Dr. Kamela Patton: Developing A Talented Workforce

Jun 26, 2017

A major goal of Collier County Public Schools (CCPS) is a pathway for all students. This means that when a student walks across the stage at graduation, they have a tangible idea of what the future holds. Whether our students go on to college, career, or military, it is my hope that they find their way back to Collier County. With fantastic technical colleges, NAF Academies, work-based learning experiences through Career and Technical Education programs, and more, students are developing real-world skills to make their dreams a reality and fostering a talented workforce in Collier County.

There are many ways for students to build the foundational skills for a successful career during their K-12 education. Many opportunities are career and professional academies or career-themes courses. Both are offered at the middle and high school levels. A “career and professional academy” is a research-based program that integrates a rigorous academic curriculum with an industry-specific curriculum aligned directly to priority workforce needs established by the regional workforce board or the Department of Economic Opportunity. A “career-themed course” is a course, or a course in a series of courses, that leads to an industry certification identified in the Industry Certification Funding List pursuant to rules adopted by the State Board of Education.

NAF Academies are small career-themed learning communities within current school structures focused on preparing students for college and career success. CCPS offers academies in Engineering, Finance, Health Sciences, Hospitality and Tourism, Information Technology, and Aviation. NAF’s mission is to solve some of the biggest challenges facing education and the economy by bringing education, business, and community leaders together to transform the high school experience. A major part of the academies are internships and work-based learning experiences. Local businesses host student interns during the summer, providing students with a well-rounded skill set that goes beyond academics and includes the foundational skills needed to succeed in college and the working world. NAF Academy internship eligible students can participate in the NAF Now! Internship Prep Conference, where industry professionals speak to our students and work with them on interviewing skills, resume writing techniques and “soft skills”.

Not only are students learning the skills necessary to be successful in the workforce, they are actually creating businesses themselves. In the INCubatoredu program, students have the opportunity to create their own entrepreneurial idea. As part of the program, local entrepreneurs serve as mentors to the groups, helping take them from idea to actualization. Students further develop their skills in creating hypotheses about a business concept, testing those hypotheses, adapting, and continually learning and improving. The culmination of this program is the Innovation Competition. Students present their final business pitch to judges and participate in many business skill competitions throughout the day.

The district goes beyond developing the skills, but actually putting students in contact with local businesses who are looking for future CCPS-educated employees. Each high school hosts their own career fair, but CCPS does something unique, hosting five career theme specific fairs throughout the year for students to show their skills and meet employers. Health Horizons is a career fair where our Academy of Health Science engage with anywhere between 15-17 medical professional from different areas of the industry and talk to them about their medical specialty. IT Horizons, is a fair in which we partner with Hodges University and they provide IT staff and professors to talk to our students about different areas in Information Technology. Our Building, Trades and Engineering Fair for Construction and Engineering students feature different businesses who showcase their trade and allow students to participate in hands-on demonstrations. Preparations for a Hospitality and Tourism Fair for the upcoming school year are already underway.

As part of this push, CCPS debuted College and Career Tours this year. During these tours, some 12th grade students were introduced to Lorenzo Walker Technical College and Immokalee Technical College (iTECH) to provide students with information on potential pathways right in their backyard. We refer to many of their programs as “Career-in-a-Year” because, in 12 to 14 months, students are career ready. Cosmetology, Practical Nursing, Veterinary Assisting, Heating, Ventilation, and Air-Conditioning (HVAC), and other programs provided a wide range of potential areas of study. While in these programs, students oftentimes intern with local businesses, developing professional relationships that can lead to future job opportunities. The average cost of a four-year Bachelor’s degree is $52,522, while the average cost of a one-year certificate program is $5,249, making technical college a very attainable option for students.

None of this would be possible without our amazing community partners. There are so many career opportunities in Collier County, and having a relationship with local businesses benefits the students and economy.  It is my hope to continue developing highly-qualified students who have the foundation skills to make excellent employees.  If you are interested in getting involved with CCPS Career and Technical Education, please contact Dale Johnson at (239) 377-0333.