JEFF MEADORS: Schools must make career paths relevant to students

Employment outlooks show engineering and science majors to be the safest college majors for future employment.

That’s good news for students in at least seven career pathways at Rockdale Career Academy and one plausible reason for the program’s explosive growth.

“As innovation accelerates, automation and its masters are feeding off the corpse of the old world at an unprecedented pace,” argues Christopher Mims of SmartPlanet.com.

U.S. News says engineering grads enjoy the best job prospects from banking to construction to energy and in separate U.S. News reporting Ed Schlesinger, head of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon, points out, “Half of the engineers in the power industry are going to be retiring in the next five years.”

More good news for career, technical and agricultural education students.

For years the Wall Street Journal has reported engineering to be one of the best prospects for future gainful employment in the hottest area — biomedical engineering. “Jobs in this field, which centers on developing and testing health-care innovations such as artificial organs or imaging systems, are expected to grow by 72 percent … ” argues the WSJ.

That means a healthy high school to college pipeline of STEM grads with high school transcripts evidencing higher math and sciences is critical. Top engineering fields include: industrial, mechanical, electrical, civil, electronic, industrial safety and health, computer hardware, and aerospace. Nearby Atlanta places ninth among top 10 markets for engineering jobs — more good news for area students with STEM interests.

This does not mean that students talented in the humanities should abandon ship. Many students skilled in AutoCAD are highly creative types with a strong command of critical reading, rhetoric and creative thought. Right brain meets left as notions of who is truly most likely to succeed rapidly change.

But do viable pipelines to college uniformly exist in Georgia?

Are plans firmly in place in systems to thoroughly assess student aptitude and appropriately guide students to programs relevant to them?

Secondary schools must boost preparatory programs for nationally normed SAT and ACT exams, examine student academic profiles, conference with students about school options, and improve percentages of students with HOPE eligibility without grade inflation.

The most recently released public data on HOPE eligibility percentages (2010-2011) of area schools is as follows: Alcovy (37.7 percent eligible), Arabia Mountain (37.8 percent), Eastside (54.8 percent), Heritage (33.6 percent), Morgan (36.2 percent), Newton (41.4 percent), Oconee (72.1 percent), Ola (34 percent), Rockdale (31.1 percent), Salem (20.1 percent), Social Circle (24.8 percent), and Walnut Grove (27 percent). No publicly available disaggregated data on HOPE eligibility percentages exist for RCA or Rockdale Magnet school.

With the exception of Oconee most graduating seniors leave high school ineligible for HOPE. Since many HOPE scholars lose eligibility in year two of college then what does post-secondary life look like for graduates with no HOPE at all?

Georgia students will lag and tax digests suffer from low educational capital if we fail to beef up personalized academic advisement, for it is when school becomes personally relevant that students find optimal success.

In the meantime students leaving high school with completed CTAE credentials, like some 1,900 students aim to do at places like RCA, will tower over their peers for whom school programs never became personal.

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