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The Telegram
  • BOCES superintendent aims to connect students with careers in region

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  • HERKIMER — Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES District Superintendent Mark Vivacqua is pushing for local school districts to start preparing students for life after high school at an earlier age.
    That could mean getting the students ready for a four-year or two-year college — or it could mean giving them the training necessary to go directly into employment.
    As part of this initiative, Vivacqua recently visited the boards of education for Herkimer BOCES component school districts to present his ideas about how schools can take action.
    During his visit with the Herkimer Central School District Board of Education, Vivacqua said he believes schools in the region should start to “challenge assumptions and reimagine goals” in order to help students and allow the area to move forward. “I’m here as someone who was born and raised in Herkimer County,” said Vivacqua, who grew up in Frankfort. “I’m concerned about the future of Herkimer County in terms of who’s going to be left.”
    By talking to students in middle school about careers, increasing awareness of local job opportunities, setting up internships and working on other initiatives, Herkimer BOCES and the individual school districts can make a difference for students and the region, Vivacqua said.
    “The whole idea — in terms of college and career readiness — is how schools must take the opportunity to connect kids up with work early on,” he said. “The idea is starting in middle school to get them excited about career opportunities, and then in high school, tailor their high-school program around areas they’re excited about.”
    ‘It’s about pathways’
    Some people believe a college and career readiness plan is using a “one size fits all” approach to education, Vivacqua said, but that’s far from the truth.
    “College and career readiness is the complete antithesis of one size fits all,” he said. “It’s about pathways. Yeah, it’s for everyone, but how it’s approached is based on the student’s individual interests.”
    During his presentations to the school boards, Vivacqua outlined a college and career readiness paradigm that begins with talking to students about career interests and measuring their aptitudes in middle school. Students could use time in the summer to explore the kinds of careers available in the region.
    Then in ninth grade, schools would help students develop a “map to their 13th year” and also establish a science sequence for high school. Math would be integrated into students’ programs throughout the process.
    In grades 10 and 11, students would have an academic program aligned with their college and career goals. In twelfth grade, students could participate in internships, apprenticeships or advanced study — or, if needed, go through remediation.
    “The point is — here’s your last shot in high school of preparing yourself for life after high school,” Vivacqua said.
    Page 2 of 3 - For students who do internships during their senior years, it would help them figure out if they want to go into their chosen fields, while also connecting them with local career options, Vivacqua said.
    “Research shows that students who do internships are more likely to stay in the area because they see that jobs are available,” he said.
    A regional approach
    Also during his presentations to the school boards, Vivacqua discussed statistics dealing with demographics, education and jobs — comparing Herkimer County, Oneida County, the state and the nation.
    “A certain amount of kids just want to leave — that happens everywhere,” Vivacqua said. “Our biggest problem isn’t out-migration. It’s in-migration. We have nobody replacing them.”
    To attract people to an area, you have to have a vibrant economy, jobs and things to do, he said. That’s why efforts need to tie together regionally — with partnerships among educators, local businesses and economic development organizations, he said.
    There is a need to prepare students in the Herkimer BOCES region for high-tech jobs already in the area — and ones that are on their way through the initiatives at SUNYIT, he said.
    The primary Herkimer BOCES niche in this will be preparing students for traditional trades and advanced manufacturing — the type of training that can often lead to jobs directly out of high school or after a two-year degree, Vivacqua said.
    Herkimer BOCES is tackling this issue by focusing its new Pathways Academy at Remington on career clusters; planning more program coordination with Herkimer County Community College; working on ways for teachers, guidance counselors, administrators, students and parents to learn more about job opportunities in the area; and creating a CTE Advisory Committee to help the BOCES redesign career and technical education programs to better align them with regional economic development.
    But for this initiative to really succeed, the individual school districts will play the largest role, Vivacqua said. About one-third of high-school juniors and seniors in the Herkimer BOCES region are in a BOCES program, so that means the other two out of three students would be mapping out paths to college and careers through their home schools, he said.
    ‘Economic realities’
    Vivacqua wants school officials to be aware of the 16 career clusters that have been identified nationally and how they can assist students with preparing themselves for a job in the cluster they’re interested in.
    The 16 career clusters are: agriculture, food and natural resources; architecture and construction; arts, audio/video technology and communications; business management and administration; education and training; finance; government and public administration; health sciences; hospitality and tourism; human services; information technology; law, public safety, corrections and security; manufacturing; marketing; science, technology, engineering and math; and transportation, distribution and logistics.
    “Any job you have is going to be in one of these 16 career clusters,” Vivacqua said.
    Page 3 of 3 - A bachelor’s degree is definitely the right choice for some students, Vivacqua said, but he is against the idea of telling all students they have to have a bachelor’s degree or they’re not going anywhere in life.
    “It’s just not true,” he said.
    Only about one-third of jobs require a bachelor’s degree — with a little less than a third requiring some college or an associate degree and a little more than a third requiring a high-school diploma or less, Vivacqua said.
    Vivacqua wants guidance counselors to talk to students realistically about the job fields they’re interested in — such as that there are eight times as many certified teachers as there are teaching positions, that there are small manufacturing companies in the area that can’t expand because they can’t find any qualified workers and that there are trades jobs available in the region where students could make more than $60,000 per year without a four-year degree.
    “They need to know some of the economic realities,” he said.

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