BESE to consider career courses

Nearly two dozen high school courses of study for nursing, carpentry, car repair and other jobs will be submitted to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in the first wave of Louisiana’s overhaul of its career education system, state Superintendent of Education John White said Thursday.

The new program, which is called Jump Start, is designed to give high school juniors and seniors a way to earn national industry credentials and a newly crafted Jump Start career diploma.

BESE approved the overhaul in March.

The Legislature this year provided $12 million to boost career education.

Students have to earn 23 units for a traditional high school diploma.

At least nine of the 23 have to be in the field picked to earn the new speciality diploma, which can include high school courses, dual-enrollment college classes, internships and industry training.

White has said the overhaul will remove the stigma of career education and pave the way for students to learn the technical skills needed to land high-paying jobs.

The 23 routes to various occupations were submitted by regional teams of school districts, colleges and economic development teams.

They will be submitted to BESE at its October meeting.

The pathways amount to a course of study students need to finish to earn one of 35 credentials.

For instance, the statewide welding pathway allows students to choose from over 100 high school, dual-enrollment and internship course credits.

They are needed to earn a credential from either the National Center for Construction Education and Research or the American Welding Society.

One of the teams — Capitol — includes the East Baton Rouge, Ascension, Zachary and other school districts; Baton Rouge Community College and others; and the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce and others.

The other teams in on the first round of job pathways are Greater Acadiana, including the Lafayette, St. Martin and Iberia parish school districts and the Gulf River Parishes team, which includes the Orleans, Jefferson and St. Charles school districts.

Eleven teams statewide are preparing routes to jobs, and White said 60 more are expected in the next few months.

Additional jobs include Web design professional, industrial maintenance mechanic, fashion design for costume and film, collision repair and manufacturing specialist.

White said that, despite some initial skepticism a year ago, every school system in the state is taking part.

“There is not an initiative in our high schools where there is greater attention or greater focus, greater energy, than there is on Jump Start,” he told reporters.

The overhaul also shows that high schools, colleges and local industries can work together to improve student options, he said.

Students who earn the credentials also earn points for their high schools on annual school performance ratings.

More than 250 public high school teachers underwent a week of training this summer to earn their own certification needed to teach the classes.

Others will be handled by teachers in the Louisiana Community and Technical College System and local industry experts.

The state has about 75,000 juniors and seniors in public high schools.

Up to 25,000 students are eventually expected to be affected by the new career options.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell. For more coverage of Louisiana government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog.