JOHNSTOWN - The Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services' concept for an apprenticeship program has been approved by the state Education Department, a news release said.
The four-year program is being developed in collaboration with businesses through the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Participating students will gain contemporary job-readiness skills while completing the requirements for a high school Regents diploma, the release said.
"The majority of today's entry-level employment requires at least some amount of college-level experience. What we often hear from businesses is that high-school graduates in this region are not adequately prepared to pursue positions in manufacturing, the service industry and retail environments," HFM BOCES District Superintendent Patrick Michel said in the release. "Our new apprenticeship program is designed to combine upper-level academic work with real-world workplace experiences to help students identify and explore career options earlier in their education."
The apprenticeship program, set to launch with the 2013-14 school year, is a partnership between HFM BOCES Career and Technical Education, the Fulton-Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce, Fulton-Montgomery Community College and the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Business Education Alliance.
"Some students choose to pursue a career after graduation rather than college. We want them to realize that there are many good career and employment opportunities available right here in our region. The apprentice program allows high school students to explore these opportunities and prepare to step into a local job after graduation," Michel said in the release.
Students who opt into the program in ninth-grade will take classes and learn technical, job-related skills and work-readiness skills such as critical thinking and responsibility. During their sophomore year, the students continue to learn core academics and also have the opportunity for workplace experiences in a variety of area businesses.
The work-readiness classes and workplace experiences have been approved for high school credit by the state Education Department.
During the summer between grades 10 and 11, students will select a job placement and begin their formal apprenticeships.
Students continue the relationship with their employers through a schedule customized to meet their individual academic and work-readiness needs through graduation. Upon graduation, the student will be prepared to step into an entry-level position with that company.
"This is a true collaborative effort grown out of discussions between the education and business communities and is one that will benefit our students who choose to step immediately into careers," Michel said in the release.
A top priority for all HFM BOCES component school districts is encouraging and motivating students who are at risk of dropping out.
"Research shows us that at-risk students may not feel supported by their teachers or any adults in the community, don't enjoy school and generally feel 'disconnected' from the goals and expectations surrounding their education. They often just want to get on to something else in their life," Deputy Superintendent Lorraine Hohenforst said in the release. "Our hope is that the apprenticeship program can offer a point of engagement for these students, providing a positive direction that includes graduation and then a job."
Diana Marshall, owner of the Gloversville Sewing Center and chairwoman of the Chamber's Education Committee, said the program promises to be an exciting opportunity for both business and education in the region.
"To launch this new, ground-breaking initiative in Fulton, Montgomery and Hamilton counties is a real feather in the cap for our schools and our area businesses," Marshall said in the release. "To collaborate in a process that educates our children and prepares them to succeed in the workplace after graduation is incredible."
On May 3, FMCC and HFM BOCES will host more than 1,000 eighth-graders from area school districts at a Career Exploration Day to introduce the students to area businesses and the kind of jobs they offer.
The list of participating businesses has not been released, but it will include a wide variety of companies who offer entry-level positions, the release said.
"We are asking participating businesses to talk with the students about the kind of work they do, and the kind of education and training young people should have to become successful employees." Marshall said in the release. "Introductions made here could plant the seed for a student to consider our apprenticeship program for their future."