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Hartselle Enquirer
Enquirer file photo/Lauren Jackson Students in the building construction class will continue taking part in more project-based learning through Hartselle High School’s Tiger Launch.

Career tech programs on the rise

Hartselle City Schools see increased interest in career tech

Career tech programs and apprenticeships are on the rise in Hartselle City Schools in the wake of new programs and expansions. This year Tiger Launch, the apprenticeship partnership between Hartselle City Schools and local industries, has almost doubled its numbers, and the school has continued to add additional programs of study. 

Jeff Hyche, career tech director at Hartselle City Schools, said the growth comes in the wake of a push for more workforce development in the state. He said the goal is for programs help students find what they are interested in and help them on the path toward their future careers. 

“All of this is happening at younger ages,” Hyche explained. “The goal is for the kids to say ‘I like this and I am good at it.’ If you can find something you are good at and that you enjoy doing, then we are well on our way to a career.” 

Now in its second year, Tiger Launch has seen significant growth this year. Hyche said more than 30 students are involved, as compared to the 18 who were involved last year. He said female participation has also grown. 

Hyche said a female student from last year, Courtney Shaddrix, was hired and now works as a foreman with the company with which she apprenticed. “She is doing very well. She was going to go into the medical field and completely changed her mind,” Hyche said. “I think they just have to get into it and see, not only can I do the job, I can be in charge. Courtney is a good example of that.”  

Apprenticeship at the high school level is still in the early stages of exploration throughout not only the state but the nation. Hyche said the goal is to help prepare students for the future – and Hartselle students are ahead of the game. 

“The State of Alabama has been awarded a grant to increase apprenticeships at the junior college level and the high school level. At Hartselle, we really have about a two-year jump on everybody,” Hyche said. 

The Alabama Department of Labor lists the unemployment rate at 3.4 percent in Morgan County as compared to 4.1 percent last year. Hyche said the apprenticeship programs are an important investment for companies, with the number of prospective employees shrinking. 

“There is not a lot to pull from, and our kids are quality even if they are young. Even if they only stay for a year, they are still getting good (workers),” Hyche said. “We are trying to teach students to be responsible adults, and these two companies get it.” 

The program has also had to add an additional morning shift to accommodate the growth in enrollment. Hyche said he hopes to see it continue to expand into other areas in the future. 

“The big picture is, the students grow as employees no matter where they work. That’s the goal of the program for us,” Hyche said. 

In addition to the continued success in Tiger Launch, Hartselle City Schools has added several more career tech programs and seen growth in the existing ones. The school will be adding new criminal justice, cyber security and building construction programs to the classes already offered and has expanded the medical academy and the integrated production technology programs. 

Hyche said the new criminal justice program will offer students the opportunity to earn college and high school credit. The program will be taught by an officer responsible for officer training with Huntsville Police Department. 

“It’s a feeder for law enforcement careers. There is a critical shortage in that area, as far as finding people,” Hyche said. “That’s a whole new area for us, and that will continue to grow.”

The cyber security program will also be something new through the computer science program. Although the school has been offering computer science courses for several years, Hyche said he believes the cyber security angle will offer new potential. 

“There is a big push for that this year. Computer science permeates everything,” Hyche said. “There is not any profession that is not affected by that. We really encourage anybody and everybody to take as much as they can take.” 

Integrated production technology now includes two years of available courses. Students will be able to receive a credential that companies such as Toyota look for when hiring.

The medical academy has added two new instructors and expanded to the junior high level. Hyche said the growth is something they hope to continue into the lower grades. 

“That’s where our focus will be this year. They call them pathway electives at our intermediate and junior high,” Hyche said. “Students can see and experience these different areas before they get to the high school.”

 

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