Community partnerships provide a pathway for students to explore career possibilities.
By Jennifer Morrell
As students explore different pathways to their ultimate careers, Marietta High School offers an option through its College and Career Academy. The Marietta High School College and Career Academy (MHSCCA) is a wall-to-wall college and career academy designed to provide unique opportunities for all students. The academy is 100-percent inclusive in allowing any and all students to achieve in the highest way possible.
“We offer 20 career, technical, and agricultural education pathways here,” says Angela K. Sparks, Ed S., Career Advisor, MHSCCA. “This gives students an opportunity to take three courses within these pathways as well as an End of Pathway Assessment over the three courses.”
Sparks says a fourth course is available in a few of the pathways, but for all areas of study, work-based learning (WBL) and Youth Apprenticeship Programs are available. The academy model is closely related to and partnered with Chattahoochee Technical College, whereby students can take college courses that support their journeys.
“As an International Baccalaureate (IB) school, our students can select to participate in a full IB program, an IB Career Pathway Program, or take a singleton IB course along the way,” Sparks says. “As a college and career academy, our focus is both on providing the tools needed to be prepared for college and career. It is about equipping students to be flexible, adaptable, and skilled for what their future career and life may be.
“Today’s job market looks different,” Sparks continues. “Business and industry are looking for skillsets over degrees. Although a four-year degree is certainly something we want our kids to strive for, it is not the only way to be educated and prepared for their future. Employers want the right combination of professional skills, desire, talent, and strong hard/technical skills to fill the needs of the work force.”
Sparks says the current generation of kids tends to be interested in entrepreneurship and the gig economy. Creative and resourceful, they will make their own paths in their own ways. MHSCCA’s charge is to prepare students for a future that has opportunities and opened doors. “We believe 100 percent that education and training are required beyond high school,” she says. “We don’t believe that there is just one way to get there. The biggest disservice to our students we can do is not giving them exposure to the workforce, the job market, and what employers want before graduating from high school. We need strong partnerships with the business community to make that happen.”
Since a large percentage of the careers will require a dependency on technical skills, Sparks says, technical training will remain a key factor for students. However, employers still report professional skills, such as dependability, flexibility, teamwork and collaboration, are high on the list of needs. WBL is a catalyst to make this happen.
A Community Effort
Sparks asserts that the greatest barrier to opportunities for high school kids in the business community is meeting transportation needs. To address this challenge, she has developed a strong partnership with Tracie Maloney, vice president of Audi Atlanta, Audi Marietta, Volvo Cars of Marietta, Volvo Cars Mall of Georgia, and Mazda Marietta. “We have partnered in placing students as interns or employees with Audi Marietta over the last two years,” Sparks says. “I submitted a proposal for $60,000 to help us with transporting students to these opportunities in the community.”
The initiative, Marietta High School College and Career Academy + Audi Marietta = a Work Force Initiative called “Transporting Success — Moving the Future Forward,” includes the use of funds to pay for bus drivers and gas to transport students to placements/opportunities. The academy did receive the $60,000 in funds from Audi Marietta, which will help provide a means to transport students to work-based learning internships, job shadows, industry tours, and visits to local colleges. Now the initiative is known as “Transporting Success — Moving the Future Forward,” with Audi Marietta as an elite sponsor of a unique opportunity to impact a student’s future.
“Audi Marietta is extremely excited to partner with MHSCAA,” Maloney says. “We believe that students deserve the opportunity to consider a career path outside of the traditional four-year college path. While we certainly do not discourage students from pursuing a college degree, the reality is that this is simply not an option for all students for a variety of reasons. We believe the automotive industry and, specifically, the Jim Ellis Automotive Dealerships, has a tremendous amount of opportunity to offer these students.”
Those career opportunities include sales, administration, inventory management, automotive repair, and paid on-the-job training. Maloney says Audi Marietta feels an obligation to serve the public by providing these opportunities for the next generation that will operate and manage their dealerships. “Who better than our own youth could we employ to do this?” she says. “We are looking forward to growing this partnership to bigger and better things year after year.”
Julie O’Meara, CEO and CTAE director, MHSCCA, says the academy strives to encourage all students to graduate with either a work experience, college credit, or a credential of value. Sparks, working in tandem with Nakeesha Wilson, MHS’s work-based learning coordinator, exposes students to careers via job shadowing, tours, employer visits, as well as by matching students to internship opportunities in the community. “We are so incredibly grateful for [Audi Marietta’s] generous donation,” O’Meara says. “Our focus is to instill confidence and to prepare students to earn, learn, or serve. There is no single model that fits all students. Students may find their individual path in a variety of ways, entering a career through the military, an apprenticeship, additional training, or by attending college.”
The End Goal
Sparks says the MHSCCA has a distinct goal of creating inclusive programming, looking for ways to level the playing field. Transportation is one of the largest barriers to forming opportunities for students. Sparks stresses the importance of the funds from Audi Marietta, adding that the money will go a long way in helping the academy get students to internships and other experiential opportunities. “We already have an industry tour set up for late-April, where we give a group of students exposure to diesel mechanic opportunities,” Sparks says. “We are looking forward to developing sites — in addition to Audi Marietta internship sites — that will hire multiple students as interns. With this donation, along with future partnerships, we will have the means to transport our students to these sites. This will be a game-changer for our kids and program.”
Last year, Audi Marietta hired two MHS graduates, and this year, a WBL intern as well as another student, will be participating in WBL his senior year. Sparks says the intern is an engineering pathway student who is deciding between a career as a design engineer in the auto industry and or as an auto technician. “Ultimately, we want our graduates to leave us not only feeling confident in the skills and education they have gained, but with the network to step into a full-time career that offers more than just a livable wage, and a path to advance in the future.”