Late last month, Waterloo Community Schools announced four new career programs will be offered in the fall of 2018 at the Waterloo Career Center, which is housed at Central Middle School.
It was an announcement showing further progress toward the district’s development of career and technical programs in the noble effort of adequately preparing every student for life after high school.
With the addition of four new programs next fall, a total of nine career pathways will be available for high school students to pursue by attending classes at the center for part of their school day.
Three of the four new programs are set. That includes digital interactive media, marketing management and web programming and development. A fourth program will be determined later.
The center opened last fall. Current programs are nursing, digital graphics, advanced manufacturing, early childhood education and information technology-networking.
It’s all part of the district’s push to expand its career and technical education offerings. Students at all three of Waterloo’s high schools can enroll in classes at the center, offered in 90-minute blocks during morning and afternoon sessions. Many of the programs will be designed to earn a certification that can help students get a job in the respective fields.
It’s an issue we’ve supported for several years.
It is essential our schools effectively prepare young people either for higher education or for entering the workforce in viable and sustainable careers. The inability to do either will inevitably leave some behind.
The pathway to careers concept — and not just through higher education — is an important educational trend.
The concept allows the district to have strong tie-ins with community colleges, including Hawkeye Community College, which offers training in many of the career pathways that have openings now and are projected to see growth well into the future — supported by data regarding what employment sectors will be experiencing and maintaining job growth.
The proposal for the Waterloo Career Center was not made in haste. The district and many district stakeholders worked hard at examining high school education reform for years.
That included a task force that was created more than five years ago comprising educators, parents, students, businesspeople, board of education members and community leaders — all of whom invested a great deal of time and effort into the goal of properly preparing all students to become successful after leaving Waterloo schools.
These are people who have been committed to drastically cutting into the student dropout rate and who firmly believe the reform plan and career pathways will help do that.
The announcement of new programs followed an Oct. 23 unanimous decision by the Board of Education to approve a plan to move forward with bids on a nearly $14 million renovation at the center.
The center was opened after a bond issue referendum to build a larger stand-alone career center failed last year. The district forged ahead, instead locating the center at Central, since it was originally built for 1,200 high school students. About 500 students are there now in the middle school portion of the building.
The career center remodeling and expansion at Central will be paid for with existing district funds available through the 1 percent sales tax.
Eventually, the remodeled space will host 15 pathway programs.
We thank the district officials, both past and present, as well as all district stakeholders who were diligent in the research and implementation of the career pathways program. And we admire the creativity and persistence that has been exhibited as the district forged ahead with new plans for housing its program.