Career Center to get more money

Tuesday, June 7, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:52 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 11, 2008

Columbia’s Board of Education wants to give the district’s Career Center $100,000 in additional money to expand a computer-aided drafting and design program. The expansion would also include the hiring of a second full-time instructor.

The center, which provides career technical training to high school students and adults, had requested $4,660,825 for the 2005-06 fiscal year. But after seeing an enrollment increase for the second year in a row, Arden Boyer-Stephens, the center’s director, asked for more money.

Board members agreed. In a May 9 meeting, the board decided to use more of the district’s reserve funds for this and other needs. The district’s proposed 2005-06 budget, which will be finalized this month, now includes $4,760,825 for the center, on Providence Road near Rock Bridge High School.

The two-year computer-aided drafting and design program puts students to work in three areas: computer mechanical drafting, architectural drafting and 3-D animation.

Enrollment at the Career Center has grown steadily since the early 1990s. In the 2004-05 academic year, enrollment increased by 650, or 32 percent, from 2,040 to 2,690. Enrollment for the 2005-06 academic year continues to increase. Boyer-Stephens said technical schools around Missouri are experiencing similar growth.

“We can turn our training around on a dime,” Boyer-Stephens said. If something changes in the field, the training is changed accordingly, he said. The center looks at job forecasts and the skills needed by employers and bases training on those findings.

Career technical education, formerly known as vocational training, prepares students for trades, occupations or vocations by teaching specific skills. Nationally, almost half of all high school students and nearly a third of college students have participated in career technical education programs, according to the National Assessment of Vocational Education, a report put out by the federal government.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Web site states that jobs requiring the specific skill training provided by career technical schools are increasing. Between 2002 and 2012, the construction industry alone is expected to see an increase in jobs to fill by 15 percent, creating almost 1 million new jobs.

“The Career Center provides students opportunities to look at several things. They can gain experiences to guide their studies,” said the board’s president, Chuck Headley. He said many students coming out of high school and college don’t have the experience that career technical students have.

“There’s a reality in these skills that the students can grasp,” he said.

Boyer-Stephens said the skills students learn at the Career Center support continued education and make students employable in high-wage technical jobs, such as laser photonics, construction and the automotive industry.

She said she thinks technical education in high school helps students decide what skills they have.

“They are able to experiment with their abilities and interests,” she said.

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