Teaching the teachers: preparing students for the workforce

About 300 career and technical education teachers from across the state on Monday started weeklong training courses in Lafayette as part of the state’s push to prepare high school students to take full advantage of Louisiana’s growing jobs market.

“Jobs in coastal southwest Louisiana are about to explode,” said Sharon Chaumont, a teacher at South Beauregard High School, which is just north of the major energy sector jobs in Lake Charles.

“There’s going to be such a great demand for workers,” Chaumont added. “If somebody wants a job, they should be able to get it. They just need the skills.”

Chaumont is one of the 300 high school teachers and college instructors attending the five-day Jump Start 2014 Super Summer Institute, a training session that qualifies instructors to train students, who in turn will be eligible for career credentials and will receive dual credit — high school and college credit — for the training.

Jump Start is a new state initiative that calls on school districts to develop career programs aligned with their regional workforce needs and to ensure students leave high school with enough training to find a job or to get a head start on completing training at a college.

The state’s last technical education summer training institute was held in 2010, and it was reinstated this summer because of the Jump Start initiative, said Lisa French, Louisiana Department of Education’s executive director of career and technical education.

“We know that technical education is important for our state,” French said. “There are 80,000-plus jobs available in our skills crafts. We know it’s important for our teachers to be certified in high-demand, high-wage fields so our students are prepared for those jobs.”

French said 20 sessions in fields ranging from welding, carpentry, electrical, computer technology, drafting, nurse assistant and manufacturing are being offered this week on the campus of South Louisiana Community College in Lafayette. The training ends Friday when educators take exams to receive certification.

The state covered the cost of the training and the certification exams with about $200,000 from a federal Carl D. Perkins grant, Barry Landry, Louisiana Department of Education spokesman, said in an email.

Chaumont and Jeanerette High teachers Grace Randazzo and Shannon Boughton are in classes this week to become certified in a new course in Web foundations that schools will offer next year. The course prepares students for entry-level information technology jobs and is more intensive than current offerings such as certification specific to mastery of software like Microsoft programs, Boughton said.

This week, the business teachers will receive initial certification in the course but will continue their certification process online.

Kerry Saucier teaches carpentry and welding at Midland High School in Acadia Parish. He’s certified to teach both courses, though this week he’ll complete a certification so his students are eligible to receive dual-enrollment credit in carpentry. Next summer, he’ll become dual-enrollment certified in welding, he said.

“The job demand in carpentry is high right now because it’s hard for people to find carpenters and even plumbers to do work at their home,” Saucier said. “These courses give them an introduction and provide them with a number of hours that they can continue their training at a technical college. It may also spark their interest in a career.”

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.