However, students graduating from Cedartown and Rockmart high schools may find it easier than other areas of Georgia.
According to reports, many school systems are scrambling to provide courses that develop skills for jobs such as welders and heavy equipment operators, which are currently in demand with short supply.
Almost 50 percent of the construction industry’s workforce are Baby Boomers (47-65). As these workers retire, companies will need new workers to fill the predicted 82,000 positions that will become available by 2016.
In Georgia, about 16,500 jobs are expected to become available within the skill trades.
To fill these jobs, Governor Nathan Deal has spotlighted the need for practical education with Go Build Georgia, a public-private initiative. The idea is that it would round out the workforce development program by educating young people and the public at large about the skilled trades.
However, Polk School District has never deleted these skilled courses from its curriculum. This tradition has remained despite the fact that other Georgia systems followed the trend and placed more focus on preparing students for college.
While Georgia moves to using the College and Career Ready Performance Index as its measure of accountability, Polk’s Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) Department has initiatives already in place.
Katie Thomas, CTAE Director, said Polk School District is ahead of many systems when it comes to providing a career focus for students. “We have been requiring them to complete a career pathway as a graduation requirement for five years,” she said.
Incoming freshmen at both high schools are required to select at least one area they want to focus on throughout high school.
This gives students opportunity to discover what they really want to do after graduation and gain a skill before they leave school.
Statistics prove that students who don’t leave school with a skill will probably return to some type of post secondary education to learn one so they can secure a job. Today’s workforce requires that applicants not only have a degree but also a skill.
Employers are reporting that students need to have academic rigor, skills and a good work ethic. These include being at work on time, being a good communicator and team player.
Polk School District is also collaborating with Georgia Northwestern Technical College to provide dual enrollment opportunities for students. Dual enrollment programs allow high school students to earn high school and college credit at the same time.
Plans are to roll out this program in the fall. It will be offered free to students in high school. They can also get exposure to what they may or not want to pursue as a career.
Currently, Polk School District has health care students that can earn a certified nursing assistant certificate before they leave high school. Normally, they would have to attend a tech school before they could get a certificate.
Hopes are to broaden other areas such as the early childhood education program, according to Thomas.
“It is our goal to expose our students to as many different programs as we can to allow them to make the most informed decision about post secondary education and/or work,” she said.
The CTAE Department in Polk School District offers programs in agriculture, architecture, construction, communications and transportation, business and computer science, education, engineering and technology, family and consumer science, government and public safety, health care science, marketing, sales and service and work-based learning.