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Grant Builds School Job Training Program

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Grant builds school job training programs: Money will supplement cuts suffered during recession April 11, 2016, 05:00 AM By Austin Walsh Daily Journal


Local students will enjoy more vibrant career technical training classes, under a substantial grant received by the San Mateo Union High School District.

The district accepted more than $1 million in grant funding from the California Department of Education last month, as part of an initiative from the state designed to enhance job training curriculum.

Brian Simmons, the district’s director of Curriculum and Assessment, said the funds will be used to rejuvenate programs which suffered budget cuts during the economic downturn.

Simmons said the workforce development programs are a useful means of offering students opportunities beyond the traditional college preparatory path.

“The courses are a nice alternative to what students are being exposed to in other classes,” said Simmons.

Classes traditionally affiliated with regional occupational programs such as hospitality management and child development are available at the district, as well as more modern and advanced opportunities such as digital media production and computer or building and construction engineering courses, among others.

Simmons said much of the grant money will likely be spent to improve the technology and infrastructure used to support the career training programs throughout the district.

“We will be updating and upgrading software and the tools in some of these hands-on programs,” he said.

The district has a pretty comprehensive job training program in place, said Simmons, due largely to the collaboration with the San Mateo County Community College District, which frequently offers college credit for completion of the alternative education courses.

Each student in the high school district is required to take the rough equivalent to one year of career technical education programs to qualify for graduation, said Simmons.

He said it is unlikely additional programs will be implemented through the funds, but the money could be spent to hire more staff to increase access for students.

The $1.1 million granted to the local high school district is part of the more than $900 million the state Board of Education has committed over the next three years to improve career technical education programs throughout California.

Four other districts in San Mateo County — Cabrillo Unified, Jefferson Union, Sequoia Union High School and South San Francisco Unified – accepted grant money as part of the program as well. Sequoia Union High School District also accepted $1.1 million in grant money.

Vera Jacobson-Lundberg, career technical education coordinator at the San Mateo County Office of Education, lauded the state’s investment in local job training programs.

“This money will go toward creating new and innovative career pathways in our individual districts, contributing to the growing success of all students in the county,” she said, in a prepared statement.

Simmons said the San Mateo Union High School District expects to accept roughly $2.5 million over the life of the three-year grant initiative.

As more money becomes available to rejuvenate career training courses, Simmons said district officials will look to diversify the appeal of the programs to a wider swath of the student population.

The district also established internship opportunities at local life science companies, which are appealing to students who aspire to pursue jobs in the biotechnology industry, said Simmons.

Advanced programs also exist in computer coding and other science, technology, engineering and math fields, which require a fair amount of prerequisite training for students before enrolling, said Simmons.

He said officials are interested in sparking the interest of students from diverse backgrounds in such opportunities, so all the district’s community feels invited to participate in a variety of unique educational opportunities.

Officials face a challenge in compelling district students to engage in some of the progressive programs, said Simmons.

“Our computer science courses and biotechnology program are not reflective of our demographics,” he said. “We continue to push to our student population to make sure all our students have the prerequisites to participate in the more technically advanced or rigorous programs.”

As officials look to establish a more vibrant job training program, Simmons said he believes the courses can pay great dividends in developing valuable skills for students.

“It allows them a much more honest appraisal of what the work world will be like in a particular industry,” he said.

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