Grants awarded for ‘Pathways to Prosperity’ programs

Gov. Jack Markell annonces the state's first Pathways to Prosperity grants at Polytech High School Wednesday afternoon who received a $35,000 grant for engineering programs of study.

Gov. Jack Markell annonces the state’s first Pathways to Prosperity grants at Polytech High School Wednesday afternoon who received a $35,000 grant for engineering programs of study.

WOODSIDE — This fall, 15 high schools across the state will launch programs to prepare students for key career fields.

Gov. Jack Markell announced Wednesday the schools received nearly $500,000 in grants to implement their programs as part of the Pathways to Prosperity initiative.

Polytech senior engineering student Vinay Vazir demonstrates the use of a robot that he led the construction of during Wednesday’s event at the school.

Polytech senior engineering student Vinay Vazir demonstrates the use of a robot that he led the construction of during Wednesday’s event at the school.

The plan is to establish partnerships with local employers, colleges and school districts to prepare students to work in high-demand fields.

To discuss the grants, Gov. Markell stopped by Polytech High School on Wednesday, where the money will help pay for a new engineering pathway.

Three Kent County schools received grants. Along with Polytech, Smyrna High Schools will also pursue an engineering program. Caesar Rodney High School will implement a program in culinary arts and hospitality management.

“This is an incredible opportunity and it fits really, really well with the changing needs of our employers,” the governor said.

“I just think it’s incredibly important for the students in particular to understand that this changing job market — this is no rhetoric and this is not some kind of theory — this is what’s going on all around us.”

Polytech Superintendent Dr. Deborah Zych said that for the program, staff plan to offer Project Lead the Way engineering courses next school year.

Project Lead the Way is a nationally recognized program that introduces students to the engineering design process with leading technology and software.

“The instructors and students are very excited about the program,” Dr. Zych said.

To prepare for the Project Lead the Way program, teachers will take a two-week intensive training this summer at University of Delaware, she said.

The school is planning a three year roll-out of six new courses. Students in electronics and aerospace science will also be able to take some of the classes.

“Project Lead the Way is something I care deeply about,” said Michael Watson, the state chief academic officer.

“This engineering program is an incredible addition, not just here at Polytech but across our state.”

The 15 programs, aimed at meeting needs in the workforce, will focus either on biomedical science, computer science, engineering, or culinary arts and hospitality management.

The pathways in computer science will be launched in partnership with code.org, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching

Polytech senior engineering student Mark Seda shows off a "wrist watch" that he designed and built which can tell the wearer the time, date and their heart rate.

Polytech senior engineering student Mark Seda shows off a “wrist watch” that he designed and built which can tell the wearer the time, date and their heart rate.

students computer programming. The culinary arts pathway will be launched in partnership with the Delaware Restaurant Association.

The state’s Department of Education is providing curriculum support for each pathway as well as training for teachers to successfully implement the coursework.

The department is also working on agreements with Delaware colleges so that students who finish the programs will be eligible for college credit.

Neil Nicastro, Dover plant manager at PPG Industries, a key partner in the engineering pathway, said it’s difficult to find workers to fill the company’s needs.

“I can tell you that when we go looking to for employees to fill the pipelines, they don’t have that skill set (we need),” Mr. Nicastro said.

“If you look at what Polytech has here today, it’s an example of what the industry really needs,” he said.
PPG is providing some funds and materials to set up the program, and will eventually provide job-shadowing and internships for students, Dr. Zych said.

Through the initiative, students are expected to take hundreds of hours of specialized instruction and hands-on training.

The hope is that students will graduate with relevant workplace experience and college credits, so that they can get a head start in life after graduation.

An extra $500,000 will be available in the fall to fund programs the following school year.

Districts can use the funds in a variety of ways, to support students and staff, and to provide the services and materials required to offer courses and hands-on training opportunities.

Gov. Markell first outlined the Pathways to Prosperity initiative at his State of the State address in January. In February, he announced the initiative would be supported by federal career and technical education funds.

The national Pathways to Prosperity Network was created in 2012 at Harvard University. Currently, 10 states have adopted Pathways initiatives.

In his remarks at Polytech, Gov. Markell told students that the success of the program depends on them.

“My vision of how all this works is that those of us in the state government, in the Department of Education, and the school districts and schools throughout the state, we have an obligation to do everything we can to make sure that jobs are available to you when you graduate,” he said.

“But there’s only so far we can do, there’s only so much teachers can do, there’s only administrators can do, there’s only so much parents can do. In the end what it really comes down to is you all apply yourselves.”

 

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