Sunday, October 31, 1999

Students guided to career paths

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BELLEVUE — Freshmen with an interest in accounting can graduate from Bellevue High School with five college classes under their belts and a clear understanding of the classes they'll need to pursue a two- or four-year college degree.

        This is “tech prep,” the pairing of academic and vocational classes to prepare students to enter the work force and meet job market needs.

        “This doesn't mean not going to college,” said Judy Klopp, business education teacher. “Students can bypass some college classes, which is time and money.”

        Bellevue's tech prep program joins Northern Kentucky Technical College, Citizens Bank, parents and other community and business members to offer students a better understanding of their career options — and a specific path to follow to reach their goals.

        Students themselves are working to spread the word. Juniors Jerry Kalfrat and Ryan Leopold said the pro gram is a good way to explore different careers.

        “When you sign up for this, you get a list of everything you'll need to take in high school and college to succeed,” Jerry said. “It's nice to be able to have all that laid out for you.”

        Tech prep is the wave of the future for Greater Cincinnati, as the need for highly skilled technical workers increases.

        A market study for the Northern Kentucky area found that professional, paraprofessional and technical jobs will account for 28 percent of new job growth between 1994 and 2005.

        Those positions include jobs that tech prep classes focus on, like computer analysts and business marketers, said Michelle Deeley, vice president of educational initiatives for the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

        “Our businesses note that to be prepared, students have to know what careers are available and what they need to be trained,” Ms. Deeley said.

        Business is eager to be involved. When the Northern Kentucky Tech Prep Consortium (made up of academic and vocational teachers from 23 high schools) asked businesses to participate in training, 35 companies accepted the offer.

        Bellevue students will get hands-on experience in banking next year through a partnership with Citizens Bank. Students will work with employees to set up a school bank where students can save money.

        An agreement between Bellevue High and the technical college allows students with 90 percent proficiency in certain classes to receive college credit. That means a student who does well in Bellevue's Accounting I class wil receive credit for Accounting 100 at the technical college.

        The agreement covers five classes each in two programs — accounting and finance or administrative assistant. The school plans to add career programs, and choices won't be limited to technical fields. Ms. Klopp said a track might be developed for a math teaching career, for example.

        Tech prep is aimed at the middle 50 percent to 75 percent of students. These students typically are career-minded with plans to continue their education after high school.

        Nationally, tech prep programs generate more business involvement in schools, focus attention on the need to improve student math and science skills, and open up new lines of communication for techers, according to a 1998 report by Mathematica Policy Research Inc.

        The report also found that tech prep programs work best when they involve agreements between high schools and colleges, career counseling, new classes that use hands-on experiences and a program that includes two years at the high school level and at least two years of college.

        Bellevue hopes to educate more students about the program. Fliers posted around the high school explain tech prep and the options available to students. Brochures will be given to parents during open house night. Eighth-graders will visit the technical college in November.

        Tech prep coordinators want to ensure that people realize “tech prep” does not just mean auto body and construction classes.

        Freshman and sophomores in Ms. Klopp's keyboarding class know all about the tech prep options. Sophomore Jessica Bradford said she likes knowing that she can learn computer skills in school that will help earn her a larger paycheck.

        The option to prepare for a specific career is essential to today's students, said parent Paul Heck, who also serves on the Bellevue Board of Education.

        “As a parent, you might have children that aren't college material or who don't want to go to college or who can't afford college,” Mr. Heck said. “Here, they can learn a skill and get out there and be ready for the work force.”


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