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Career Academies Open Doors to the Workplace

Summer 2012

By David Zaslawsky

When Laikyn Perdue was a junior at George Washington Carver High School she enrolled in the hospitality/tourism career academy.

She said she took a hospitality/tourism class that spanned numerous topics including the importance of communication; interview etiquette; hotels; restaurants; customer service; and resumes.

Perdue, who graduated this June, has been working part time at the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce’s Convention & Visitor Bureau (CVB) using the knowledge she gained from the Career Academy. She works at the front desk and “is the first face they see when they come into the office,” Perdue said. Her job responsibilities include operating the switchboard and providing information about Montgomery attractions and restaurants as well as mailing a Visitor Guide to those who request it.

“I have learned so much about tourism,” Perdue said about her CVB job. “I think the most interesting part has been learning about what it actually takes to get events and conventions to come to Montgomery. I’m learning about room nights and learning about promoting the City of Montgomery.”

Although she plans to study medicine at the University of Alabama-Birmingham later this summer, Perdue said the lessons learned at the Career Academy will stay with her. “No matter what type of profession I have, I will still need to know how to communicate. Everything will still come into play.”

She said the Career Academy “is a great program that really prepares you for your future. It prepares you for jobs. It prepares you for life in general.”

Some of her classmates are working in the food departments at local hospitals and others have worked at Dreamland Bar-B-Que, Wynlakes Golf & Country Club and with the Montgomery Biscuits AA baseball team.

“The Career Academies were the first steps to address the needs of a variety of students in a way that was very creative because it involved the business community in terms of making them aware of the cyclical relationship between education and the work force,” Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Thompson said.

The seven Career Academies at the Montgomery Public Schools district are still in their infancy and growing quite well.

There are almost 900 students (893) currently enrolled in the Career Academies and that number has surged from 666 in the last school year. The goal for the 2012-2013 school is 1,000 students, which is one year ahead of schedule.

That amazing growth is expected to continue, especially since an aggressive campaign was launched to introduce eighth-graders to the Career Academies through highly successful camps.

The seven Career Academies are: Information Technology (73 students), Teaching (116), Business/Finance (302), Law/Public Safety (119), Health Science (138), Hospitality/Tourism (87) and Advanced Manufacturing (58). Thompson said that the district may add some Career Academies when Park Crossing High School opens in East Montgomery in fall 2013. She said there are 10 acres available at Park Crossing High

School and she is considering an Agri-Sciences Career Academy, which could be linked to the Montgomery downtown farm. Another possible Career Academy is design/architecture. She said that both of those potential Career Academies also tie into programs at Auburn University.

Another important aspect is that students receive real workplace experience, which will help them decide if they enjoy what they’re doing. “Most of the kids have a very narrow focus on what they can do in life and this gives them that experience that beforehand was missing,” Thompson said.

The Career Academies are a school within a school, where students study course classes along with specialty classes built around a theme.

“The idea of the Career Academies is that you have a lot of choices,” said Tom Salter, senior communications officer for MPS. “If you get a certification and you’re ready, you can go to work. If you want, you can go to college.”

He said that with an agreement with H. Councill Trenholm State Technical College, a student in the Health Science Career Academy could graduate and have a licensed practical nurse degree. It’s possible to graduate with a high school diploma and associate’s degree at the same time, according to Salter.

There are numerous certificates that Career Academy students can graduate with and those are tickets to jobs. An MPS brochure for the Career Academies states: “Preparing students for life after high school!” It also displays five careers with salary ranges that are based on years of experience, training and education level. Those careers and salary ranges are:

> Professional chef: $29,050 - $51,540.

> Teacher: $47,100 - $51,580.

> Registered nurse: $51,640 - $76,570

> Information technology specialist: $51,690 - $84,110

> Banking professional: $30,850 - $54,700.


The Advanced Manufacturing Career Academy and the Hospitality/Tourism Career Academy are both at Carver High School. Students in the Advanced Manufacturing Career Academy will learn about electricity, robotics, hydraulics, fabrication and welding while students in the Hospitality/Tourism Career Academy will learn about culinary arts, tourism, marketing, recreation and travel.

Students enrolled in the Information Technology Career Academy at Robert E. High School will learn about programming, networks, PCs, diagnostic techniques and system maintenance.

The Teaching Career Academy at Jefferson Davis High School exposes students to early childhood education, teaching and training.

The Health Science Career Academy, which is also at Jeff Davis, will teach students about medical terminology, blood pressure, pulse readings, CPR, how to administer first aid and about the structure and function of human body.

Students participating in the Business and Finance Career Academy at Sidney Lanier High School will learn how a bank operates as MAX Federal Credit Union has opened a branch there. Students will also learn about basic accounting concepts, financial terms, investing, bookkeeping and loans.

The Law and Public Safety Career Academy at Lanier High School will teach students about fire prevention and control; consumer and contract law; first responders’ responsibilities; criminal investigations; and emergency care procedures.

There is one more important lesson that Perdue learned in the Hospitality/Tourism Career Academy. She learned how to cook breakfast: pancakes, eggs, sausage, eggs and grits and the students then ate their meals. Perdue acknowledged that she needed cooking lessons and those could come in handy during her college years.

What was even more memorable than students’ cooking their own breakfast was when the teacher made meatball sandwiches for the class. “it was delicious,” perdue said.