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Course offerings subject of survey

February 26, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A Washington County Public Schools official said he was surprised by the lack of interest in some of the county's career and technical programs.

George Phillips, supervisor for enrichment and career technology education, was referring to the results of a survey completed by more than 1,100 10th-graders.

"Despite our best efforts to educate students about these opportunities, a lot of them don't even know what the programs are," he said.

Phillips said students knew the programs existed, but they did not know what the programs offered. Most programs are offered at Washington County Technical High School and at academies at several high schools.

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About 1,700 students were asked in mid-January to fill out surveys ranking their top three choices. The programs were divided into categories, including media and communication; business, management and finance; consumer services; health and biosciences; information technology; and human resources.

The top three selections were health occupations, child care and criminal justice, according to Phillips.

"I was surprised by the low number of interest in some of the programs," Phillips said.

Only one or two students said their first choices would be the academy of manufacturing, academy of finance and horticulture, according to results.

Some courses that officials were considering offering lacked enough interest to be added, he said. Those included welding, pharmacy technician, plumbing, hospitality and tourism, transportation operations and transportation logistics.

Phillips said he would like to see at least 20 students select a program as a first choice before offering the course.

Forty students showed some interest in welding. Phillips said if 40 students are interested, perhaps half will enroll in the course.

"I'd like to change that," he said. "Have more students attending the programs."

He said in some cases that the local business community says it has a need for skilled employees in various trades areas, but the interest from students is not there.

During a Board of Education work session Feb. 13, board member Bernadette M. Wagner said she knows there is an interest in the business community for students to be trained in the skilled trades.

"I don't have a problem with increasing the trades," she said. "But when I received the surveys, I still didn't see a desire for a growth of the program. ... As an advocate for students in our public schools system, I want to advocate for what students need, not what the business community needs."

Board member William H. Staley said the school system needs a better recruiting system for the skilled trades in middle and high schools.

"Kids are not exposed to doing anything with their hands," he said. "We've done a poor job, and now we're going to have to get it back."

Board member W. Edward Forrest said perhaps eighth-graders should be surveyed instead of 10th-graders.

"You might see an expansion of interest if you start a little earlier," he said. "By 10th grade, they've already made up their minds."

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