The Carroll County College and Career Academy in west Georgia serves students from high schools all over the county. They come to it for what’s called, these days, “Career and Technical Education.” In addition to auto repair and welding, students learn IT skills and video production.
Seventeen-year-old Ivie Newton studies auto mechanics there. “This is our shop room,” she said, giving a short tour of her classroom, which is pretty much an auto shop. “Sadly, our lift is broken is over there, but we do everything hands-on out here.”
Newton said after high school she plans on going to the technical college next door, then working on cars.
Justin Bickford and Ivie Newton, both in 11th grade, study automotive technology at the Carroll County College and Career Academy in Georgia. They both say they plan to continue working on cars after high school. (Photo credit: Molly Samuel)
Employers in industries like welding and construction say that they can’t find workers with the skills they need. Now, some schools are starting to ask industry what they should teach.
“We work very closely with our business community to get an idea of what our region needs,” said Cindy Clanton, the principal of the school. She’s also on the board of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce. “We want kids in high-demand, high-pay, high-skill jobs. And I want our talent to stay here in the west Georgia region.”
In addition to the basic car mechanic jobs every community has, at shops and dealers, there’s a Kia plant about an hour south of here.
Students in the auto program learn to take apart and reassemble an engine. (Photo credit: Molly Samuel)
Schools have shifted away from offering technical classes, said Harvard education professor Bob Schwartz. At the same time, industry groups say they’re having a hard time finding skilled workers.
“We tend to kind of start with the schools, and the schools kind of make guesses about what the skills and knowledge and dispositions are that young people need to be successful,” Schwartz said. “And then we find out we’ve got a bit of a mismatch.”
Schwartz heads the Pathways to Prosperity Network, which helps states, including Georgia, address that gap.
Justin Bickford, another 11th grader who’s studying in the auto repair program, said this program has been good for him. “I don’t really understand math that well or science, but one thing I can do is work on cars,” he said.
Principal Cindy Clanton totally calls him out on that, and later, brings it up again. Bickford may not think he knows math and science, she said, but “umm, yeah he does. And he can perform math and science at a very high level, but it’s connected to automotive technology. And so it’s an applied learning that he didn’t have before.”
And, she points out, an education that he can use when he’s ready to find a job. A local one, if he wants it.