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School to Career speakers urge program support

By Rebecca Burk / L’Observateur / March 28, 1998

RESERVE – In a tri-parish effort to get the word out about one of the newest movements in public schooling, over 200 parents, community members and business affiliates gathered at East St. John High SchoolThursday night to listen to the experts on the subject.

The event, sponsored by the River Parishes Education Initiatives for St.

Charles, St. John the Baptist and St. James parishes, featured speakersChris Weaver, Office of the Governor; Dr. Joseph Savoie, commissioner ofHigher Education on the Board of Regents; Dan Juneau, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry; and Dr. Timothy Ryan, deanof the College of Business Administration at the University of New Orleans. There were also breakout sessions with panel speakers anddiscussions.

RPEI President Lily Galland opened the conference with a definition of School to Career.

She wanted to stress to parents and businesses that School to Career wasn’t solely a program for students who don’t want to go to college.

“It’s to prepare all students for the workforce, whether you go to college or not,” Galland said. “School to Career is not a vocational program forkids not going to college.”Other aspects of School to Career were discussed by speakers.

Weaver said many people in the world today finally finish their necessary job training and upon delving into their careers find themselves unhappy because they weren’t given the opportunity to explore and realize that other jobs are out there.

“A lot of young people go through education and training and then go to work and their career is not what they thought it would be,” Weaver said.

Weaver also spoke about the law and liability problems that could possibly arise during School to Career related trips or internship programs.

“Most employees have liability coverage,” she said. “It’s accepted goodbusiness practice. But no matter how much coverage you have that won’tprevent a lawsuit because anybody can sue anyone for anything.”Weaver said the state has been researching what other states do in cases of accidents involving students participating in School to Career.

“Some have a statewide insurance policy that will cover students on job sites,” said Weaver.

Juneau spoke about what businesses do to help the School to Career program and the educational process in the state. He said he was pleasedwith the headway being made to improve things.

“I think this is the first time in a long time we can see some real attempts to try to do something about the situation in Louisiana and in the other states in the nation,” he said. “There are very few jobs anywherethat don’t have significant, technological things to them, and that’s why I think this conference is so important.”Juneau also assured everyone there that business cares about education.

“In 1996 business and industry put up $49 billion to do educational training,” he said.

Juneau said businesses aren’t looking for perfectly trained workers to enter jobs.

“That’s a pipe dream,” he said. “But we are looking for work ethic andstudents trained in math and English.”In a breakout session panel discussion, in which the panel was made up of local business affiliates, the topic was what business and industries are looking for in employees.

Billie Simoneaux, president of AM-PM Services in Luling, gave tips on interviewing.

“Bring your resume and be prepared for drug tests, as well as academic tests,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Make eye contact andportray a sincerity that you want to work and will go to work every day.”Randolph Magee of DuPont said a college degree is not necessary to work in a plant. He added that only about 20 percent of the jobs at the plantrequired a four-year degree.

“I think most plants are the same,” he added.

East St. John Principal Debbie Schum felt the conference was a success.”I think things are going well,” she said. “The breakout sessions weregreat, and so was the turnout. I think the concept we are trying to getacross is that 20 percent of the students are going to college and the rest of the 80 percent need to have a skill. We are giving them opportunities tosucceed.”Beverly Harris, School to Career director in St. John Parish, said she waspleased with the number of people who attended the conference.

“Based on the time of day it was, the turnout was good,” she said. “But wealways want more.”Weaver said RPEI presented an informative conference and expressed her admiration for the alliance.

“I admire RPEI so much for addressing the things that affect your community, and I would hold you up as an example around the state,” Weaver said.

“This is a good thing,” Russ Wise, St. John school board member, agreed.

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