Twenty Delaware school districts or charters will receive a total of $438,000 in federal grants to expand high school career pathway programs.
On Wednesday, Gov. John Carney announced this year’s recipients for the Delaware Pathways initiative.
The goal is to prepare students for careers in expanding areas such as auto tech, early childhood care, plant and animal science.
By 2020, Delaware aims to enroll more than 20,000 students — half of the state’s public high school population — in career pathways that lead to those in-demand jobs.
“We want kids ready to go into the world of work and colleges, and whenever they’re ready to go to a work place, to have that skill set so they’re employable, and that’s good for all of us,” said Jim Comegys, director of Colonial School District’s secondary school division.
“We spend time working with businesses, and businesses can always train someone to fit in their schema, but they can’t teach a kid to show up and be there on time and treat customers with appreciation,” he said.
Colonial will use about $10,000 to update technology in William Penn High School’s plant science program with new laptops.
Sussex Technical High School will buy tools for its auto-body diesel program and acquire CDX software for online and interactive demonstrations on auto repairs.
“The (current) tools were old, they were falling into disrepair, and this was our highest priority. They’re not glamorous replacements, but they’re everyday tools our students use in the operation of that tech area,” said Sussex Technical School District Superintendent Stephen Guthrie.
“The CDX software is being used in the industry today. When they leave us to go out to work in the auto industry, they will be familiar with the software that’s out there.”
He said it also will make the school competitive with other vocational schools in Delaware already using the software.
Comegys noted the importance of funding these career pathway programs as a way of leading students to a livelihood.
“They’re planting poinsettias, and they’ll be selling them, because they turn it into a business opportunity. They’ve turned it into an opportunity to provide for families.
“For our school farm program, they’re working hand-in-hand with getting food in our cafeteria,” he said. “Our ag department is so much bigger than the greenhouse or flower arranging I remember when I was in high school.”
Appoquinimink School District will spend about $53,000 on its plant science, animal science and digital communication technology pathways at Appoquinimink High School and Middletown High School.
“Not every student is going to college, and even for the students going to college it can give them a look into what’s out there in the career and what interest is there,” said superintendent Matthew Burrows.
“I went to college and started as an accountant major and realized after two years I had a passion for education and switched majors. This gives students, even if they’re going to college, an opportunity to see what their interest is and see if it’s a field they want to study.
“If you want to go right into a career, it gives you access and hands-on experience.”
The Delaware Pathways program serves more than 12,000 students enrolled in 20 career pathways across 16 comprehensive school districts, three technical school districts and 10 charter districts, in addition to serving youth at Cleveland White and the Ferris School.