Coweta's CEC is finalist for statewide STEM Educational Award
By REBECCA LEFTWICH
Coweta County School System’s Central Educational Center has been named a finalist in the first annual STEM Education Awards for its efforts to promote science, technology, engineering and math education in Georgia.
Nominated in the high school category, CEC in Newnan is one of a group of six finalists that also includes Carrollton High School in neighboring Carroll County. The awards are sponsored by the Technology Association of Georgia and the TAG Education Collaborative — known as TAG-Ed, and winners will be announced in Savannah on Sept. 14.
Economists predict that by 2018, Georgia will need to fill 211,000 STEM-related jobs. Nationwide, companies are struggling to fill many technical and engineering positions. In Georgia alone, nearly 4,000 technology positions remain unfilled. According to TAG, part of the problem is that not enough students are pursuing STEM careers, which makes recognizing innovation in STEM education crucial.
“We applaud each of this year’s finalists for their extraordinary efforts to bolster awareness about the importance of STEM and for their hard work to increase student participation in science, technology, engineering and math programsâ ¦” said Michael Robertson, director of TAG-Ed. “We are pleased to showcase so many great schools, programs and organizations that are helping to develop a strong future workforce for our state.”
A charter school created to link local business and industry with the Coweta County School System and West Georgia Technical College, CEC’s purpose is to “ensure a viable 21st century workforce.”
Workforce education is CEC’s focus, and last year, 1,326 students from the three Coweta County base high schools spent part or all of their school days at CEC exploring career paths.
As a result of their dual enrollment at CEC, nearly 350 seniors graduated in May with with a specific STEM focus, STEM-related certification or STEM-related internship experience. In addition to the beginning of Coweta County’s 2012-13 school year, Monday also marks the expansion of CEC’s programs to include a pilot program for eighth-graders.
CEC’s creation and operation is a direct response to employers’ ongoing need for a more technically skilled workforce trained at an earlier age, and the school is the model for Georgia’s College and Career Academy initiative, which has been duplicated by 23 other communities in the state.
“It takes our entire community, working closely together, to adequately prepare young people for the competitive technology economy of today,” Whitlock said. “We are fortunate to be part of a community that has recognized and acted on that fact.”
Implementing a four-part STEM strategic plan earned finalist spots for Carrollton City Schools in three separate categories: High School, Middle School and Public-Private Partnership. In addition to focusing on classroom technology, professional development and lab opportunities for its students, the district partnered with wire and cable manufacturer Southwire Company – headquartered in Carrollton – to form the Southwire Engineering Academy
Twenty Carrollton High School juniors and seniors participated in the academy in its inaugural 2010-11 year, spending an average of 30 hours a month working alongside Southwire engineers.
Two teams identified opportunities for cutting the time needed to change wire-making machines from one product type to another, creating more production time. Another group developed a smartphone app that estimate the footage of cable remaining on partially used reels, while a fourth created an electronic message system for displaying production metrics for employees.
“These were not easy assignments,” said Southwire spokesman Gary Leftwich. “Students had to put their problem-solving and critical thinking skills to work as they forged solutions to real challenges our company faces. Their enthusiasm, professionalism and drive to do the job well was contagious and stands as a testament to their individual talents as well as the school’s commitment to graduating successful young adults.”
The academy has drawn interest from state education officials and will be featured in a Georgia Public Broadcasting video schedule to debut in classroom across the state this fall. A steering committee made up of representatives from Southwire and the high school is planning for the next class of 24 students, who begin the program Aug. 17.