Major Grant to Help Prepare Students for Work

   District 56 and 55 officials were joined by representatives from Piedmont Tech, Upper Savannah plus Laurens County and City governments and others yesterday afternoon to announce that a Federal Department of Labor grant of over $6.8 million to fund a Youth Career Connect Program in South Carolina. District 56 Superintendent Dr. David O’Shields said a Department of Labor and Education grant was announced yesterday for the Carolina Alliance for Technology and will be used in Laurens and Clinton High Schools from Districts 55 and 56 and at two High Schools in Richland County District 2.

 “The goals of this program are to boost computer science and engineering, to earn post-secondary credits while in High School, to provide academic counseling, educational course work, mentorships and apprenticeships for our students, and to better prepare our students for college and for careers, but most importantly for life in a demanding and ever-changing workforce.”

     The money will be matched over the next four years, not with local dollars but by local school and industrial involvement to prepare students for jobs of the future. 

     District 55 Superintendent Billy Strickland said with the news of the Grant yesterday, the rainy day became a great day in Laurens County.  “I think this is exciting for Laurens County. Not only from the education side of it, from industry, county government and the economic development. And it’s fitting that we are here at the Chamber because I think it pulls all the groups together.”

    The Obama Administration yesterday announced a total of 24 programs across the country that will share $107 million as part of a high school redesign competition for improving integration of real-world experiences into the classroom. In addition to the  Laurens 56 and 56 and Richland 2 partnership, other winners in the $7 million range were New York City, Los Angeles, Denver, Pike Township of Indianapolis and Prince George’s County in Maryland. 275 groups applied for the 24 Department of Labor grants announced yesterday.

   In addition to Clinton and Laurens High Schools, the Carolina Coalition will fund these new services in Ridgeview and Westwood High Schools in Richland County School District 2. 

   At yesterday’s news conference at the Laurens County Chamber of Commerce,  District 55 Superintendent Dr. Billy Strickland said the news marks an exciting day for our area. He said that work-based learning experiences will be fostered by strong partnerships through companies like ZF Transmissions, Bosch Rexroth, Laurens County Government, SCANNA, Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina, Intel and Moore Center for Orthopedics. He said these and others will allow students to participate in field trips, job shadowing, leadership, field experiences and mentoring. Strickland said an important part of the grant is providing partnership with employees to create a path for students to industries and occupations. “Apprenticeship Carolina will work with employers in both regions to find and create registered apprenticeships matching employers with students. And that is what we’re all about. We are excited about getting this process in High Schools and going on to Technical Schools – Piedmont Tech and also Midlands Tech for the Richland 2 area – is an exciting time for them to make this happen for our young people.”

   District 56 Superintendent  Dr. David O’Shields said of 24 national grants that were announced yesterday in this program, the grant announced for the consortium between Districts 55, 56 and Richland 2 was one of the 6th largest.

   O’Shields said “Students today need deeper knowledge and an expanded skill set to prepare them for college and the jobs of the future. These grants will expose and engage our students with much more hands-on, relevant academic opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math.”

  Dr. O’Shields and Dr. Cynthia Pitts of the Upper Savannah Regional Education Center  were on the actual grant writing team. She said they had to select specific areas of study to be enhanced with this program, “…and we’re going to be doing computer technology and we’re also going to be doing engineering.

     Superintendent O’Shields told WLBG preparations will be made the rest of this school year to be ready to start the program with the next school year. The grant funds the program for four years.