JAX Students Earn Technical Skill Proficiency through Competency-based Applied Learning

Career academies play an important role in meeting local workforce needs and retooling the skills set of workers across the nation. The Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology (PAT), an A grade magnet school in Jacksonville, FL is a perfect example of how students can get a bang for their buck by earning solid academic credentials that are combined with industry-focused skills/training. The school comprises of several small learning communities/academies that include aviation, automotive, biotechnology, communications, culinary and early childhood education.

The manufacturing academy is the newest addition to its list of career focused academies, and is set to be offered in August 2012. According to Charlie Rutledge, resource teacher for career and technical education in Duval County “the program offers a sequence of courses that are coherent, rigorous and aligned with challenging academic standards needed to prepare students for a career in the manufacturing sector.” Rutledge, who works with eight high schools in the region and assigned to six career clusters says the program includes competency-based applied learning that fosters technical skill proficiency, problem-solving skills, and an in-depth knowledge of all aspects of the manufacturing career cluster. The program also offers a broad base of knowledge to prepare students for automation and production positions, and is aligned with the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council certification.

Given its focus in high-tech manufacturing, curriculum content is centered on automation technology and its applicability in manufacturing, engineering and robotics. The program also offers “transferable skills across various industry sectors, and stresses understanding and demonstration of tools, machines, instruments, materials and processes” commonly used in everyday business/industrial settings. “I always tell kids that by graduating from a career academy they not only earn a high school diploma, but an industry certification that offers college level credits” Rutledge said. Depending on their schedule, students can earn a total of two credits in one academic year, with each course equivalent to one credit. Students also participate in school-based, small team projects like SkillsUSA and TSA (Technology Student Association) competitions. “We have to educate the future workforce with relevant skills set so they can earn a college degree and be industry certified.”

In keeping with this effort, Rutledge recently partnered with FLATE to arrange a “Made in Florida Industry” for 60 students from PAT. As part of the tour, 30 students from the automotive academy; 30 students from the aviation academy toured the Southeast shipyards of BAE Systems in Jacksonville, FL. BAE is a global defense and security company with approximately 100,000 employees worldwide. “The Company delivers a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, security, information technology solutions and support services.” (Source: BAE Systems). The tour was conducted in December 2011 over a course of two days, and provided students a different perspective not only on career choices, but courses they could take in school to avail of these careers.

Given Rutledge’s stance to “base future career academies on the regional targeted occupational list” plans are in progress to partner with SMART--the National Science Foundation Southeast Maritime Transportation Center in Virigina--to offer summer camps for students. Rutledge is also interested in establishing articulation agreements with local colleges, expanding its partnership with local manufacturers like BAE, regional manufacturers like First Coast Manufacturers Association, and organizations like FLATE and SMART to promote the success of its program. He views FLATE as a marketing tool in getting the word out to adults, students and industry about various local and regional high-tech opportunities. “Peterson is a model in the region. What FLATE does is the heartbeat and the core of what we’re trying to accomplish” Rutledge said.

For information on Peterson’s new manufacturing academy contact Charlie Rutledge at rutledgec@duvalschools.org, or visit www.duvalschools.org/fhp/Academies.html. For information on FLATE and it’s state-of-the-art Made in Florida industry tours contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org, or visit http://www.madeinflorida.org/ and http://www.fl-ate.org/.