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Jump Start to provide opportunities for students and businesses

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[Editor’s Note: This is the fourth part in a series of monthly articles about Bossier Parish School for Technology and Innovative Learning. For more information on BPSTIL, visit  bossierschools2012.com]

By Sonja Bailes, Public Relations Liaison for Bossier Schools

Louisiana’s Department of Education is now realizing what Tom Lawson, owner of Advanced Air Conditioning and Heating, has known for years. A multitude of high-wage jobs exist in technical career fields like his, as well as construction, manufacturing and others, that have been previously discounted as viable career paths.

“These are high paying jobs and need to be recognized,” Lawson told a group of educational and business leaders gathered recently to talk about Jump Start, a new state program aimed at emphasizing the importance of career and technical education (CTE) and expanding opportunities for high school students.

Jump Start is an elective path for those pursuing a university-preparatory diploma and a required path for students pursuing a Career Diploma.

As it is phased in over the next few years, students will not only graduate with more marketable skills but also industry-based certifications, which can be advantageous because an increased level of experience usually commands higher wages. Employers benefit as well with a more highly skilled workforce, which is a critical factor as Benteler and CSC locate facilities here and other businesses and industries expand.

Angie White, Senior Vice President of North Louisiana Economic Partnership, cited the development of several programs at technical, community and four-year universities that are addressing the needs of employers.

“What we have not been seeing is a strong and steady pipeline of students going into these programs, at least in the numbers needed to meet industry demands now and in the future,” White said.

“Employers see the need. Now, we need to get parents and the rest of the community on board,” Shelia Woods, Supervisor of Career and Technical Education for Bossier Schools, said. “This is going to have a huge impact on Bossier Parish School for Technology and Innovative Learning as well as Dual Enrollment.”

As part of Jump Start, the state has identified various pathways or career tracks students can pursue and receive industry-based credentials in high-growth job sectors that offer high-wage careers in Louisiana. Jump Start Regional Teams are also being given the flexibility to develop additional graduation pathways that have marketable value in their local labor force and present them for consideration to the Department of Education.

The state’s top education agency has also scheduled a January 21 meeting in Baton Rouge for high school principals to explain to them what Jump Start has to offer in hopes of helping change the mind-set about CTE.

“When students complete high school after participating in a Jump Start pathway, they may require no additional training to qualify for a job with family-sustaining wages, and if they do require additional training the time it will take to achieve it will hopefully be greatly reduced by the industry-based training they received while still in high school,” White said.

She added, “This outcome is good for our residents, it is good for our employers, and it is good for our region’s economic development potential by building a solid pipeline of qualified workers for the industries we want to grow here.”