As the school year is drawing to a close, we repeatedly are reminded of how public high school education has been transformed in Grand Island with the development of the Academies of Grand Island Senior High.
A goal of the academy structure is to prepare graduates to fill high-skill, high-demand and high-wage jobs — after high school graduation, following additional postsecondary education or in military service.
The Grand Island Public Schools emphasis on career-readiness all started with the opening of the Career Pathways Institute-Adams Street Campus in August 2013.
GIPS was considered a leader with the CPI in large part because it was the first such facility in the state. At that part of the GISH campus, students learn a variety of job skills, from construction to auto repair to information technology. This is hands-on training that prepares the students for high-paying jobs and many of them can join the workforce immediately after graduation.
The Academies of Grand Island Senior High opened with the beginning of the 2018-19 school year with the Academy of Freshman Exploration. Then the following year the other academies opened. GISH students choose during their freshman year between the:
— Academy of Education, Law & Environment
— Academy of Engineering & Technology
— Academy of Business & Communication
— Academy of Technical Sciences
— Academy of Medical Sciences
This job-readiness focus is designed to make a high school education relevant for all GISH students.
The Nebraska Department of Education has established a specific set of standards that students must meet to graduate from high school. This remains at GISH. But these standards are being enhanced with the workforce-readiness instruction available through the GISH academies.
A key to making the academy structure successful has been the relationship between the business community and GIPS.
We saw that this week with the Academy of Engineering and Technology Junior Internship Day at the Bosselman Conference Center.
The concept behind Junior Internship Day was to help students understand how to apply, interview and dress when seeking a job. The Junior Internship Day is a collaboration with the Career Pathways Institute’s and the academy’s community business partners in providing hands-on experiences for the students in learning those important skills.
At the Junior Internship Day, business partners, from CHI Health to Hornady Manufacturing and Lutz, had representatives there to provide the students the knowledge and skill training they need in order to be able to go out and find themselves jobs in the community.
Every year, GISH graduates more than 500 students. The goal of the learning academies and CPI, as well as the district’s many community business partners, is to try to retain as many of those students in the community as possible.
Earlier in the week, we learned about how students in the Academy of Medical Sciences are training to be certified in CPR. This week small groups took turns testing for certification.
These sophomores will move on in their junior year to the learning lab on the eighth floor of CHI Health St. Francis that is being made possible through the district’s partnership with St. Francis. The $5.92 million project will provide juniors and seniors with training and exposure to a variety of health care careers.
Expected to be ready for the 2022-23 school year, the lab will serve more than 450 area high school students.
As an example of what the job-readiness focus has achieved, this month, CPI students who are nearing graduation have been demonstrating what they have learned through the building trades program as they have been completing their house project.
For the seniors, this project is the culmination of three years of hands-on education on the way to good-paying jobs and a lifelong career in the building trades that can begin immediately after graduation.
The project, which started in September, will be completed next month.
“These students in the construction pathway have many options,” said Brett Forsman, construction and building instructor at CPI. “They can go to a four-year school for construction management, or a two-year college for construction tech, or they can go straight to work. They have all kinds of options.”
GIPS continues to be an innovator and a leader in the state in job-readiness instruction — exactly what our state, our community and our businesses need.