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BENTONVILLE -- Educators are listening and working to respond to the needs of business and industry, a 30-year career and technical educator said Wednesday.

"The time is right for business and education to work together to try to improve education for our children," said Cheryl Pickering, regional career and technical education coordinator for the Northwest Arkansas Regional Education Service Cooperative in Farmington.

Northwest Arkansas Regional Business and Industry Partnership Council

• Third annual meeting

• Expanded to two days

• Involved 120 educators, 50 business representatives

• Career areas of focus were agriculture, business and marketing, human services and education, health science, industrial and engineering technology, and communications and information technology

The annual meeting of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Business and Industry Partnership Council began Tuesday with about 120 educators and 50 representatives from businesses. Educators reconvened Wednesday to reflect on the prior day's activities and to discuss the next steps. They met at the Shewmaker Center at Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville.

Educators have spent two years asking employers what skills students need to find jobs as adults, Pickering said. This year's meeting provided a chance for school districts to show examples of how they are responding. The panel included leaders from a handful of conversion charter schools school districts have opened with a close tie to businesses.

Nearly every school district is working with business and industry to try to provide opportunities for students after they graduate high school, said Pickering, who has spent 30 years in career education.

She hoped this year's meeting would spark more ideas educators would discuss with their leadership that would lead to more career opportunities for students, she said.

The session Wednesday gave educators time to reflect on what they heard and experienced Tuesday.

High school teachers of business and marketing classes learned about programs training students in heating and air conditioning and diesel mechanics, said Tracy Laird, who teaches at Prairie Grove High School. The sessions sparked interest among business teachers to find more options for their students to find high-wage, high-demand jobs.

Angie Kichline, a business teacher in Elkins, learned about students in other high schools graduating with 30 hours of college credit, not just in core classes such as English and math, but in subjects relating to a career interest, she said. She also learned of students finishing high school with a certification as a nursing assistant.

"I'm tired of hearing what everybody else is doing," said Kichline, who has come to the meetings each year. "I want to know how to do it."

Kichline is interested in meeting with representatives in higher education to learn more about concurrent credit offerings that count toward high school and college, she said. Kichline also wants to learn more about all of the jobs and divisions at major companies so she can expose her students to more options, she said.

"I need to figure out what all has changed and broaden their scope," Kichline said. "I feel like our kids are not aware."

Teachers in the health sciences were interested in learning about in-demand career fields within health care, including in genetics and medical coding, said Anne McCain, who teaches courses in medical professions and a medical terminology at Bentonville High School. Health science teachers are interested in seeing new curriculum standards for students for those in-demand careers, she said.

A group of health science teachers also had concerns about unrealistic expectations of their students, McCain said. Many enter her class with ambitions to be doctors or advanced nurse practitioners and also are unwilling to work nights, weekends and holidays, she said.

McCain heard from business leaders in health sciences who didn't start at the top of their field, but who worked hard and were willing to step into leadership positions, she said. She encourages her students to have focus less on one career but to be open to explore a variety of careers, she said. New careers will continue to emerge in health care, she said.

"You have to find your passion," she said.

Family and consumer science teachers are involved in courses preparing students for careers in teaching and in cooking, but general courses focused on practical life skills also play a role in preparing students for careers, said Alisa Williams, a family and consumer science teacher in West Fork. The courses incorporate human relationships, with topics closely related to skills in team work, decision-making and conflict resolution business leaders often discuss as desirable traits in workers, she said.

Family and consumer science teachers are figuring out their role in helping students find career paths, she said.

"We need to step up our game," she said.

NW News on 03/17/2016

Print Headline: Career teachers discuss next steps in preparing students

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