Lakeland College, ACUITY and Sheboygan South High School have announced a partnership that will provide South students the chance to position themselves for careers in computer science, while helping make college more affordable.
The Information Technology (IT) Pathway community partnership is the latest in a series of pathways being offered at South that allow students to take classes that earn both high school and college credit and get access to work-based learning opportunities with local employers.
The IT Pathway comes at an ideal time for students interested in computer science careers. "In 2014, the top two jobs were in the computer science field as ranked by US News & World Report in their '100 Best Jobs' report" said Sheboygan South High School Principal Mike Trimberger. "South is transforming the high school experience by helping students learn how they might make careers out of their interests. The IT pathway will give our students more academic rigor as well as support them academically, financially, and career-wise."
"ACUITY has made a strong commitment to partnering with public education," said Ben Salzmann, ACUITY President and CEO. "The IT Pathway partnership reflects that commitment and our long history of giving back to the local community."
The IT Pathway curriculum has been jointly developed by South and Lakeland. Students will take South High computer science courses as freshmen, and then will have access to Lakeland College computer science courses in data base basics and programming as sophomores and juniors. As upperclassmen, high school students will have the opportunity to culminate the pathway with internships at ACUITY. Through a combination of Project Lead the Way (PLTW), Advanced Placement (AP), and dual-credit Lakeland College courses, students could earn up to 30 college credits while still in high school, with little cost to parents.
Lakeland's computer science program is led by Assistant Professor Cindy Lindstrom, who came to Lakeland after more than two decades of creating and analyzing technology systems in the corporate world. Enrollment in Lakeland's computer science major has tripled under her leadership, as she works closely with regional employers to create internships and other class experiences that have students working on real-world industry issues.
ACUITY will provide nearly $120,000 over four years, funding the acquisition of Android tablets and Arduino open-source programmable micro controllers, giving South students access to cutting-edge programming tools. The partnership with ACUITY will help South High School stay current with industry standards in computer science, while giving students real-life experiences and connections to the best medium-sized workplace in America.
"By helping provide resources to high school students through the partnership program, and by giving them exposure through rewarding internship opportunities, ACUITY is helping to prepare the next generation of workers in the growing field of technology," added Marcus Knuth, ACUITY's Vice President - Enterprise Technology. "We also hope that when students graduate, they consider ACUITY as a place they want to work because they see the value ACUITY places on education."
Lakeland College President Dan Eck said the IT Pathway directly addresses concerns he hears from local employers.
"Local companies are concerned about the skills gap, and with the Baby Boomer generation reaching retirement age, there are widespread concerns whether there will be enough skilled workers to replace them," Eck said. "Local CEOs have told me they often recruit new employees from other regions to move to our area. After being trained and gaining experience, many of those employees move back to their own home communities."
"These pathway programs are introducing our local students to attractive careers with local employers while they're still in high school. We are all working together to make sure we keep our best talent here at home to live and work and support this community. It also can provide a student with several courses worth of transferrable Lakeland College credit, saving the student thousands of dollars when they enter college."
"This is a valuable partnership between K12 education, higher education and the business community as well as an innovative approach to preparing students for college and careers," said Dr. Joseph Sheehan, Superintendent of the Sheboygan Area School District. "We thank our partners for their commitment to improving opportunities for high school students."
The Information Technology Pathway joins similar programs in healthcare, broadcasting, and education. The Healthcare Pathway is projected to have more than 250 students enrolled in the 2014-15 school year. Soon, South High will also be launching a Manufacturing and Engineering Pathway.