School for jobs: Career Academy would train kids for local openings

Peachtree City Councilwoman Kim Learnard presents her proposal to the Fayette County Board of Education July 16. Photo/Ben Nelms.

For Peachtree City Councilwoman Kim Learnard, it seems as if the time is right for an alternative career path for Fayette County school students.

To that end, Learnard on Monday night presented the idea for developing the Fayette Career Academy to the Fayette County Board of Education. Learnard is taking the idea on the road and is expected to present her findings to the school board in the coming months.

“I’ve heard from Fayette County industry. They have jobs and candidates but they don’t always have qualified candidates,” Learnard told the board. “(Local industry) needs a work ethic and technical proficiency.”

Learnard said organizations such as Southern Crescent Technical College want to have presence in Fayette County. With 26 career academies underway in Georgia and 10 others pending, Learnard said the idea is to bring in high school students for a portion of the school day and provide them with the skills and learning designed to meet the needs of local industry. Learnard added that there is the some start-up money available from the state.

Learnard cited the Coweta County School System’s Central Education Center (CEC) as an example of a central facility that offers dual enrollment and provides programs that meet the needs of local industry.

Echoing her comments at the meeting was David Bergmann, president of Peachtree City’s NAECO Materials and Technology Solutions. The company manufactures products used by the military and in the aerospace industry.

“The idea for a career academy has traction now,” Bergmann said, noting that his company is currently creating jobs and does business in other states and countries and is a net exporter to China. “We’ve had the occasion to run short on the skill sets we need. NAECO is a supporter of this initiative.”

Bergmann noted that there are other local companies that have employment needs similar to his.

Bergmann said he had visited CEC in Coweta County and was amazed how articulate and motivated the students were.

Learnard in her remarks said that a career academy involves a different way of thinking about education that provides a partnership between the education system, businesses and the community. She added that a career academy would also need a healthcare component.

“It’s a form of economic development,” she said. “It will be a win-win for the school system, employers and the community.”

Advocating for a centralized location, Learnard said such a setting would better provide for certain courses that might not be available in all schools.

At the end of the presentation Learnard said she will begin meeting this week with businesses and the community to gauge interest in the career academy idea.

Superintendent Jeff Bearden after the meeting said he expects that Learnard will present her findings to the board in the coming months.

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