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Schools work to get students ready for work
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The budget for the Effingham County Board of Education was set at the last meeting, but there are still funds the board has applied for to help cover the cost of educating children in career technical and agricultural programs.

The sought-after funds would cover areas including parts of salaries for employees, equipment for classrooms and training for teachers.

“We ask for extended day grants from (the state Department of Education) to allow them to work after school with student organizations,” curriculum coordinator Evonne Mobley said. “Part of what we’re really trying to become is to have all of our areas industry certified. The thought is if you can keep students involved, then they will be much more productive than if they have too much free time on their hands.

“Extended day really does benefit the students,” she said. “It’s a way to supplement the teachers. It’s a lot to ask them to do a lot after school, and not be supplemented.”

Mobley said the grants are important when it comes to funding concerns.

“A great deal of the budget goes toward salary and benefits,” she said. “Every little bit helps because every time you ask someone to do something, there is a price tag to it, and time is valuable to everybody. I have had teachers who have done a lot and they haven’t received a penny. They care about their students — that’s the most important thing to them.”

The system is also working to have their career education classes industry certified.

“We have industry certification grants,” Mobley said. “The state is highly encouraging all systems to have their CTAE industry certified. It’s a process that is usually a year long (to) a particular area. One of the areas we just finished was graphic arts at Effingham County High School.”

She said there is a lot of work the school must do in order to become industry certified in an area of study.

“There are forms and paperwork for them to fill out. There is a site visit and then there’s equipment,” she said. “They check your lab facilities and your equipment facilities. They check your curriculum to make sure you’re doing all of this you are supposed to do according to the industry standards of that particular area, and if you are, you will achieve industry certification standards. When that student finishes your program of study then they will receive a certificate that says they completed an industry certified program.

“It’s like a little ticket into the door,” Mobley said. “If you’re going out for jobs and interviews  you can say, ‘I completed this industry certified program.’ It takes some money if you don’t have all of the equipment.”

Mobley said some of the funds would also go to pay for one person to supervise the youth apprenticeship program in the county. She said until now the system has been required to pay an outside agency, but now the state is allowing the system to do everything for the program in-house.

Mobley said the youth apprenticeship program allows the system to place high school students who have a “career focus” in jobs.

“For example, we have a good many students who are in our health care youth apprenticeship program,” she said. “They have completed at least 144 hours or on a block schedule 135 hours in our health occupation course. They know they want to go into health care. They’re not exactly sure what area, but that is their career focus.”

Students in the youth apprenticeship program can be exposed to jobs they normally might not have been because of child labor laws. Those students also are tracked through high school and their post secondary career.

Mobley said the students are followed until they have completed 2,000 hours or they have earned a credential.

Part of the grant will go toward Mobley’s salary, she said, and there will be one person at each high school to supervise the programs there. The school supervisors will visit the students at their job sites and maintain the records. Mobley will file a final report on the students.

“We feel like we might have a little better handle on all of our students that way,” she said. “I’ll also be assisting them if they can’t find job placement. Then I’ll be the one to make contacts to find places for them to actually be employed.”

Mobley said she does not know yet how much grant money the system will get, but every dollar counts.

“Helping to pay part of my salary — $37,000 — may not sound like a lot, but that’s $37,000 that our local citizens do not have to help fund, even though it might be a miniscule amount every dollar does count,” she said. “We always try to make sure that those grants get in on time because we do have a deadline.”

Mobley said she spends time over the course of a few months applying for the state grants.

“I bet I spent more than a week, I didn’t do it eight hours a day, but I probably spent 40 hours getting all the information,” she said. “They don’t just hand you out the money unless you have a plan for how you’re going to spend it. It’s worthwhile because you’re talking about several hundred thousand dollars that you wouldn’t get otherwise.”