- TRACK is a business- and industry-driven approach designed to create a pipeline for students to enter postsecondary apprenticeship training while gaining credit for courses taken and on-the-job hours worked in high school.
- A new online connector tool for employers will allow them to more easily connect with CTE programs and students at the local level.
By Jacob Perkins
More than 200 employers convened in Louisville Oct. 8 to learn more about the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE) Tech Ready Apprentices for Careers in Kentucky (TRACK) youth apprenticeship program at the inaugural Inside TRACK to Youth Apprenticeships summit.
TRACK is a business- and industry-driven approach designed to create a pipeline for students to enter postsecondary apprenticeship training while gaining credit for courses taken and on-the-job hours worked in high school. Employers can tailor the program for their specific needs and select the career and technical education (CTE) courses and students for their apprenticeship program. The program offers high school students seamless career pathway opportunities into registered apprenticeships.
The day began with opening remarks from Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis. He noted that he measures his success during his time as commissioner by whether or not KDE has moved the needle on the success of students as they exit the Kentucky public education system.
“Yes, I want to see test scores improve. I want to see our K-PREP scores improve. I want to see our ACT scores improve. All of those things are really important to me,” Lewis said. “But the measure on whether or not we have a successful public education system is whether our kids exit our system and are able to find success in the workforce and in postsecondary education.”
KDE has been working to improve student outcomes when it comes to life after high school graduation, including revising the minimum high school graduation requirements. The new minimum requirements give students entering high school in the 2019-2020 school year the chance to take more classes geared toward their plans after graduation.
“All kids are not going on to a four-year postsecondary degree. All kids are not going on to a two-year postsecondary degree,” Lewis said. “Some kids are going to get a certificate. Some kids are going to complete apprenticeship programs.
“Our intent is to show that kids are well-prepared to leave high school and do something. And something does not include being dependent, living in poverty or going to prison. So we have to do something different at the high school level to ensure that kids are getting the necessary skills for them to leave, go on to the next level and be successful.”
Scott Stump, an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, gave the keynote address and praised the TRACK program.
“Around the globe apprenticeship is, without a doubt, the oldest instruction model. Some would contend the most effective instruction model,” he said. “It is time for our country to follow the lead of Kentucky and other states that are stepping boldly into this space.”
Stump wasn’t the only federal employee at the summit that spoke highly of the program. John Delgado, from the Office of Apprenticeship with the U.S. Department of Labor, said when he receives emails from other states about setting up apprenticeship programs, he points them in the direction of Kentucky’s TRACK program.
“You’re not going to find another program like this. This program, the TRACK program, is second-to-none nationally,” Delgado said.
Michah Schenck, an apprentice electrician with Mubea Inc. in Florence, is one of the TRACK program’s success stories. In an interview with KDE’s Mary Taylor, who coordinates the TRACK program, he recalled a time that he had to walk five miles to get to work due to a lack of transportation.
KDE is looking to keep students from having to face this hardship and has partnered with Community Action Kentucky to create Transporting Ready Intelligent Prepared Students (TRIPS). TRIPS, while currently unfunded, would provide transportation at the local level so that students can participate in a co-op.
“We have the process in place for what it will look like at the local level. We are still looking for a funding source to have a proof of concept pilot,” Taylor said.
Also introduced at the summit was an online connector tool for employers that will allow them to more easily connect with CTE programs and students at the local level so they can find the students that they need.
Taylor said she was pleased with the turnout and employer participation throughout the summit and hopes more employers will want to join TRACK.
“Having the federal folks in to validate this is a national best practice model, I hope that will stir excitement in employers to know that they are going to be part of a winning team,” she said. “We want to do everything we can to show our employers that this is successful and that we will in turn help them be successful.”
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