Group wants to help prepare youths for changing job market


Published: Tuesday, January 30, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 29, 2007 at 10:55 p.m.

Nearly 200 educators, legislators and business leaders met Monday in Gainesville to discuss no only how to make sure Johnny can read, but also to make sure Johnny is qualified for a high-skilled job.

The Santa Fe Community College Alachua-Bradford Tech Prep Consortium meeting was timed to coincide with the Workforce Florida Inc. annual meeting this week in Gainesville.

That provided an opportunity to bring attendees together to discuss how new legislation affects job training, especially new initiatives concerning how high school and middle school students will declare a major in a career track, according to Paul Hutchins, SFCC dean of educational centers and economic development.

Businesses and industry leaders serve on state Workforce job training boards and help set curriculums for K-12 and secondary job training to fill their needs. Local school districts, community colleges and universities are also coordinating technical training programs.

Frank McGeown, of Star Import Service and chairman of the Workforce Development Board for Alachua and Bradford counties, said the U.S. needs to step back and look at the big picture as the country loses ground to nations like China, India and Korea.

He said our education system is flawed and he envisions a greater role of businesses in schools.

Sonia Douglas, vice president of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, highlighted numerous ways businesses are involved in schools. She said Junior Achievement plans to add additional second and fifth grades. She also asked that legislators stop tinkering with the structure of its work force programs.

In a presentation about high school tech prep programs, University of Florida economics major Alan Rezaei said he could have cut his college time in half had he been exposed to a career path at Bradford High School.

State Sen. Stephen R. Wise, R-Jacksonville, laid out several bills he plans to propose as chairman of the Senate K-12 education appropriations committee.

He is proposing a math-science camp and virtual school at the Kennedy Space Center to get the state's best and brightest students excited about high-tech fields.

Another proposal would allow people to volunteer $1 on their utilities bills to go toward a scholarship for students eligible for free or reduced lunch. Jim Painter, of Painter Masonry in Gainesville and chairman of the First Jobs, First Wages Committee, said it's necessary to change the mind-set that a student who doesn't go to college has no value.

"There's value whether you want to drive the garbage truck, whether you want to lay the brick, whether you want to fix the car, there's value in that," he said.

Anthony Clark can be reached at anthony.clark@gvillesun.com or (352) 374-5094.

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