Business and industry leaders offer career training

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 25, 2009

RESERVE – Nearly 20 business and industry leaders in St. John the Baptist Parish told school officials recently that the career and technical curriculum at the public high school should be expanded to include training in “soft skills.”

They recommended the schools offer classes designed to help students prepare for interviews, including public speaking, writing resumes, developing projects and overall one-on-one communication skills.

“We have recognized that students coming from the area high schools should have a better understanding of the local economy, local job opportunities and personal communication skills,” said Todd Madere, human resources director for the Louisiana Marathon Petroleum.

“It’s not just having the know-how to do the job but having the skills to be recognized as a good employee,” he said. 

The business and industry leaders are members of an organization, which meets annually to review current career and technical education programs at parish high schools and to discuss and recommend current business and industry needs and how those needs can better be addressed.

The school system recently applied for and received a Carl D. Perkins Grant with the Louisiana Department of Education to fund improvements to the high schools’ career and technical education curricula. Part of that improvement process includes gaining input from business and industry leaders.

“We want to ensure that our students have been properly trained in the skills they need to successfully gain employment in the careers of their choice and that this training matches the needs that are present in our parish and throughout the local region,” said Kathy McWaters, Ph.D., supervisor of education.

“Too often, in the past, our students may not have been given an opportunity to gain the skills that employers in our area need in their work environments. We want to make sure we are matching the community’s needs with our curriculum,” McWaters said.

Currently the public high school programs offer career training in nursing, culinary arts, carpentry and construction, welding, information systems and engineering. Those skills are in high demand in a variety of employment sectors in the River Parishes region.

McWaters said high school career and technical teachers are also working with local industry leaders to implement classes that will more closely reflect needs among local petrochemical plants. The subjects of focus will include science, engineering, technology and math. She said the new programs are being developed in response to requests from local business and industry leaders.