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UWCK Improves Career Readiness in Meade County

United Way of Central Kentucky & Meade County Schools Partner to Improve Career Readiness

This school year 8th graders at Stuart Pepper Middle School will receive a hands-on approach to learning that will prepare them for success in their future careers through a collaboration between Meade County Schools and United Way of Central Kentucky.

Starting September 15, 2015, approximately 130 SPMS students will attend an eight weeks series of Career Pathways classes every Tuesday, after school.  Students are transported from the middle school to the Meade County High School or the Meade County Area Technology Center to attend a variety of classes including:  Automotive Technology, General Construction, Photography, Introduction to Medical Careers, Masonry/Bricklaying, Basic Welding, Cooking 101, or Introduction to Agriculture.

Each of these classes will allow students the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge about the career opportunities and the educational background necessary to pursue these career paths in the future.  Students will have the chance to “work in the field” with a true hands-on approach in each class.  The Automotive class for example, will teach students basic automotive maintenance, servicing & repairs, in addition to learning about on-board computer systems, transmissions, steering and brakes.  The Welding class will allow students to actually cut and weld metal, using basic STICK & MIG welding techniques. “This is so exciting for our Middle School students to actually get to turn on a 2,200 degree welding torch and learn these techniques,” said SPMS Youth Services Center Coordinator Becky Crump.  “Not many 13 or 14 year old students have the opportunity to build a car engine, or learn bricklaying techniques, let alone to be trained on the proper safety and use of these types of power tools.” 

The Career Pathways pilot program was initiated last spring with great results.  The initial plan was to identify students at high risk looking at various factors including: attendance, grades, and behavior.  Due to the excitement of the instructional leaders, and community partners the plan quickly evolved to include all students who were available to attend the classes.  The popularity of the program was evident in the fact that classes were quickly filled to capacity and students were unfortunately turned away.  “Last Spring, during our pilot program, the only complaint was that the students didn’t want the classes to end!  They constantly asked if they could go more days, or if we could extend the program to include additional weeks,” said Crump.  “This was a good indicator that there is a true need for this type of educational engagement for our students.  We knew we were on to something that the students really wanted to participate in.  This year with the help of the UWCK, we will have the opportunity to provide the program twice, once in the fall semester and again in the spring.  This is just one more way to get and keep students engaged in their educational career.  It is so important to get students focused on what they want out of their future and to put a plan in place to show them how to get there. “

As part of United Way of Central Kentucky’s focus on preventing problems such as unemployment and poverty, the Relationships for Success program was a natural fit for grant funding.  “This is the type of real-world learning experience that provides the highest return on the dollars our community generously invests through United Way of Central Kentucky’s annual fundraising campaign,” said UWCK President & CEO Megan Stith.  “Not only are students benefitting by developing new skills, they are building relationships with instructors which help provide a smoother transition to high school.  Research has shown that both increased engagement in school and the influence of positive adult role models will help keep these students on track to become self-sufficient later in life.”

The Community Investment Team of volunteers who award UWCK grants welcomed the opportunity to expand the successful pilot through the $10,000 provided to fund the program’s growth, citing a need from numerous local employers for skilled workers with the critical thinking and interpersonal skills required to fill numerous job openings.  “Our region’s growth in manufacturing and industry has caused us to need programs like this that start preparing the next generation’s workforce today”, said Stith.  “By investing in these students at this critical point in their education, we hope to provide financially stable futures to our children and grow our local economy.”