“You see, we’ve missed the mark. We can right the ship and this is our opportunity to right the ship,” Cagle said. “If we’re really going to build a robust economy in our state, then we have to invest in human capital.”
Cagle said having a skilled workforce is essential to attracting businesses to the state and that entities like the BCCCA, set to open in fall 2013, are an incentive for companies to locate. He said to maintain such facilities requires ongoing dedication from the community.
“If you want to be competitive, if you really want to build this economy, if you really want to help Georgia, then we, together, will be focused on workforce development, will be focused on getting kids the tools necessary for them to compete and the beauty about what’s going to happen [at the BCCCA] ... will only happen if you are just as committed 10 years from now as you are today,” Cagle said.
The BCCCA currently has several committees who have worked through areas such as needs assessment and charter authoring in order to move the facility forward. Located at the old Cass High School on Grassdale Road, the facility currently houses the Bartow County Learning Center and is expected to open its college and career academy portion beginning fall 2013.
Cagle said he supports the academy’s efforts to acquire a $3.3 million grant to fund capital construction at the facility and wants to see all school systems in the state provide a similar charter option for students by 2020.
“That’s how strongly I feel about [college and career academies] and the reason is it provides the economic engine that you’re going to need to be competitive in a worldwide market,” Cagle said. “The beauty is, not only does it fuel your economy, it will allow for a more robust economy through more jobs. What it does is it changes lives.”
Superintendent John Harper has said the intent of the academy will be to provide an alternative education source for high school students who don’t desire the traditional high school experience while acquiring their diploma. The academy is set to offer courses based on a needs assessment survey sent to manufactures and businesses throughout the county and has a partnership with Georgia Highlands College and Chattahoochee Technical College so students may also earn college credit and possibly certification or a two-year degree while attending the academy.
Cagle said the changes in technology and needs of industry have called for a more diverse workforce, adding modern college and career academies have a different focus than traditional schools as well as technical school or alternative school options.
“There’s a stigma, and many people have this stigma — you have to be a doctor or a lawyer or an accountant in order to be successful in life,” Cagle said. “But you know what, I think being a skilled technician in any field should be respected. ... You look at India and you look at other countries, they are committed to making it happen and we have to commit ourselves just as well.”
The Daily Tribune News asked Cagle what the growth of charter college and career academies means for the future traditional public high schools and the University System of Georgia.
“I think it’s all seamless and ... one does not replace the other and I think that’s a very important factor,” Cagle said. “[A college and career academy] is a tool, it is a pathway for students and for communities that don’t have this choice, they’re really putting themselves at a significant disadvantage in offering the types of things that not only students need, but the community needs as well.
“... We have some of the most sought after students from a collegiate standpoint being recruited from college and career academies and it’s because they’re getting a practical application that is getting them really excited for a career field and what they want to study, and that passion transcends into motivation for them to carry forward. A lot of our kids go to college with no idea what their major is going to be or if they’re going to have a job when it’s over and what [a college and career academy] affords a student is the opportunity for a job in a career field that hopefully they’ll be very, very excited about and that will motivate them to stay the course.
“For those who simply want to be in a traditional learning environment and study AP classes, they have that opportunity as well ... and so this is not designed to take the place of anything — it’s designed to be an extension.”