Frankfort (Kentucky) — State education leaders say that nearly 50,000 students graduate from high school each year and too many are unprepared for today’s jobs, without a path to acquiring skills they need.
On Wednesday, Stephen Pruitt, Kentucky’s Commissioner of Education, happily announced a three-year effort aimed at strengthening technical and career education for the state’s public high school students, fueled by a $2 million grant from JPMorgan Chase, in collaboration with the Council of Chief State School Officers.
Kentucky was one of 10 states to receive a chunk of a $75 million Skills for Youth Initiative developed by Chase, with the state school officials group, called CCSSO, and Advance CTE, an advocacy organization for career and technical education.
The money will help launch five Kentucky career academies similar to the five-county Ilead cooperative in Carroll, Gallatin, Henry, Owen and Trimble counties. The program, which focuses on engineering skills, allows students to earn dual high school and college credits. They can graduate with an associate’s degree in science are on a fast track to earn valuable certifications or advance to more technical work in college.
The programs would include work-based learning that educators believe is crucial in teaching students real-world applications for what they’re learning in the classroom, said Laura Arnold, associate commissioner for the Office of Career and Technical Education.
Several state board of education members and top educators appeared at the announcement at Franklin County Career and Technical Center surrounded by a few dozen students from the center. Rich Gimmel, a school board member and head of Atlas Machine and Supply in Louisville, said that strengthening technical education is crucial.
“We are approaching a crisis” with 600,000 open jobs and more manufacturing positions set to go begging as leaders focus on bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S., Gimmel said. Using a Feed the Pipeline program, Atlas arranges internships with promising Breckinridge County technical students who can enter an apprentice program after high school where they work and do classroom hours.
During his remarks, Gimmel introduced machinist Robert Williams, 22, who completed the apprentice program last year and also earned $60,000 with overtime pay. Williams said he hopes someday to earn “six figures,” and feels optimistic about his future. Of classmates who went to college, he said, “I’m two steps ahead of them” because he has no student debt.
Louis Straub, executive director of Chase Commercial Bank, said the bank has clients who tell of their problems finding skilled workers to fill those left by retirees. Chase believes it’s important to strengthen communities by investing in education and workforce initiatives and helping people have homes, he said.
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