Classroom focus shifting to careers

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December 11, 2014 - 12:00 AM

Somewhere at some point in time, came the formula for the “perfect life.”
Go to school, get good grades, advance to college and get the perfect job.
Except that idea doesn’t work for everyone.
Educators at Iola High School and Allen Community College are aware of this and in response have put plans in place to provide different maps for those following divergent paths.
Principal Stacey Fager has been at Iola High for eight years. He’s seen programs come and go.
He, like most educators, wants to see his students succeed in the best way possible, either in the classroom or in the work force.
Fager has worked to develop internship possibilities with local businesses.
One such partnership is with Mark and DeAnn Burris of Precision Pump, an oil pump equipment manufacturer in Iola. A dozen alternative students and one student from the high school will train and intern at Precision next semester.
Randy Misenhelter, director of operations at Precision, is helping form the internship requirements with Crossroads director Tim Seibel. Crossroads is an alternative learning facility for USD 257 students at risk of missing graduation.
At Precision the students will train at the plant, while learning other essentials, such as how to write a resume, complete a job application or perform in job interview.
This eight-week course will begin next semester; students also will earn high school credit.
“Precision will help evaluate the students for their grade,” Fager said. “They will be on-site for multiple block periods.”
Fager hopes this internship at Precision will spark interest with other Iola industries for opportunities.

EDUCATION outreach doesn’t end at the high school.
Jon Marshall, vice president of academic affairs at ACC, said the college offers workforce training at Monarch Cement in Humboldt. A college instructor goes to Monarch and teaches employees computer software programs  utilized by the company. A similar training session is planned next semester at Catalyst in Iola.
“This training is very successful,” Marshall said. “We do training like this in Osage and Shawnee County, too.”
Marshall said more students are not sticking to the traditional path of going from high school to college.
More and more are “college hopping” in search of schools that offer specific programs.
“It has become more of a gathering of credits and it is almost like a patchwork of schools,” he said. “We’re noticing not everyone is going to have one career in their lives.”

THE PRECISION internship isn’t the first time Iola High has attempted prepping students for workforce training.
In the failed campaign for a $50 million bond issue this fall to build new schools, USD 257 personnel suggested a new form of learning for IHS students.
Had it succeeded, the bond issue would have altered classes at the Bowlus Fine Arts Center, with new programs geared toward technology.
This part of 21st century teaching and learning blends specific skills, content knowledge and expertise. Students would have been able to have hands-on learning in stage production, graphic design, video production and audio production.
“In these classes students would have hands-on applications and we would have generated certificates for them,” Fager said. “These classes would give the students an opportunity to earn higher pay and get jobs while attending college.”
A similar program exists in nursing. Students who have earned certified nurse’s aide status, can get better-paying jobs while still in college.
While the bond issue failed, there have been murmurs that job skills training should remain on the front burner. The main hurdle remains funding.

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