Steering Column by Brian England
As you may know, one of my passions is education. I have been involved with the Howard County School System - working with a panel advising on the introduction of Career Academies into the HCPSS.
The concept is that stdents, who are interested in a particular career, are able to take classes to help them decide a specific career path. Completing an Academy class can also give the student college credits. Most of the Academy classes are taken in the 11th and 12th grade. When a student enters high school they should begin looking at the Academies, and then choose the classes they need to complete so they can enter a Career Academy in 11th or 12th grade.
Career education gives students a connection between the subjects they learn in high school and a career path. The traditional high schools’ main goal is to teach students to a level to enter a four-year college. Today, with up to 33% of students graduating in Howard County going to a two-year college, career education is very important. Career education prepares students better to enter the work force.
To supplement the School System Career Academy, I have been working with our local automobile association, (WMDA), and we have established a Pre-Academy. (The pre-academy has been fully approved by the HCPSS, and the Maryland Department of the Environment). The purpose is to add another layer, so that students can check out different careers before committing to a High School Academy Class.
The Pre-Automotive Academy covers automotive technology that reflects the current and future needs of the independent auto service and repair facility. There are five classes, each four hours long, held on Saturday mornings. The classes include general automobile systems, automotive careers, auto shop layout and safety rules, workshop culture, pay scales and apprenticeships. Students are introduced to new technology, information systems and the scan tools that interface with automobile computers. Hands on tasks include an introduction to preventive maintenance, brakes, basic electricity, tools, lifts and other shop equipment.
The Pre-Automotive Academy gives the student a true representation of our industry so they can make an educated career choice. It is one course where, regardless of whether the student drops out or finishes every class, it has been successful. Career education is not only about which career you would like to pursue, but also which ones you do not want to follow. Career education leads to better use of the education system from high school to college. When students experience the connection between education and a career they would like to pursue, they are more likely to succeed.
We learned a lot over the past year as we ran the first Pre-Automotive program. It was rewarding to see students learn about our industry. Few students dropped out and most wanted to learn more.
When I visited Oakland Mills High School I learned about one student who had completely turned around. He had started working hard and developed the grades needed to get into an automotive program in Pennsylvania - hearing this one story made everything worth while. Thirty students went through our program. Many of them have now decided to go into the new automotive program in the Howard County Public School System Career Academy.
The HCPSS officially opened its new automotive program on August 24th. Two new workshops were built in record time using the space that had been used by an original program in the 1980’s.
One workshop houses the “Energy Power and Transportation” program, for students who are interested in automotive technology design, and who will eventually obtain a four year degree. The second workshop is for the automotive program that will lead to a two year degree program at a community college.
Our pre-academy classes are for middle school to 12 th grade students. There will be classes in the fall, winter and summer. For complete information visit the special web-site that has been set up www.mdautotraining.com.
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