Sabin referenced the 200 students BCCCA instructed in its first year, and its 52 graduating seniors, and how they moved through courses specifically designed to get the students into a career path, whether it was the medical, manufacturing, science, hospitality, or public safety fields.
“It’s all done in partnership with the school board, but we are a separate charter here at the college and career academy, and what that means is we can really kind of go outside the box. That means we can have kids leave at the middle of the day, go do something at your plant, come back here, get credit, get high school credit,” Sabin said. “... We’re not restricted by seat time. ... We’re not even restricted to having certified teachers. They could be experienced industry experts to be our instructors, so we’ve got some leeway there, but that comes with accountability. We’ve got to make sure that our students are performing.”
Among the ways manufacturers could become involved, Sabin explained, are offering internships to students, having an employee on an advisory board and making financial donations to the academy.
Janet Queen, representing Georgia Power on the BCCCA board, said the manufacturers needed to work with the academy to change public perceptions of not just manufacturing careers, but the students themselves. Having a four-year college degree is no longer the only way to be successful, she said.
“We have to change our way of thinking. We beat these stigmas over the head and told them they have to fit this mold. That mold is gone. This is a new day in education. ... We’re kidding ourselves if we think we’re always going to have 100 percent graduation rate, but there are some things we can do to make these kids successful through post-secondary,” Queen said. “If we can find this niche, be it engineering, be it [certified nursing assistant] pathway, the hospital — that’s our hugest program right here at the college and career [academy] right now. I see us outgrowing this program because it’s so huge.
“... We’ve got to change how we perceive. We’ve got to think outside the box. It’s not necessarily our students at this point that we have to convince that there are pathways out there to make them successful, it’s the parents. We’ve got to change that mindset of the parent. It’s going to take all of us in industry showing these people what jobs are out there, what career path the student is going to have to take to get from point A to point B.”
As one of the business representatives at the meeting, Beaulieu Commercial Director of Operations Chris Turner shared his experience of hiring BCCCA interns at the Adairsville plant. He said there were ways for manufacturers to comply with the restrictions placed on minors when they work in an industrial setting while ensuring the student has a productive internship for both the company and themselves.
“If you’ve got questions about how do you make this work, you have to start with the answer is, ‘yes.’ I know I was given a copy of the requirements for employing minors,” Turner said. “This is what I’ve told other people who’ve asked me, how did you make the program work: if Arby’s can figure out how to employ 16-year-olds that don’t cut their fingers off making roast beef sandwiches, then surely we as business leaders can too. ... But it’s been a great program and I’d encourage you to consider it. I know we’re trying to expand that across the school system. I don’t really care if you’re from my competitors or not, I’d be happy to explain how we’ve done that. It’s very simple. It starts with the answer is, ‘yes.’”
For the upcoming school year, Sabin said after the presentation, the BCCCA’s enrollment has roughly doubled to 426 students.
“I think it is not only a sign of success, but also about perception. In the past vocational schools have had the perception of those who can’t go to vocational schools. We’re changing that perception. We have students that are coming here that are dually enrolled in college, so these are high achievers who are motivated, who have a career plan. These are not only those who can, those are the ones that want and can that are coming here. I think that’s changing the perception about who’s coming here,” he said.
Sabin cited the academy’s flexibility in providing courses tailored to a particular business as one reason why the manufacturers, health care providers and other businesses have begun working with BCCCA. Such close cooperation, he believed, would address their future workforce needs.
“I think it’s more important than ever that we have a touchstone place where industry can come and say, hey, this is what we need five years, 10 years down the way that we can start developing now so these students are economic generators instead of being somebody who doesn’t really know what they want to do after high school,” he said.
Derek Keeney, an engineering manager at the Cartersville Anheuser-Busch brewery and newly elected Bartow County Board of Education member, sees the academy’s internships as valuable assets in both of his roles.
“What they do then is they see the choice they get to make. If they’re pulled away from that, you don’t get to see that choice. Once they’re interns, once they’re out there in the manufacturing segment, they can say, ‘OK, this is for me’ or ‘This isn’t for me’ and then they can pursue based on that,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount to be said for leaving high school and getting out there and straight into the manufacturing sector, contributing to the economy and not going the college path.”
See future editions of The Daily Tribune News for interviews with BCCCA interns and their employers. For more information on the academy, visit www.bartow.k12.ga.us and click on the BCCCA link under schools.