Partnerships between education and business communities are critical to the success of America’s youth in the 21st century job market.
The U.S. Department of Labor has identified two careers projected to grow more than 20 percent by 2016, not only on the Treasure Coast but also in Florida. To address the growth of these technological careers, Jensen Beach, Martin County, and South Fork high schools have partnered with local businesses to provide students with the requisite knowledge, skills — and industry certifications — employers demand.
Career and Professional Education Act
In 2007, the Florida Legislature passed the CAPE Act as a statewide planning partnership between business and education communities to attract, expand, and retain targeted, high-value industry and to sustain a strong, knowledge-based economy.
The Martin County School District established two CAPE academies at each high school: Digital Design and Network Support Services for these growing careers. (Network Support Services is projected for next year at South Fork High School.)
The school district has articulation agreements with Indian River State College so students can earn college credit after completing respective high school’s program and enrolling at IRSC. An agreement, awaiting school board approval, offers 21 college credits after completing Digital Design and nine college credits after completing Network Support Services.
Although the high schools operate independently, they have unified their Digital Design and Network Support Services programs into a district-wide advisory board, served by local businesses (Cotton and Co., Inc., Florida Power & Light, Hotwave Media, Inc., Moore Solutions, Inc., and IRSC). The board provides input and guidance to ensure a rigorous curriculum relevant to business’ needs. Another business partner, Starbucks (Jensen Beach), has assisted with class projects, and Wyndcrest DD Florida, Inc. (Tradition at St. Lucie West) has conducted presentations for students.
Local technology company Moore Solutions, Inc. has partnered with MCSD to provide onsite instruction and certification in Microsoft network administration.
Students completing Network Support Services earn certification in Microsoft Office 2007, COMP TIA A+, Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician, and Microsoft Certified Professional. In the past two years (three years at MCHS), students have earned 126 certifications in MCAS, COMP TIA A+, or MCP throughout the district.
The high schools’ Digital Design incorporates Adobe’s creative suite software to facilitate learning graphic and digital designing and animation skills. The schools are registered Adobe test centers so students earn Adobe Certified Associates industry certifications in PhotoShop, Flash, and Dreamweaver. They learn InDesign, Illustrator, and After Effects, though Adobe doesn’t offer certifications for these programs. In the past two years, students have earned 143 certifications throughout the district.
More than earning industry certifications, students learn critical soft skills — problem solving, team building, oral and written communication skills — so graduates are well-rounded and work ready. Internships and part-time job opportunities enable students to apply what they’ve learned in class to the job market. Programs provide a solid foundation for those seeking postsecondary education.
The dynamics of education reform are well under way. Regardless of the direction it is heading, the Martin County School District is continuing to build successful relationships with business, community, and other education leaders to ensure our students can compete on a local, regional, state, and international level.
Mark C. Malham, EdC, Career and Technical Education team leader and /Digital Design teacher at JBHS, may be reached at email@example.com.