La. high schools embracing new student training program for technical, skilled trades

    School systems around the state are embracing Jump Start, a new program designed to train high school students in the technical and skilled trades and get them into the workforce more quickly. As the first school year since Jump Start launched comes to a close, officials say the program is far ahead of schedule and exceeding expectations.

    “The implementation schedule is one to two years ahead of its implementation schedule,” says Christel Slaughter, of SSA Consultants, which is working on the initiative. “All these school systems around the state are embracing it much faster than we anticipated, which shows how badly needed it is.”

    According to officials with the Louisiana Department of Education, 100% of the state’s school districts have joined Jump Start, and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has approved 45 Jump Start graduation pathways, or specific career programs, such as dental, electrician, collision repair and emergency medical tech. The department does not yet have any data on how many students have taken advantage of the program or completed it, but officials hope to have some numbers soon.

    In the meantime, a related program—the Louisiana Workforce Education Initiative, which is designed to change negative perceptions about the technical and skilled trades—is hoping to launch the first phase of a multiyear media campaign by early fall. The LWEI, which was formed last year by key business and industry leaders around the state, intends to raise between $2 million and $3 million of a total $8 million needed to begin a media and public relations campaign that will help funnel more young people into community and technical colleges and skilled trades jobs.

    “What we’re doing now is talking to potential donors about the opportunities, the research, the realities of the situation and that has been going very, very well,” Slaughter says. “We are looking for a small group of donors who will be able to step up and fund the first tranche of the money needed and continue to fundraise after that.”

    So far, Slaughter says LWEI has $1.5 million in pledges and that the campaign’s first-year goal is to raise between $2 million and $3 million.

    —Stephanie Riegel