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Career academies expand horizons
Hill Jack
State Sen. Jack Hill

Georgia is implementing and promoting College and Career Academies in high schools across the state to give students the opportunity to acquire middle job skills while attending high school.

Georgia’s College and Career Academy Network (GCCAN) started in fiscal year 2008 as an innovative way for business, industry and community stakeholders to advance workforce development through collaboration with local high schools and postsecondary schools. College and Career Academies provide quality educational opportunities that increase the percentage of students graduating from high school and help students make successful transitions to postsecondary institutions and career paths that offer advancement and growth potential. They also allow for students to learn specific trades and earn technical certificates for coursework through dual enrollment.

The GCCAN is already showing success with an estimated 15,000 students involved in FY15, and student participation is growing each year.
In 2011, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle led the effort to pass legislation creating College and Career Academies and an office in the Technical College System. By the end of FY2015, 38 counties throughout Georgia were participating in a Career Academy including one in the 4th District’s Effingham County.

Serving students and the community

Currently, 33 College and Career Academies in Georgia provide over 269 programs offered in almost 40 different career pathways, many of which lead to a certificate upon completion of the program. Some examples of popular programs include Health care Science, Information Technology, Engineering, Culinary Arts, Mechatronics, Automotive, Education, and Welding. There are approximately 53 high schools partnering with a College and Career Academy as well as corporate businesses including Shaw Industries, Caterpillar, Ford Next Generation, Georgia Power, AT&T, and Georgia (Film) Studio Infrastructure Alliance.

One of the newest locations is in Hart County, where approximately 100 local businesses, industries, and organizations pledged school support.

Every academy is designed to meet the unique, individual needs of the community they serve. Some students attend both a traditional high school and academy for parts of the day, while others are enrolled full-time.

The core mission of an academy is to ensure that students are prepared for college and a career while increasing student performance and achievement. The academies accomplish this by integrating career-based learning into their education, providing the opportunity to earn dual credit for their courses and linking the academy to business, civic community and higher education to address local economic needs.

Effingham’s successful college and career academy

In 2010, the Effingham College and Career Academy (ECCA) opened with 185 students. Today their student count has more than tripled since its inception, with about 612 students enrolled as of August.

The Effingham facility has seven labs/classrooms and is located next to Savannah Technical College and the Effingham County Industrial Park, which provides convenient access for students to learn and work in the same area and promotes the school’s involvement in workforce preparedness in the community.

The academy focuses on high-growth careers and the industries in the community that need support for employing a high-aptitude workforce, and is already planning a groundbreaking for a building expansion to allow the addition of STEM programs.The new wing will house labs including an aircraft assembly and aviation lab, a food court, and 16 classrooms.

Grant funding aiding communities

Through the Office of College and Career Transitions, Georgia College and Career Academy Project (GCCAP), grants are awarded to support the development of College and Career Academies that serve high school students as well as adult learners in a community. The competitive grants allow up to $3 million in bonds to be used for infrastructure, and up to $150,000 in cash awards for operational startup costs. These grant funds are matched with letters of commitment for in-kind resources from business partners.

Last year’s grant recipients included Hart County ($2.11 million), Hutchings ($3.11 million), Polk County ($3.11 million), and the Griffin area ($2.11 million). The GCCAP program released their ninth annual grant application in early July, with $10 million in bond funding available for three to four new academy applicants. Award announcements will take place at the December 3rd 2015 Technical College System of Georgia State Board Meeting.

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