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JEFF MEADORS: RCA steering students toward right career pathways

Do some school programs prepare students better for the workforce than others?

In an article originally written for Strictly Business, a newsletter of the National Institute of Pension Administrators, Bill Conerly, contributor to Forbes magazine, predicts jobs in 2014 to grow steadily but moderately “without ever being strong.”

But are high school and college graduates credentialed for even moderate growth?

In a past examination of jobs from 2004 – 2014 the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics argues, “Data consistently show that, on average, college graduates earn more money, experience less unemployment and have a wider variety of career options than other workers do. A college degree also makes it easier for jobseekers to enter many of the fastest growing, highest paying occupations. What’s more, having a degree is the only way to get a start in some careers.”

But objects in the mirror aren’t as close as they appear; college and graduate school admission is a tall order academically and financially. Many students are woefully unprepared. And muted optimism from labor stats fails to muzzle rhetoric calling the worth of a college degree into question.

In an On The Record panel with Fox News host Greta Van Susteren last week Anthony Mongeluzo, president of Pro-Computer Service, responded to Van Susteren’s question: Is college still relevant?

Mongeluzo, like other panel members, concurred that while college bears clear relevance to an individual’s lifetime worth, companies seek first to hire employees who have “on the job training” and “on the job experience.” Mongeluzo wants employees with the “ability to think and perform” working for him.

Students in Work-based Learning and Youth Apprenticeship programs own a cutting edge as well as those already earning college credits. Not only do these students have employable skills but research finds them most likely to complete a four-year college degree with a higher GPA. As icing on their cake they have personal and professional reference letters in hand from industry and college leaders. I know; I write many. Added value of collective riches on their high school transcripts makes them the face of fierce future competition.

Michelle Peluso, GILT CEO, supports what I have argued in past Citizen columns for years: “We’d love to see more STEM education” and students “who have taken math and science and have some technical .”

Last week I chronicled engineering pathways, an area tied both to at least seven career pathways at Rockdale Career Academy and most of the top 10 future jobs. But the news gets better. Not only do math scores of RCA students boost aggregated math performance data in RCPS, but Yahoo! Education has just named top hot jobs for 2014: business administration, computer science, accounting, information technology and health care administration. At least six RCA pathways are tied to these five fields.

There’s more. The 2014 Dodge Construction Outlook predicts “total U.S. construction starts for 2014 will rise 9 percent to $555.3 billion, higher than the 5 percent increase to $508 billion estimated for 2013,” bringing four more RCA pathways into the fold.

The Culpepper Drive program unarguably unfolds as a ground zero economic driver and training platform for the Rockdale region. If privately held I imagine RCA would generate an enthusiastic IPO.

Columnist Jeff Meadors may be reached at pjeffreymeadors@gmail.com