Niles school district unveils Berrien Career CenterPublished 4:56pm Tuesday, March 26, 2013
In an effort to make high school students more employable once they finish high school, Niles Community Schools is offering a new program this fall called the Berrien Area Career Center.
Open to juniors and seniors, the BACC is designed to give students a skill or trade that could be used for direct employment or as a means to fund the pursuit of a higher education.
“We’ve had so many people walk out of these classrooms — even nationwide — with no real skills,” said Tom Hurst, Career Technical Education program leader. “They have some academic skills, but that’s it. This program is designed to change that, give these students a skill that can be used to make real wages.”
BACC will be offering eight CTE programs beginning this fall. (see information box below)
Niles Community Schools already offers most of these programs in one-hour blocks. Beginning this fall, however, the programs will be offered in three-hour blocks, allowing students to dive deeper into subjects and, in some cases, receive certification, Hurst said.
“We were only scratching the surface before,” he said.
Niles Community Schools plans on accomplishing this by blending English and social studies into each CTE program. Academic teachers will partner with CTE teachers to create and deliver lessons and activities directly related to their career field. Hurst gave the example of automotive students writing technical service bulletins and preparing invoices. Also, welders would use English skills to prepare a formal bid for a potential customer.
“These are just simple examples of what we are going to do,” Hurst said.
Remie Ramirez, CTE director, said the program would be geared toward juniors and seniors. There is a potential for about 200 students.
Several building projects are planned to accommodate the BACC, including construction of a new greenhouse near the current CTE wing. The CTE wing will also be getting a commercial kitchen and fabrication laboratory, which will include CNC routers, laser cutters, vinyl cutters, welders and plasma cutters.
There is also a plan to expand the graphic arts area to include printing and other production equipment.
While the goal is to finish most of the projects this summer, Hurst said it would depend on funding.
Supt. Richard Weigel estimated the project would cost more than $200,000, adding he doesn’t have a full handle on the expenses yet.
Funding is expected to come from a combination of private sources and the district’s sinking fund.
“We need to be careful and keep our costs in control while getting as much for our money as possible,” Weigel said. “We will only do what we have the funds to accomplish.”
For more information, visit the NCS website at nilesschools.org.
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