Getting Students Career-Ready

December 2, 2008 9:51:21 PM PST
With thousands of people looking for work and few jobs to go around ... Fresno Unified is renewing its commitment to better prepare students for the workforce.Superintendent Michael Hanson says it's not a "job" the district can do on its own-- so he's enlisting the help of community business leaders.

By the time they enter 10th grade, students at McLane High School will have enrolled in one of five career academies, like this digital media class, where students learn everything from photography to video editing.

Michael Hanson, FUSD superintendent: "We have phenomenal opportunities for kids throughout this district, we just don't have enough of them to serve all of our students and it's not systematized yet."

Superintendent Michael Hanson says the district needs to do a better job getting all students ready to work by the time they graduate. "Some will enter the workforce sooner than others-- others will go on to higher ed, but at the end of the day we want all of our graduates to enter the workforce. "

To that end-- Hanson has formed a commission made up of Fresno business and community leaders that will examine the district's current technical education system and make recommendations on how to improve and expand its programs.

Al Galvez-- public affairs manager with PG&E says the company expects to lose 5,000 workers in the next few years due to attrition, but says many job applicants are failing their basic skills test. Says Galvez, "The other piece that is missing is even the social skills. When students come in and take a test in shorts and flip-flops and messed up hair ... What kind of a message are they giving an employer?"

Student Konocshay Allen says McLane's medical academy is giving her a head start as she plans a career in psychology, but those social skills many are lacking, she's learning at her after-school retail job. "The jobs that I am working at teach me communication skills and one-on-one skills, so that helps out."

Hanson wants some changes to begin soon, but says improving the district's career-tech system is a long-term project. "This is not as simple as having mentorship or shadowing opportunities for kids and think that is going to make them job-ready; this is going to be a system review top to bottom that is going to help set up for the future."

The commission will meet Tuesday for the first time ... The district plans to have a plan of action ready before the school board adopts a budget in early spring.

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