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Longview ISD hosts career readiness workshop

By Sherry Koonce
Oct. 29, 2012 at 10 p.m.

During his 30-plus year career in education, Longview ISD Superintendent James Wilcox has seen the focus on career readiness shift from one end of the workforce spectrum to the other.

In recent years, schools have guided students toward a four-year university degree, but now, with jobs becoming more technical, the pendulum is swinging back toward vocational or skilled labor degrees, Wilcox said.

"We came to the conclusion that not everyone is going to college," Wilcox said Monday during a workshop designed to highlight the need for career path changes.

Longview Independent School District, industry leaders and representatives from other school districts listened to a presentation on career readiness Monday.

"The ideal is when a student graduates from high school, whether he or she goes to college, vo-tech, or into the job market, that student is ready. Our goal is to provide those credentials," said John M. Costilla, vice president of marketing and business development with WIN Learning.

The Tennessee-based company offers a workforce development program designed to align a workforce with industry needs.

Unemployment rates often do not reflect the true economic picture, Costilla said.

"A lot of times it's not that there are not jobs, its that there is not a workforce of qualified people," Costilla said.

Nationwide, only 35 percent of high school students go to college, and 78 percent of those need some type of remediation, Costilla said.

"Forty percent of businesses have positions for six months or longer that are not filled because they cannot find suitable applicants," Costilla said.

Pete Lamothe, manager of learning services with Eastman Chemical Co. in Longview said the company always has unfilled openings, but does not always have qualified applicants.

"The problem is more career awareness. Schools need more flexibility to focus on technical capabilities that lead to jobs," Lamothe said.

Eastman has openings for chemical operators, electricians, maintenance mechanics and others - all jobs that require a two-year college degree.

"That gives them a head-start to participate in our in-house program," Lamothe said.

Susan Gill, executive director of Longview Economic Development Corp. said the problem of providing an education that meets industry needs is not limited to Longview - it is a national problem.

"If we can get schools to have more control locally instead of the state driving the work bus, then we can do a better job getting students ready for a careers," Gill said.



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