of dual enrollment courses with BRCC that aims to give them a brief opportunity to earn a degree. partner while in high school or shortly thereafter. .
“All of these programs if they do it at the high school level, it’s free,” Necaise said. “We cover it all.”
Panelists, along with several audience members, questioned whether the push in recent years for all students to earn a bachelor’s degree had gone too far. They also wondered if there hadn’t been too much emphasis on STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – at the expense of other fields of employment.
“We told the students to go to college,” Necaise said. “We forgot to ask them Why they should go to college.
Smith, along with BRCC, said that idea is to make better use of community colleges like his compared to four-year colleges. He said four-year colleges still have an important role, especially for more advanced students to further their education, but students need to realize that there are more options.
“We need our four-year colleges to be successful,” Smith said.
Mike Gaudet, a member of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, defended the emphasis on STEM jobs because those jobs are much more diverse than before.
“The image that these are just in-store classes is wrong,” Gaudet said.
Williams said a key to solving this problem is getting young people to think about their employment options early on.
“The message has to start as soon as possible,” he said. “My thought is in college.”