JOHNSTOWN - Local students will soon have the chance to enroll in a new program that will help them get ready to enter the work force.
The Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services announced Friday the multi-year apprenticeship program is set to begin in September.
"HFM BOCES' apprenticeship program for the 21st century is ready to launch," HFM BOCES Superintendent Patrick Michel said during a news conference held at Fulton-Montgomery Community College.
HFM BOCES Superintendent Patrick Michel, center, talks about the new apprenticeship
program for high school students during Career Awareness Day at FMCC on Friday. He is flanked by Assemblyman Marc Butler, left, and Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce President Mark Kilmer.
The Leader-Herald/Levi Pascher
Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce President Mark Kilmer talks about the new regional apprenticeship program for high school students during the Career Awareness Day at FultonMontgomery Community College on Friday.
The Leader-Herald/Levi Pascher
The HFM BOCES concept for an apprenticeship program was approved by the state Education Department in March.
"BOCES as well as education has to change," Michel said. "We are changing and we are evolving. We can no longer expect schools to be the way they were in the past."
The four-year program was 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, a news release said.
The apprenticeship program, set to launch with the 2013-14 school year, is a partnership between HFM BOCES Career and Technical Education, the chamber, FMCC and the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Business Education Alliance.
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 will continue to learn core academics and also have the opportunity for workplace experiences in a variety of area businesses.
By grade 11, students will begin a formal apprenticeship with an area business.
Students continue the relationship with their employers through a schedule customized to meet their individual academic and work-readiness needs through graduation.
After graduation, students will be ready to step into an entry-level position with their employers.
The apprenticeship program is the first of its kind in New York state, Michel said. The idea for the program was inspired by similar programs that have succeeded for decades in Europe, he said.
"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.
A top priority for all HFM BOCES component school districts is encouraging and motivating students who are at risk of dropping out.
"We are asking parents to discuss this option with their children and think about it as an opportunity in the right circumstances. Most careers today require some level of college or certification. Our apprenticeship program can be a stepping stone to achieve that end," Michel said. "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. Our apprentice program allows high school students to explore these opportunities and prepare to step into a local job after graduation."
Michel said the district already has 21 students signed up for the program. For the first year, the maximum number of students the program can have is 25.
Michel said he is hopeful that as the program expands, the number of students allowed into it will increase.
"This is an exciting opportunity for both businesses and [the local education system,]" Diana Marshall, chairwoman of the chamber's Education Committee, said. "To educate our children and prepare them for the workforce with a local job available after graduation is a huge feather in our educational system's cap. To have it happen in Fulton, Montgomery and Hamilton counties first is unbelievable."
Assemblyman Marc W. Butler was in attendance at the news conference Friday and said he supports the new BOCES program.
"The community and businesses' commitment to our schools is amazing," Butler said. "I have to commend these two institutions for the programming and curriculum that will bring changes to the marketplace and improve the community."
State Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk also praised the new apprenticeship program during the event.
"I know how important it is to make sure we have the resources available and opportunities for our kids to get a valuable education to be prepared for college and future careers," Tkaczyk said. "I can't wait to see the kids graduate from this apprenticeship program, and this is the thinking outside the box that we need."
During the news conference, more than 1,000 eighth-grade students from school districts throughout the HFM BOCES region converged on the FMCC campus on Friday to meet with nearly two dozen area businesses during a career awareness day.
Some of the businesses that had tables at the event were Alpin Haus, Beech-Nut, Benjamin Moore, Frontier, Lexington, Gloversville Sewing Center, Nathan Littauer Hospital, Townsend Leather and Electro-Metrics.
For the event, students preselected the companies they wanted to visit, and schools sent bus loads on a rotating schedule so students could interact with businesses in small groups. Businesses tailored their presentations for the middle-school age audience.
"This region has so many businesses doing interesting and valuable work that goes highly unnoticed locally, so the general public has no idea as to the wide diversity of opportunity and professional growth available to them, and for our future workforce," chamber President Mark Kilmer said.
The event also was an opportunity for students to learn about the classes and programs offered by the college and BOCES.
"No one is asking children of 14-15 years of age to choose a career today," Michel said. "But we would like students to think about their future, identify and explore career options earlier in their educational timeline. This event gives children a taste of what's going on in the businesses around our region and may help when they make choices about their high school courses."
Levi Pascher can be reached by email at email@example.com