Jump Start program to open options for jobs

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A delegation of Webster Parish educators and State Rep. Gene Reynolds, D-Minden, attended a conference on an initiative to help kids who won’t go to college.

The Jump Start Career Education Initiative gives high school juniors and seniors a career path to be job ready upon graduation.
Reynolds said he is in favor of this initiative because it could significantly decrease the dropout rate and give teens a sense of purpose in school.

“Little Johnny never intended to go to college, but all of a sudden, he’s got a way to go to work and get a good job,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy, but I think if we can do this, I think this is really going to help with these kids who aren’t going to college.”

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The Department of Education website offers a look into what the initiative is and how it works.

“Jump Start is the state’s new program for school districts, colleges, and businesses to collaborate in providing career courses and workplace experiences to high school students, certifying them for the career fields most likely to lead to high-wage jobs,” DOE indicates.

“Every student deserves access to the American Dream. Jump Start expands students’ pathways, offering them a boost into college or the workplace,” State Superintendent John White said. “Now the focus must be on building the plan to offer Jump Start to students and make their families aware of the opportunity.”

Lakeside High School principal Johnny Rowland said he agrees with much of what White talked about during the seminar in Baton Rouge last week.

“He used an illustration that pretty much summarized the whole deal,” Rowland said. “He took 100 freshmen and out of that 100, 20 of them will go on to college. Yet you have about a 75 percent state graduation rate. And here in Webster Parish, it’s higher than that.
But what about all those other kids who are not going on to a four-year college or university? What about them? What are they being trained for? And I agree that the career and vocational aspect of this is so ultra-important for these students who are graduating from high school and looking to try to go out in the workforce. What are we doing to address that need? That is essentially what the Jump Start program is.”

Dr. Rick Bateman, Northwest Louisiana Technical College director, said the Jump Start initiative will strengthen the dual enrollment programs already in place for area high schools.

“We provide career and technical education training for high school students in every single parish in Louisiana through our five campuses,” he said. “I think it’s going to strengthen the relationship between us and the secondary sector. One of the opportunities of Jump Start is to provide a regional economic focus on some specific pathways that begin in high school and can end in technical school or even lead to some four-year opportunities.”

Rowland said DOE offers three diplomas to high school students: Core 4, basic and career diplomas. Over the course of the implementation of the Jump Start program, it will offer pathways for students to enter the workforce.

Bateman said the focus in northwest Louisiana will center on a number of areas. An acronym he uses, CHIME, stands for Cyber technology, Healthcare, Industrial, Manufacturing and Energy services.

“Jump Start is going to help NWLTC CHIME in on the regional economy,” he said. “It really helps to align a regional economic focus that starts in the high school.”

Cost will be another factor. Who is going to pay for the initiative? Webster Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dan Rawls said he hopes to use grant money to begin with, and hopefully the Louisiana Legislature will step in with some funding.

“We hope to use our Carl Perkins Grant for our vocational program needs and use the Jump Start startup money to fund the Compass Career Counseling piece,” Rawls said. “As most districts, we will start with what we have and prepare some new Jump Start Pathways as we can. Mr. White indicated that it was his understanding that perhaps the Louisiana Legislature could help fund the Initiative.
Overall, I’m very hopeful that public schools will be offering valued educational training (career training) to all students as we have said for years that college is not for everyone.”

During the next two school years, districts will develop instructional capabilities, instructors will become credentialed to help students achieve industry certifications and students will have the option of graduation through the Jump Start Graduation Pathways. Full implementation of Jump Start will begin in the 2017-2018 school year.

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