Liberty College and Career Academy CEO Tom Alexander on Friday updated Liberty County School System administrators and board members on LCCA program developments as culinary-arts students served a restaurant-style brunch they had prepared.
The academy is accountable to the LCSS and comes under the Georgia Department of Education charter-schools division and collaborates with the Georgia Technical College System via Savannah Technical College, the Liberty County Development Authority and the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce, Alexander said. He added that the academy serves different types of students, those who want to enter the workforce right after high-school graduation as well as those who go on to complete programs at technical colleges or transition to four-year universities.
“We try to foster that workplace setting in everything we do, in our setting and in our dialogue,” Alexander said.
“We realize not every student is meant to be a traditional four-year student,” said Christopher Williams, high-school coordinator with Savannah Technical College. He works with 23 high schools in Liberty, Bryan, Chatham and Effingham counties.
STC, in turn, coordinates with such prominent business partners as Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, JCB, Mitsubishi Power Systems and Firth Rixson, he said.
Alexander said 601 students in 10th through 12th grades from Liberty County High School and Bradwell Institute were enrolled in LCCA programs last year. This semester, there are 667 LCCA students, a 12 percent increase, he said. Dual enrollment at the academy experienced a 47 percent increase over last year, Alexander added.
LCCA students are required to take workplace-ethics and soft-skills training to help them keep a job once they are hired, according to Alexander. Soft skills pertain to workplace etiquette and professional behavior, such as being on time, working well with others and taking pride in their work.
During an employer seminar held by the Georgia Department of Labor in August, GDOL Commissioner Mark Butler said 69 percent of first-time hires lose their jobs due to a lack of soft skills.
GDOL initiated the Georgia Best program nearly two years ago in 20 public high schools. The LCCA participates in Georgia Best. Students are evaluated by LCCA instructors in much the same way an employer would evaluate a worker’s job performance.
Alexander told administrators the LCCA is pursuing paid internships for manufacturing students with local manufacturers, like Firth Rixson, to help prepare students for industrial careers and provide qualified employees to local companies.
The CEO said local industry leaders told him 40-60 percent of workers employed by local manufacturers are not Liberty County residents. He said many of these employers have complained they cannot find qualified workers locally.
Other developments include the academy’s pursuit of articulation agreements with Georgia Southern University and Savannah College of Art and Design for its graphic-design program, Alexander said.
The academy offers students numerous dual- and joint-enrollment opportunities in a number of subject areas through its partnership with Savannah Technical College. Dual enrollment helps save the academy money, because the LCCA can retain its FTE (Full-Time Equivalent) funding from the state when students dual-enroll, according to Alexander.
Joint enrollment opportunities with STC for welding will be offered in January 2014, Alexander said. The academy also is working with STC on dual and joint enrollment in engineering and is striving to gain industry certification in engineering, he said.
In addition, the academy is pursuing a “common medical core” dual enrollment with STC in general medicine for spring 2014, Alexander said. The LCCA currently offers a certified nursing-assistant program through the Georgia Medical Care Foundation. These nursing students complete internships at Coastal Manor in Long County. Alexander said academy officials are hoping to offer a patient-care technician certification this summer, so CNAs can be certified to work in hospitals as well as nursing homes.
Alexander also touted the LCCA’s career camp which was held for the first time this past summer. About 75-80 middle-school students were introduced to welding, cooking and nursing, he said.