School official talks job pathways

ELKINS – A state education official shared information about what paths will lead young people to good jobs in their future during Wednesday’s Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Dr. Kathy D’Antoni, the associate state superintendent of schools, was the guest speaker for the luncheon, held at the Myles Center for the Arts on the campus of Davis & Elkins College.

“One new fact is that 70 percent of jobs in the United States don’t require a four-year degree,” D’ Antoni said. “However, they do require some type of post-secondary training. Nearly two-thirds of our fastest growing occupations are in health fields and computers.”

By 2020, career demands for home health aids, financial analysts, iron workers, veterinarian assistants, pipefitters and physical therapy assistants will increase by 69 percent, D’Antoni said. Students in West Virginia need to be targeted or focused on the jobs that will be available to them, she said.

“Only 20 percent of the jobs available require four-year degrees,” D’Antoni said. “It is important that young people understand what jobs will be available and how they will fit into that need.”

D’Antoni said there are 88 career pathways through career technical education in West Virginia that offer 53 specializations.

“Only 30 percent of West Virginia students complete a career technical education pathway,” D’Antoni said. “We need to clear the stigma that career technical education is only for those not as smart as everyone else.”

She quoted a business/industry report that said, “We have openings for technician level jobs in West Virginia, but cannot find employees who routinely show up for work, can pass a drug test or possess a positive work ethic.”

“This is frustrating for business and industry,” she said.

To combat this hurdle, D’Antoni said 21 sites throughout West Virginia are piloting simulated workplaces where the students take charge of their roles in career education.

“I cannot believe the changes this program has made,” D’Antoni said. “Students run their company so they understand the impact their work has on a business. They start with no money, and earn for their company through tests, projects, attendance and safety. They develop the processes of the company – students are taking ownership of their educations.”

D’Antoni said students are also subject to random drug testing – she said the only push-back she is receiving is from the student’s parents.

The vision of a simulated workplace is to transform the culture of learning – it doesn’t change the instruction, but merely enhances the student’s participation and involvement, she said.

The centers are looking for industry and business people to help with simulated workplaces by giving a day of their time to go to a program, inspect it and report on whether it is helping students learn about workplaces, she said.

D’Antoni encouraged those present to help by giving a day to inspect simulated workplaces.

“Within three years, each career technical education class will be presented as a simulated workplace,” she said. “We will need your help to assure our students are ready to meet the needs of the workforce.”

More information is available online at wvde.state.wv.us/simulatedworkplace/.