By Shelly Kelly
Great Falls Public Schools’ CTE classrooms and its Pathways programs highlight not only community partnerships, but also the personalization of learning for students fortunate to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.
Mark Yaeger, Career Pathway adviser, states the goal of the program is “to provide an opportunity for our students to gain real world experience and entry-level work skills through a “pre-apprenticeship or internship” in local businesses.”
Students and business owners/managers are matched in several ways.
- Students who have shown an “interest and aptitude” through their CTE classes meet with teachers and counselors. Those adults will then interview the student to ensure their skill readiness and motivation is suitable for the commitment.
- Teachers who have observed such interest and aptitude may approach students with an opportunity.
- Employers may seek out Mr. Yaeger and the district with a need they are wishing to be filled.
There are 16 career pathways that Montana has adopted from the national program. These allow GFPS students choices to pursue their interests in multiple ways. In order for the program to be successful, any student internship must be tied to a pathway, and requires commitment and agreement from the employer, student, and parent/guardian.
Last year, 120 GF students were in internships and pre-apprenticeships. So far in 2020-21 there are just under 100 students listed, but Mr. Yaeger is hoping to see that number increase to 150 students.
In SkillsUSA, one of Montana’s CTSOs (Career Tech Student Organization) , Mr. Yaeger states that 3 of the 6 state officers are from GFHS. He credits this accomplishment to the Pathways program and Mr. Ken Vanlieshout’s Advisor role.
While this program is successful, it does not come without challenges. COVID and its restrictions have put a damper on the opportunities, especially for those students who wished to pursue a medical experience. Funding is an issue, as the state only provides approximately $22 a student for Career and Technical education through Vocational funding. Grants have been written and renewed to keep programs afloat. “Training costs money,” says Mark.
Mr. Yaeger would like the public to know that GFPS is working diligently to prepare students with basic skills so businesses can provide the next step of deeper knowledge and skills to interested students. This program is accessible to any student who shows an interest. Advisory boards consisting of business people in the 16 career pathways continually update Mark and GFPS as to the needs to stay current within each pathway.
“A strong business involvement is vital to this program. Our end goal is to help develop a skilled workforce for the Great Falls area and provide employment for students graduating from Great Falls Public Schools,” express both Mr. Yaeger and Mrs. Heather Hoyer, Assistant Superintendent 7-12.
Career Pathways create community partnerships which personalize learning for students. With commitment from the student, parent/guardian, teachers, counselors and guidance and leadership from Mr. Yaeger, Great Falls and its business community becomes the recipient of a skilled workforce and hopes of continual growth of the economy.