Pasco County Schools has launched a new CTE Career Advisory Council aimed at helping the district’s graduates prepare for the world of work — while, at the same time, giving employers a chance to weigh in on what skills are needed for employees to be successful.
The advisory council also aims to give local businesses a chance to help develop the community’s future workforce.
Kristine Hensley, a career counselor at Wiregrass Ranch High School and Jennifer Batchelor, a career specialist in the district’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) division, explained the new advisory council during a recent breakfast Zoom session, and invited members of the North Tampa Bay Chamber to get involved.
The advisory council’s work has the potential to affect thousands of students enrolled in career and technical courses and programs across the district, Batchelor said.
“Currently in Pasco County, we have programs of study, or academies, that fit into 13 of the National Career Clusters. Within CTE — Career and Technical Ed — in Pasco County Schools, we’ve got 574 courses that are specific to those programs.
“We’ve got 17,000 middle and high school students — over 17,000 middle school and high school students — that are currently enrolled in one of these courses, or programs of study,” she said.
Previously, schools had their own advisory councils. This new approach puts the focus on career fields, with the aim to improve the district’s preparation of students, as well as expand their opportunities to get real-world experiences.
Concerns about keeping people safe during COVID has had an impact on opportunities that are currently available, but once things open up, the district hopes that will change, Batchelor said.
“We’re going to be looking for experiential learning opportunities. We need our students to get hands-on experience,” said.
Besides learning about occupations and jobs, the idea is to get students out to see how what they’re learning plays out in the workplace.
“They need to be out there seeing what it’s like in the real world,” Batchelor said.
There will be many different ways to get involved — through sharing expertise or providing suggestions on curriculum, to job-shadowing or offering other ways for students to get a real feel for the world of work.
“Work-based learning experiences are key for these students,” Batchelor said.
Hensley, career specialist at Wiregrass, told the chamber members, via Zoom: “Your involvement will be key to making sure that we are actually aligning what we’re teaching to what all of you need.”
Besides inviting chamber members to get involved, both Batchelor and Hensley encouraged them to put out the word to others who might want to get involved.
The advisories are career-focused and will help students across the district, rather than at any particular school, Batchelor said.
She added: “There are a lot of ways to help these students figure out what they are going to do, once they leave high school.”
Published March 10, 2021