Pilot program helps Joseph students learn career skills

October 03, 2012 01:53 pm

Max Greenway is one five students participating in a pilot program at Joseph High that offers college credit in information systems. KATY NESBITT - The Observer
Max Greenway is one five students participating in a pilot program at Joseph High that offers college credit in information systems. KATY NESBITT - The Observer

Joseph School students are earning college credit and learning career skills in a pilot program offered through the Wallowa County Educational Services District.

Seeing a need for advanced technology education, the Wallowa, Grant, and North Central education service districts joined together to offer  Information Technology Careers in Rural Oregon Program, or IT CROP, to high school students.

The program is an opportunity for kids to earn college credit through Treasure Valley Community College and prepare to take the A+ certification at the course’s completion; an industry recognized accreditation that opens doors to technology jobs, said Patton.

The Career and Technical Education Revitalization grant will help grow the county’s own “crop” of information technology professionals, said Karen
Patton, the district’s new superintendent.

The Treasure Valley course, Computer Information Systems 110, was redesigned to be taken online to fit into a high school schedule, but meets the level of college credit rigor, said Patton.

During the summer, teachers took an intensive, week-long workshop, said Liza Butts, who is teaching the course to five Joseph School students this fall. The teachers not only learned the course, but provided feed-back to the curriculum designers in order to tailor it to how high school kids learn.

Industry partners are also involved  giving input on how best the students can help them with their technology needs. After completing the course and receiving certification, the students can apply for a paid internship to put their new skills to work.

Local partners

The Wallowa Memorial Hospital and Viridian Management are partnering with the program locally, said Patton. Part of the course is 16 hours of job shadowing to put their classroom knowledge to work.

Josh Kesecker, the district’s information technology coordinator, also weighed in on the curriculum’s development. 

Kesecker said, “Microsoft is saying that we need to invest more in science, technology, engineering and math.”

“This course fulfills the technology need,” said Patton.

Kesecker said the medical field is digitizing everything, but there are not enough trained individuals.

“Information Technology support is a utility now like plumbers, electricians and doctors. It is a recession-proof job,” said Kesecker.

Kesecker said he believes the program is important for small communities, especially where there is no computer store for parts and repairs.

The course and certification fulfill needs for rural businesses while giving kids skills they can take with them elsewhere or remain in Eastern Oregon.

“It’s the age-old dilemma.” said Patton. “This way we can train our own here to serve the community and have a family-wage job.”

Patton said it’s difficult for local schools to provide a variety of electives beyond the core requirements. Once the pilot at Joseph High is completed, the course can be made available at Enterprise and Wallowa, too.

Butts said during the course she took she learned more about computers than she thought she’d ever need to.

The students’ first assignment was to put up a website on Googlesites about themselves, said Butts. For every assignment they submit a link to their page. They will also learn form factors and power supplies by doing research.

Inner workings

When the research is complete they will video themselves tearing things out of a computer to show they understand the inner workings, said Butts.

Patton said the next step is to develop Computer Information Systems 111 so at the end of the project there will be two courses, three credits each, available for the county’s high school students.

The credits can be applied to one or two year certification or an associate’s

The pilot program, funded by Oregon Department of Education and Bureau of Labor and Industry, ends June 30, said Patton, but the program will continue in the coming years.

Butts said when she was approached to teach the class she was hoping for one student; five signed up.

Patton said, “The ESD is committed to continuing the course as long as the schools are committed to letting the kids take it.”