A recent workforce development summit at Rockdale Career Academy revealed the anatomy of success. Education critics agree. A well-trained, highly skilled workforce is a must as local governments seek to attract and retain business and industry in the area. As the job market has changed career and technical education programming has evolved to keep pace.
Current career powerhouses like RCA link learning with industry standards. Just how do they pull this off?
To begin, it's leadership. CEO Miki Edwards surrounds herself with a highly capable team with an inveterate love for students and passion for classroom support. It has resulted in accolades heretofore unknown in the region and the largest enrollment in a secondary building in Rockdale with a projection of 1,850 students for fiscal year 2013. Ah, this is wonderful stuff.
With the opening of a new wing set for January 2013 to include college offices, RCA nestles beside Parker Road uniquely positioned for access to business and industry internships.
RCA is a specialized public charter high school aimed at preparing students for careers in local and regional industries. It has far exceeded the statewide goal of creating access to career options for all students by 2020. An AP Honor School, RCA produces the largest number of industry-certified course completers in the region.
Boasting the largest career academy in Georgia, Edwards shares a personal story that sums up the need for relevance and authenticity in public education.
Walking into an automotive class years ago, Edwards tells the story of a student fully engaged in a math lesson on place value in automotive class.
She whispers to a student, "What are you doing? Didn't you learn this in fourth grade?" "Shhh" replies the young man intensely engaged, "It didn't matter until now."
These students were headed into the workforce the next month and one math mistake could be costly. It just doesn't get much better than this.
High quality teachers, a supportive leadership team, a positive climate one feels simply by walking in the door, RCA, having completed its sixth year in operation, produced 417 pathway completers in 2012, took 85 percent of its students to Georgia Work Ready Certification and enjoyed partnerships with more than 75 local businesses through Work Based Learning.
RCA will offer AP Physics in fiscal year 2013 in a place where, Edwards states, "no learning is ever lost."
This local charter is proving its salt in a world of persistently dangerous economic news. And while career programs were long derided in past decades, the workforce seems in concert now with the automotive student. It didn't matter 'til now.
Jeff Meadors represents District 1 on the Newton County Board of Education. He may be reached at Jeffrey.firstname.lastname@example.org.