In Our View: Head Start on High Tech

Partnerships between local schoolsand businesses will improve workforce

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Increased collaboration among local schools and high-tech companies promises big dividends for local students. New programs will better prepare students for college courses and, ultimately, for lucrative careers.Essentially, they’ll be getting smarter faster. This has numerous ancillary benefits for the entire community. More students will be able to stay home to pursue higher education. And high-tech businesses will benefit from a more highly skilled workforce. Educators and business leaders are venturing beyond their respective silos, transcending lines that used to separate private and public sectors. Also, the gap between K-12 and Clark College, already narrowed by Running Start and other programs, is getting even smaller.

Here are a few examples of these partnerships, with kudos from The Columbian for the participants’ teamwork and creative vision:

Engineers from silicon wafer manufacturer SEH America Inc. and teachers from Evergreen Public Schools were scheduled to meet Wednesday to plan a new type of science class at the district’s four high schools. A materials science class will explore the most important components in high-tech industries, “stuff” such as polymers, composites and semi-conductors.

Many of these students will enjoy a head start on college engineering courses; others will be able to advance directly to local manufacturing jobs. Beyond the science aspect, the students in this class will also acquire critical-thinking skills and develop a good work ethic and the techniques of teamwork that are valuable in the job market.

Clark College and the Evergreen and Vancouver districts are broadening and accelerating STEM programs that focus on science, technology engineering and math. A pilot program called the Math Initiative, which is still in development, would allow the more ambitious math students coming out of high school to bypass the COMPASS test, a Clark College test that measures proficiency in math, reading and writing. If the students have taken more than the required two units of high school math, and have made good grades, they’ll advance directly to college-level math courses. Their collective progress at that level will determine the success of the pilot program.

Students who take only the required two units of high school math will continue to take the COMPASS test. National experts disagree about whether the COMPASS test accurately measures skill levels. The Math Initiative will help the college and the Evergreen district learn more about that debate.

SEH and other local high-tech companies continue to offer internships to high school students, who gain valuable hands-on experience in the workplace. Also, Clark College continues to offer training programs for many local employers.

The multiple benefits of these partnerships will spread throughout our community. The local economy will be strengthened, just in time for the recovery that we all know (wink, wink) is just around the corner. Indeed, the overall quality of life in Clark County will be enhanced. Congratulations to education and business leaders for working so well together.