More Atlanta Public Schools students will soon have access to exposure and training to emerging, high-demand technical careers in the Atlanta region. The Atlanta College & Career Academy (ACCA) will provide more access to career pathways and prepare APS students for high-demand technical careers aligned with the economic and workforce needs of Atlanta and across Georgia. Beginning in the 2020-2021 school year, ACCA will offer 14 career pathways and serve up to 1000 students.
“The Atlanta College & Career Academy aligns with our mission that every student will graduate ready for college and career, and enhances our efforts to expose our high school students to a college preparatory, career and technical curriculum,” said APS Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen, Ed.D.
On Sept. 12, ACCA led an interactive and collaborative strategic planning session with business and industry leaders to receive feedback on the curriculum implementation and on the hiring process for highly qualified ACCA teachers. This tremendous event provided an opportunity for industry leaders to better understand the historical overview and pathways that will be offered beginning August 2020, review the GaDOE Employability curriculum, provide feedback regarding how ACCA should best implement Industry standards, and learn about opportunities for various businesses to support the work of ACCA.
Offering in-demand career pathways, ACCA will expose students to new careers they may not have ever considered. The pathways include: Aviation Maintenance, Carpentry, Criminal Investigation, Culinary Arts, Cybersecurity, Dental Science, Emergency Medical Responder, General Automotive Technology, Graphic Design, Hospitality, Recreation and Tourism, HVAC and Refrigeration, Patient Care Programming, and Early Childhood Education.
Many industry representatives in attendance recognized the importance of collaboration to create a pipeline of employees for the future.
“We realize we have to help develop the industry,” said Valeria Murray, Georgia Tech Hotel, who represented the hospitality industry. “There are more jobs available than workers. We need housekeepers, bellman, positive thinking and good attitudes. We know we have to make it attractive. By providing exposure for young people, we can show them how to develop a service mentality.”
Representatives from Delta Airlines, the Atlanta region’s largest employer, said partnering with the ACCA was of critical importance to the future workforce of Delta.
“Half of our aircraft technicians are eligible to retire today,” said Chris Iaconis, manager at Delta. “We estimate there is a need for 25,000-50,000 aircraft technicians. We are partnering across the country for ‘new collar’ workers. We can’t leave this industry the way we found it. Delta is Atlanta’s largest employer, and we feel obligated to build this hometown workforce.”
Bill Smith, who also works with aircraft technicians at Delta, said many students don’t realize how fulfilling the work can be.
“Students can use a variety of strengths and skills they have such as teamwork. This is fulfilling work. It’s STEM-applied. It’s taking it from the classroom to the real world,” Smith said.
The session was facilitated by ACCA Principal/CEO Dr. Tasharah Wilson. Wilson said providing APS students with employability skills is the essential goal of her work and the ACCA. It was very important to Wilson to engage the community and current employers in creating and implementing a plan that promotes a common understanding of employability skills and its value for students.
“Industry expertise, input and feedback are critical to the successful implementation of any College and Career Academy. We believe that ongoing collaboration between the community, Industry and post secondary institutions are key to creating a world class program,” Wilson said. “The ongoing collaboration provides the data we need to ensure our students remain competitive and have the skills to meet the employment needs of our region and state.”
One of the deliverables the group created was an employability profile of the type of young person they would want to hire. Through a series of activities the group developed descriptors for what they felt ACCA graduates should Think, Say, Feel, and Do. Similar activities allowed the group to provide feedback on the types of teachers the program should employ.
ACCA Advisory Board member Mike Kenig of Holder Construction Company said he wants to create a program that provides APS students with an unbelievable experience.
“The key is connecting it to their future,” said Kenig. “I want everybody to walk out of our school and say ‘Wow. That was unbelievable.’ We can’t hold back greatness. If we set the standard and raise the bar, we can create an unbelievable experience for our students.”