Collaboration was a key word when Liberty College and Career Academy CEO Tom Alexander spoke Tuesday about the program to the Hinesville Rotary Club.
The academy, currently operating out of Bradwell Institute, runs under the supervision of the Liberty County School System in collaboration with Savannah Technical College, the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce and the Liberty County Development Authority.
“Right now, 62 percent of Americans who get to the age of 25 don’t ever complete a four-year degree,” he said. “Traditionally, it’s been our philosophy and our thought that we send kids through 12 years of school, we give them their diploma and then we send them on their way with the expectation that they’re going to figure out what they want to do.”
But the Liberty College and Career Academy is one of 23 academies statewide working to spread a new line of thinking, one that introduces students to careers at a younger age and allows them to gain hands-on experience while in high school.
Program courses will be taught by current county teachers and Savannah Tech instructors, so instruction costs will not increase, Alexander said.
The program’s 50,000-square-foot facility, slated to open in August 2012, is being funded by a $3.3 million grant from the Technical College System of Georgia, ESPLOST funds and an $800,000 GaDOE grant for equipment.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to enhance the educational experience for these kids,” Interstate Paper human relations manager Mike McGowan said after the meeting. “It gives them a great first look at what a career or field may be like.”
Robert Stokes, the Hinesville and Glennville area manager for Georgia Power who also is a member of the LCDA board, added that the program is a “plus” for the community.
Georgia Power currently recruits line workers from among the classes at technical colleges, and students that take on careers sooner will have a competitive edge, he said.
From a business recruiting perspective, having a well-prepared, technically savvy workforce may offer incentive for businesses to move to the area, Stokes added.
Once students complete an entire career, agricultural or technical education pathway, they will be eligible for for-credit internships that can be paid or unpaid, according to Bradwell work-based learning coordinator Lisa Eason.
Academy leaders also hope to capitalize on the local business connections to bring guest in speakers and lecturers to speak about real-world topics, such as attendance and punctuality, and familiarize students with area business leaders.
Students from both Liberty County High School and Bradwell Institute will be able to attend classes at the career academy beginning in their sophomore years, Alexander said. Shuttles will transport the students to and from their main campuses, and the academy courses will be offered during the daily block schedule.