Thursday, May 8, 2014
District seeks vocational center
By SUE WATSON
The Marshall County School District is looking at a plan to build a vocational education center, according to superintendent Jerry Moore.
He said a program to offer another diploma to students who want to learn trades and be work ready is under discussion with individuals in the private sector who say they will help with a facility.
The alternate diploma could be obtained in specialties such as auto mechanics, industrial arts and allied health, Moore said. There are a few grants available for equipment but not for a building, he said. Marshall County is one of a few counties that did not get federal and state moneys to build a vocational center.
William Johnson, assistant principal at the Byhalia Middle School, said it is important that students have options when they graduate and have a plan for employment in mind.
“We are getting ready to be hit with a landslide of industries,” he said. “We want the industries but cannot promise the most important part (a prepared workforce). How can we prepare kids to fit that industry?”
Johnson said health science, allied health and nursing are in great demand right now and always will be in demand. Welding will be a major force, he said, and there is a business that could hire starting welders now starting out at $17 an hour.
Other areas where there is a need for vocational preparation is in law enforcement, he said.
The school district has space on the Byhalia campus for a vocational building and students could be brought on buses to Byhalia from the other high schools, Johnson said. The school district has an offer from the private sector to donate a building and the district thinks it also has an offer from the private sector to pay for the foundation.
“We need the county to be willing to step in if we need support,” Johnson said.
Moore said he thinks the district can get the building, the equipment and money to hire a teacher, a vocational director and a counselor.
He said other districts transport their students to the vocational center.
“When it is all said and done, the student has a diploma and is already connected with industry for a job,” Moore said. “We have hospitals and nursing schools ready for our students. I think we are OK as far as the building goes. We have local business folks and some not local, who said they will help with the building, But, we need a return for our investment.”
The vocational students will still get a high school diploma and a plan for a job guaranteed, he said.
Moore said the investors want this type of training.
He said schools already have shop-like courses such as welding. But a vocational center is needed in order for participating students to be tested and certified to receive a vocational diploma.
Supervisor Charles Terry asked how many students are enrolled in the county.
Moore said the last day of March there were 3,494 students.
He expects to start out at about 3,500 this fall and for the enrollment to keep climbing gradually.
Byhalia High School graduated about 123 students last year, the superintendent said. H.W. Byers and Potts Camp had smaller graduating classes.
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