Dozens of educators with the Wharton Independent School District and those in the work industry came together for a meeting of the minds recently for a “Future Workforce Development” meeting – all of this to find ways to better prepare Wharton ISD students while they are attending Wharton High School to graduate with an idea of their career choice.
Local construction, manufacturing and health care leaders spoke with various Wharton ISD officials to share ideas and hiring needs during a roundtable discussion.
For some Wharton High School students, a four-year university may not fall in line with what they want, or can afford, and those realizations were discussed in some detail among dozens who gathered at the Wharton Civic Center on Monday, Jan. 13.
The noon time event was led by Bret Baldwin, of Straet Global Consulting, LLC, and Gayle Parenica, Wharton ISD’s executive director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Accountability.
There were five tables that were filled with industry leaders and a couple of WISD officials.
Each attendee received stapled paperwork with detailed information on manufacturing, architecture and construction, and health science. The information shared had postsecondary options; various levels of courses; various occupations; median wage, number of annual openings and percentage in growth.
There were work-based learning and expanded learning opportunities for each.
The following industry information was available: Manufacturing (advanced manufacturing and machinery mechanics, manufacturing technology, and welding), Architecture and Construction (architecture design, construction management and inspection), carpentry, electrical, HVAC and sheet metal, masonry, and plumbing and pipefitting); Health Science (exercise science and wellness, health informatics, healthcare diagnostics, healthcare therapeutics, nursing science, and medical therapist).
With technological advancements what they are, Wharton ISD Superintendent Randy Meyer felt that in this era, students are provided with more opportunities, certainly more than what he remembers as a “child of the 80s.”
Meyer walked around and listened to all the ideas that were being brainstormed. He then spoke to everyone at once midway through the session.
He said as someone who grew up in the 1980s, there are industry jobs that were mentioned in the meetings that required one to attend a four-year university or vocational school. He said to have students be introduced to industry while at Wharton High School, it provides them with opportunity that those before him did not have.
According to the information that was provided, there are more than 1,200 high schools in Texas and of those, 35 follow a state-supported PTECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) model.
Parenica said P-TECH is an opportunity for WISD students to gain access to college by taking some college credits in high school, while working towards an industry-recognized certification program.
Once the table sessions were concluded, Parenica asked each person representing Wharton ISD what their takeaways were after speaking with those in industry.
Among the answers were “effective partnerships, improved math knowledge, work ethics as they pertain to punctuality, safety, and OSHA courses.”
According to the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) website, Wharton ISD is a “leading school district” by being the first to offer P-TECH within the region, as most other P-TECH schools are located in the major metropolitan areas of Dallas and Austin.
Before the session was held, WISD Superintendent Tina Herrington shared her thoughts on this matter.
“This is a tremendous win for the Wharton area, because our high school students have the chance to earn a high school diploma, an associate degree, a two-year post-secondary certificate or industry certification, and complete work-based training, gaining experience through an internship, apprenticeship, or other job training programs,” Herrington said.
Industry leaders and WISD officials were told by being a P-TECH approved district, the TEA works hand-in-hand with the Texas Workforce Commission, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and WISD to develop and implement a plan for the Gulf Coast region to help meet the projected workforce training needs.
“Career and technical education within your school district does indeed help South Texas communities by ‘growing its own’ local talent,” said Baldwin.