By LINDSAY CAREY
The Board of Education discussed ways to increase enrollment in technology, engineering, and manufacturing electives at Southington High School during the Curriculum and Instruction Committee Report.
Terri Carmody shared that the Curriculum and Instruction committee visited a few classrooms in the Technology Department at Southington High School, including an automotive class, wood shop, a metal work class, engineering class, and a construction class. She also said the curriculum committee visited Project Lead the Way and saw a robotic arm that the students are working on.
“I saw the kids really working hard and learning things,” said Carmody.
However, during the visit Carmody said the board learned of a deficiency in enrollment in that department by speaking with the teachers.
“Manufacturers are coming to the schools telling us that we need kids with these skills and that’s where the jobs are,” said Carmody.
Board of Education member David Derynoski, who has a background in engineering and business and has been a technology advocate as a member of the technology advisory board at SHS, also spoke about the need to inform students more about a career path in manufacturing, technology, and engineering.
Derynoski said that there are some companies, including his own, who are in such great need of employees that they have started classes in association with Tunxis Community College to teach students CNC machining and basic machining skills.
“Just our medium-sized company, over the next eighteen months, we’re looking to hire an excess of 200 machinists,” said Derynoski. He said that with an aging work force, there are a lot of companies that are all looking for help.
Derynoski said there is a marketing issue within the schools that needs to be addressed in order to effectively nurture interest in these fields and guide students into a fulfilling career.
“We need to be able to get out there and get to the students and their parents—for those that feel that, maybe, college isn’t for them,” Derynoski said. “Maybe they don’t have the basic understanding of what’s out there or even where they want to go, but we have to give that opportunity for them to at least try it because a little bit of interest can grow into something that could be very rewarding.”
Derynoski said that the Technology Advisory Board has started visiting the middle schools annually and talking to the classes about possible careers in technology, manufacturing, and construction. The board is hoping that these visits will spark an interest, so that when they go to the high school, it may impact their elective selection. He noted that more regular visits may be necessary.
Board of Education member Terry Lombardi said that she believes there should be more awareness and development for this at the middle school level.
“I think that sometimes when students get to the high school it may be too late,” said Lombardi.
Board of Education Chairman Brian Goralski said that one way they could increase the interest is in middle school students would be to make sure middle school students are included at the annual Engineering Expo.
Lombardi also said that the department should work on establishing a better image for these career options, because some people are just so set on college after high school and don’t know anything else.
To Lombardi’s point, Derynoski noted that these jobs pay more than minimum wage and can provide people with a good living.
Board of Education member Patricia Johnson suggested that they begin to take an interdepartmental approach to increase enrollment in this department.
“Students in math classes could see what their projected use would be in some of these areas in tech education and of course engineering, and so this interdepartmental contribution would be helpful,” said Johnson.
After receiving these suggestions from the Board of Education, the Curriculum and Instruction Committee will continue to work with the department at the high school on ways to increase enrollment in these electives.