Mingo County BOE learns about simulated workplace program

By Kyle Lovern

September 6, 2013

Rachel Baldwin

Staff Writer

WILLIAMSON - Members of the Mingo County Board of Education met on Tuesday for their regularly scheduled meeting that included a presentation by instructors and school administrators Rob Bobbera, Marcella Charles and Marsha Maynard, who enlightened all those in attendance of the “West Virginia Simulated Workplace Program” that has been implemented in both Tug Valley and Mingo Central High Schools as part of a pilot program.

According to information provided by the speakers, approximately 70 percent of U.S. jobs do not require a four-year college degree. They do, however, require some form of post-secondary training. Two-thirds of the fastest growing occupations over the next decade are in health care fields and computer related jobs.

Although engineers are the hardest jobs to fill, the number two slot is claimed by machinists/machine operators, followed by skilled trades, technicians, sales representatives, accounting and finance staff, mechanics, IT staff and production operators. 70 percent of the students who finish a two-year technical program or certifications graduate with over a 99 percent job placement, and the average high tech jobs pays 78 percent more than the average non-high tech positions.

High school Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs offers a total of 88 career pathways with 53 specializations state and national certifications with a 98 percent graduation rate, a 96 percent placement rate. A total of 54 percent go directly in the workforce and 42 percent go on to college to further their education. The problem with these stats, however, is that only 30 percent of WV students complete a CTE program.

The simulated workplace programs that have been implemented at the Tug Valley High School this year include agribusiness systems, therapeutic services, pro-start restaurant management, careers in education, accounting, administrative support and the high school of business. Programs at Mingo Central High School will be therapeutic services, family and consumer sciences course, pro-start restaurant management, careers in education, accounting, Microsoft computer applications specialist, computer simulation and game development, information management, administrative support, HVAC technician, automotive technology, carpentry, graphic design, welding and pre-engineering.

Businesses and industries in the state were quoted as saying, “We have openings for technician level jobs in West Virginia but we cannot find employees who are qualified, who routinely show up for work, who can pass a drug test and who possess a positive work ethic”.

The way the high schools in Mingo County plan to address the educational aspect of this problem is through a simulated workplace reality CTE.

A simulated workplace provides students the opportunity to master a set of skills and attributes necessary for gainful employment. It provides an educational environment that emulates the future workplace that answers the often heard question, “Why do I have to learn this?” It allows the student to be accountable for his learning, collect evidence of contest mastery, and to learn recognition for their achievements. It also puts into place a formal and purposeful relationship between education and business/industry.

The simulated workplace companies will have an initial net-worth of $1,000,000, use time clocks or some other form of attendance recording process, conduct random drug testing of all employees, use an application process required for student enrollment/hiring, submit quarterly and annual reports, establish work teams within the business with students rotating across teams, develop a policies and procedures manual, celebrate the company’s performance at the end of the year and utilize a portfolio system for students to document learning, credentials earned and projects completed.

The companies will be evaluated by outside business and industry partners and will be rated similar to a health department rating, and companies who rate high enough with receive a WV Industry Endorsement while companies that rate low will be placed on a pan of improvement and will be eligible for another visit after corrections have been implemented.

The goal of the simulated workplace is to change the culture of CTE and create high quality business and industry learning environments and will enhance what CTE instructors are already doing well and will allow for a new way of documenting student knowledge within an authentic work setting, while replicating proper business and industry processes and procedures to better prepare the students of Mingo County for a bright and financially prosperous future.