MADISON – One complaint from businesses in Boone County and across the state of West Virginia is there is a lack of skilled workers to fill job openings within their companies.
“There are opportunities in our region,” said Jeff Nelson, director and principal of the Boone Career and Technical Center. “So we’re excited about some new program specialized in getting students workplace-ready when they graduate and more prepared for higher education opportunities as well.”
Beginning as a pilot project in 2013-2014, the West Virginia Department of Education is implementing a new initiative, “Simulated Workplace.”
Boone Career and Technical Center will be one of 21 pilot schools that will transform classrooms to emulate business structures, processes and expectations of students with the simulated workplace initiative.
“By design, each career and technical education (CTE) program will become a simulated West Virginia company with a beginning net worth of $1 million,” Nelson explained. “The company will be evaluated annually based on the increase or decrease in the company’s net worth value, reflective of specified factors.”
Those factors include student mastery of the content as measured by formative or summative assessments, completions of work projects, student placement, attendance, quality and timeliness of work and customer service.
“They will be expected to meet the same expectations that similar businesses would be required to address if they are to remain profitable,” Nelson said.
Students will collectively develop quarterly and annual reports that indicate the growth or decline in the company’s net worth, based on student performances and outcomes of the company. These reports will be used by the instructor and students to adjust processes, procedures and instruction to improve profitability.
Students will have to use time clocks, be subject to random drug tests and call in if they are going to miss work, just like an employee in private industry. They will sign employment contracts and may be fired, just like on the job.
“This will teach students to be motivated and disciplined, which will make them better prepared for future employment or higher education,” Nelson added.
The career and technical center will also be offering programs focuses on business and industry in southern West Virginia.
“We have travel and tourism management, which focuses industry and businesses we believe will be developed in southern West Virginia along U.S. 119 (Corridor G) in the future around the Hatfield McCoy Trail System and the many other outdoor and recreational activities our region offers.”
Another program, Power Sports Technology, is a two-year program based on servicing power equipment and engines, such as those found in lawn and garden equipment, motorcycles, four-wheelers, boats, snowmobiles, jet skis and other all-terrain vehicles.
“Students can earn certifications and endorsements that would qualify them to work in this type of industry that we believe will growing and growing in southern West Virginia,” Nelson said.
The center is also training with paperless logs in its Truck Driving Academy. This academy has a 98 percent placement rate into jobs for its graduates, according to Nelson.
The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) has established regional technical teams made up of industry people. These teams will interview instructors and students, assess the work environment, review the curriculum, look at outcomes, and rate the program. Programs with high ratings receive a state endorsement, and students who graduate at a certain level will obtain certification. If a program gets a poor rating, the technical team will help it improve.
“Over the last three years, what I’ve heard from business and industry leaders is that kids don’t understand customer service, they don’t have a strong work ethic, and they don’t understand real-world situations or processes. Some of them don’t even understand that you have to show up for work,” says Kathy D’Antoni, assistant state superintendent of schools for the WVDE. “The purpose of this initiative is to change that.”
West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said recently that the state’s goal is to help young teens discover a connection between their personal interests and future career opportunities.
“Pilot projects are being established all across the state with colleges and universities partnering with private businesses,” Tomblin said. “They’re going into the classroom and showing our kids what jobs are available, and what skills are necessary to get these good jobs.”
West Virginia’s Career and Technical Education programs are transforming into real world workplaces, which should have a real impact on students obtaining good jobs in the future.
* In 2018, 37 percent of all jobs will be for workers who have either a high school diploma or an incomplete high school education with some on-the-job training. This number is down from 72 percent in 1973, 44 precent in 1992, and 41 percent in 2007.
* About 60 percent of all new and replacement jobs in the U.S. economy for high school workers between 2008 and 2018 will be in hospitality and tourism (27 percent); transportation, distribution, and logistics (13 percent); architecture and construction (11 percent); and manufacturing (9 percent).
* Earning a two-year associate’s degree, a vocational certificate, or even attending college without graduating can open the door to so-called “middle skill” jobs that typically pay better than the minimum earning threshold level of $35,000 a year.