Sep 4, 2012

Career Academies expand

The fall semester at 12 area high schools marks a new era for Central Lakes College and its partners in educating the future workforce for high-skill, high-demand careers. Bridges Career Academies has been expanded from its original partnering districts to reach a greater number of young people viewed as tomorrow’s employees. The original group has expanded and the 2012-13 school year includes Brainerd, Crosby-Ironton, Staples-Motley, Pillager, Aitkin, Browerville, Eagle Valley (Clarissa), Little Falls, Pierz, Pine River-Backus, Sebeka, and Swanville. Using the strength of each school’s existing course catalog, the academies feature unique career themes and hands-on learning. Partners with the college include businesses with resources dedicated to exploration among high school students. As the students in grades 9-12 study an array of careers in personal interest areas, they will have business experiences such as tours, job shadows, and industry speakers.
In its first year (2007-08), the collaboration helped students earn 1,415 college credits, equating to more than $200,000 in college tuition savings. Students benefitted from 227 job shadow placements in engineering, business, heath care, manufacturing, small engine, trades, and law enforcement.

Foremost in the restructured Career Academies is a focus on the middle majority of students – the 60 percent for whom the future is a wide-open unknown when it comes to having selected a career.

The Bridges Academies exist within the Department of Education’s six Minnesota “career clusters”: Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources; Arts, Communications & Information Systems; Engineering, Manufacturing & Technology; Health Science Technology; Human Services; Business, Management & Administration.

There are no overarching qualifications to enroll in an Academy; instead young people enroll because of a personal interest in the career area.

Academies focus around a combination of functional skills and technical skills that are designed to provide students a route from pre-entry level qualifications to employment or education. Learners gain support from faculty and business and industry partners to select a career.

With a high school foundation laid, graduating students may enroll in college, perhaps Central Lakes in Brainerd and Staples. Others will enter the workforce with skills to use as an employer adds training for a specific occupation.

“The new structure that allows each school to maximize its unique academic strength evolved from input among our partners,” said Betsy Picciano, CLC’s director of secondary relations. She said the innovative approach aims to instill in young people not only technical knowledge but also functional skills in English, mathematics, and social development.

As a student proceeds, based on personal interest and career aspiration, to complete Academies course work, he/she may learn skills of immediate use – for example, from a Welding Academy, one can learn to repair a snowmobile or four-wheeler.

In an Engineering Academy, one learns electronics needed to design a robot and mathematics to make design calculations, as well as writing strategies to record a design and practice working as a member of a design team.

Completion of an Academy will provide students with an opportunity to be recognized at their high school graduation with a certificate and an Academy honor cord.

Some Academies have courses that articulate for credit at CLC, so a student may get a head start if pursuing post-secondary technical study.

In addition to the12 school districts, partners in the Bridges Academies include the Brainerd Lakes Chamber, Central Lakes Perkins Consortium, and Initiative Foundation, the latter proving a $50,000 grant in support of restructuring.

For information, students should contact their high school guidance counselor. The CLC contact is Betsy Picciano at (218) 855-8110 or