October 13, 2012 11:37:19 PM
Carmen K. Sisson - [email protected]
The Lowndes County School Board continued Friday to explore adding a vocational-technical school to the district, but even if approved, it could be two years or more before it becomes reality.
The next steps, approved 4-0 by the board, will involve gauging student interest and district needs, evaluating site possibilities and identifying potential funding sources.
Board members, along with Lowndes County District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith and District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks, responded positively to a presentation by Joey Henderson of JBHM Architects, who proposed a $15 million school situated on 30 acres and centrally-located between Caledonia, New Hope and West Lowndes high schools.
Surveys conducted by JBHM indicated that of 1,048 seventh, eighth and ninth-graders, courses garnering the most enthusiasm were agri-science, allied health, automotive collision repair and auto mechanics. Other offerings could include things like pathology, phlebotomy and forensic science.
Nearly 1,000 students said they would be willing to take the classes on another campus if necessary.
Vocational-technical schools have changed drastically over the years, with some placing a high emphasis on architectural design, aesthetics and sleek, modern environments to attract today's tech-savvy teenagers.
Henderson showed photographs of recent JBHM projects at Holmes Community College in Goodman and Pass Christian Center for Excellence on the Gulf Coast.
"This is not the vo-tech your daddy had," Henderson said.
In many communities, it's no longer vo-tech at all, at least not in name. The phrase is rapidly being replaced with "Career and Technical Education Center," colloquially known as CTE Centers .
Instead of blue-collar jobs training, white-collar degrees in administration, business management and healthcare are becoming more popular. And with lower tuition and faster classroom-to-workforce turnaround, effective CTE Centers are, in some cases, becoming attractive alternatives to traditional four-year colleges.
Those with bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees still bring home the highest pay -- grossing more than twice the average weekly earnings of those with only a high school degree, and three times more per week than dropouts, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But a recent joint study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the WorkForce, and Civic Enterprises, indicates a middle-class life is within reach, even for high school graduates who forego traditional four-year colleges in favor of career-technical centers and community colleges.
Nearly 29 million jobs pay annual salaries of $35,000 and $75,000, and all are obtainable with degrees from CTE centers, the study notes. The majority of these jobs went to workers with employer-based training and industry-based certifications.
"There are kids who are getting out and realizing, 'I have other avenues besides going to college,'" Henderson said.
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.