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Labor, Education secretaries tour Toledo-area training sites

By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Pérez and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan traveled to Toledo Tuesday, July 29, to visit the Toledo Technology Academy (TTA), a member of the Toledo Public Schools (TPS) initiative recently awarded a $3.8 million grant through the Youth Career Connect program, as well as other training sites.

The TTA tour included project demonstrations from three of the school’s top students. Nick Taylor showed the education and labor secretaries a CAD design he made, which turned into a metal prototype and later produced on a 3D printer. The senior wants to be a mechanical engineer or tool-and-die maker, commuting to the school an hour each way with his brother for the hands-on educational opportunity.

“These are jobs that pay a real livable wage and have good career ladders,” said Pérez. “I think you’re on the right track.”

Joseph Neyhart, who just graduated from TTA, demonstrated a robot made by a team of students for a competition. He has been the team captain the past two years. The remote control robot lurched forward, causing Pérez and Duncan to jump back. But Neyhart made the robot roll back a metal ‘foot’ and kick a large ball mounted on its frame. Pérez chased down the ball and dribbled it like a basketball, impressed by the display that became a finalist at a statewide robotics competition. Local auto parts maker Dana Corp. sponsors the robotics team and provides mentoring.

Neyhart did a high school internship at the GM Powertrain plant on Alexis Rd., where he and other TTA students worked to help reduce plant waste and introduce new technology on the shop floor. He will attend Kettering University in Michigan and major in mechanical engineering.

“I hope to find a co-op locally so I can continue to mentor the robotics team,” he said.

Teacher Dale Price told the federal Cabinet officials that robotics is an extracurricular activity at TTA—and students can earn a varsity letter if they participate. The TTA model as a magnet school has been so successful that TPS is adding seventh and eighth grade classes this fall, hoping to increase the number of students interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) oriented careers.

TPS officials hope to create more such successful mentoring partnerships with the $3.8 million federal grant, which is part of a national program that focuses on making students career-ready through a rigorous academic and career-focused curriculum.

The grant will focus on programming associated with energy, manufacturing and electronics and will be available to students who attend TTA and Bowsher, Start, Waite and Woodward high schools As part of the grant, TPS has developed partnerships with local businesses and colleges to provide support to the students enrolled in the program.

Each student will be dual-enrolled in their home high school and Owens Community College. Each student also will have a student liaison working with them to support academic and career needs, an intervention specialist to support academic needs of students with disabilities, a career coach to work in partnership with businesses to grow a relationship to support students, and a college coach to be used to further their education if not working immediately after high school.  

“The money that this district has received is not a gift. It’s an investment,” Duncan told TPS and local elected officials. “Hearing the students talk is what learning should be all about—how to be think critically, how to be a part of a team, how to solve problems. It’s the opposite of the teacher standing up and lecturing and saying ‘This is the gospel according to me.’ Whatever they choose to do in life, they’re going to be equipped to be successful, to be leaders, and make a difference.”

“I think one of the keys to success is partnership. That’s the secret sauce to success,” added Pérez. “These are skills that are going to enable them to punch their ticket to the middle class.”

Ray Wood, president of UAW Local #14, and Tom Volk, the owner of a Toledo-based electric business, told the federal officials about their involvement on the governing board at TTA and how student internships have led to hiring some of its graduates.

“When you walk through these doors, you can see these students have the intelligence and integrity to succeed in life,” said Wood.

“Every student here will look you in the eye, will say hello, and know how to communicate with you,” echoed Volk. “That is hard to find. It’s not a common thing.”

TPS Superintendent Dr. Romules Durant explained the intent of TTA is to turn the 7-12 school into a seamless transition to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, with classes held on site. He stated there are talks ongoing with a community college and a four-year university.

“We’re hoping for a 7-14 or 7-16 school all on this campus, like a p-tech you see in New York, where kids walk out of here with certifications and degrees that make them really college and career-ready,” said Dr. Durant. Many of the students are graduating from TTA with a year of college credit already under their belt.

Following the TTA tour, Pérez and Duncan participated in a roundtable discussion about the future of education and what TPS officials have planned for career-ready education.

Later in the day, the pair of Obama Cabinet officials also toured the Toledo Electrical Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC), program, 803 Lime City Rd. in Rossford. That highly-competitive program typically receives 500 to 800 applications during a selection period, but is dependent on demand, so selection and placement of apprentices is limited to between 20 and 50 people.

Apprentices at the state-of-the-art program are trained for commercial and residential electrical careers as well as telecommunications jobs. The program is affiliated with Owens Community College, where apprenticeship graduates can apply their training toward college credit at Owens or any other Ohio community college.

Pérez ended up strapped on a safety harness used by electrical workers to scale giant wind turbines for a demonstration. He played a ‘victim’ to be ‘rescued’ about six feet in the air on a training grid at the apprenticeship and training center. A safety instructor slowly but surely lowered him to the ground.

The two secretaries also observed trainees splicing fiber-optic cable attended a class of apprentices learning wind turbine maintenance and repair. Labor Secretary Pérez then promoted the new Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium, a means to increase community college graduation rates by awarding college credit for apprenticeships like the ones offered at Toledo Electrical JATC.

Copyright © 1989 to 2014 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 08/12/14 17:23:25 -0700.




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