CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County school officials want a $25 million federal grant to better prepare students for the workforce.
"The whole idea is giving (students) choices and seeing what's out there," Superintendent Ron Duerring said Tuesday at a board of education meeting.
The grant is available through the U.S. Race to the Top-District program, said Mark Milam, assistant superintendent for Kanawha County Schools. In the past, such funding was only available at the state level, but Milam said this grant is offered to individual school systems.
Milam delivered a 26-point synopsis of programs available through the grant. He said that doesn't cover all of the opportunities the grant could create, but gives a good overview of the project's goal of producing a "worldclass workforce" and developing leaders.
Many of the programs focus entirely on creating and fostering attributes the school system believes are necessary in the workplace. For example, Milam said the school system would create a "soft skills curriculum" that he said would make students more "employable." Those skills include learning to work as a team and project work, he said.
That also includes stressing the importance of showing up to work on time and the ability to pass a drug test, Duerring said, answering a question from board member Bill Raglin.
Job shadowing, summer internships, earning class credit for part-time or full-time internships during the school year and classrooms in business settings are other ideas included in the grant application.
These initiatives are aimed at younger students than in the past, Milam said. Milam said the grant could also provide sixth grade students with iPads, smartphones or other handheld devices with which to keep "career application" materials with them until they graduate.
Those materials could include the soft skills training and other pre-employment certification a student could present to an employer when applying for a job, Milam said.
Businesses have also volunteered to help implement program initiatives, Milam said. They have volunteered to host students, while the Charleston Area Alliance has offer to providea a course that familiarizes students with the workforce. "It's taking kids out of the classroom and into the real world and gaining insight," Duerring said.
Parent education programs are included Milam said, in order to teach parents about options awaiting their children. "Wellness programs" are also included in the grant, because Milam said the workforce wants healthy employees.
Raglin and other school officials took the discussion as an opportunity to lament a culture they believe forces students to think they need to attend college. "We are never going to make it in a society as long as we keep referring to a kid as though they're college material or not," Raglin said.