Health sciences, culinary, STEM programs to expand at Shelby County Schools

By STEPHANIE BRUMFIELD / Staff Writer

With economic development data continuing to suggest growth in the health care, hospitality and science and technology-related industries, the Shelby County School District has been working to expand programs within its middle and high schools to prepare students for the workforce.

Rene Day, career tech coordinator for Shelby County Schools, said the goal of expanding these programs is to help students prepare for the future by increasing their job opportunities and providing them skills they will use in post-secondary education opportunities.

“We are looking at what students are telling us, what economic indicators are telling us and where the jobs are going to be, and we’re trying to put things in place that will get them as ready as possible for that next step,” Day said.

Health Sciences

Although the district already has a health sciences program in place at the College and Career Center in Columbiana, the program has grown so much in recent years that they were beginning to turn students away.

“And we didn’t want to have to do that,” Day said.

To account for the growth, the district hired another health sciences teacher for the 2013-2014 school year. The new teacher previously worked as a registered nurse in pediatrics at Brookwood Medical Center.

The district is also in the process of a major renovation of its health sciences facilities at the career center. Once completed, Day said the new classroom space will look like a hospital ward, complete with hospital beds, a nurse’s station, classroom space and patient software used in hospitals.

Currently, students have the opportunity to earn pharmacy tech, CPR and OSHA credentials, and the district is looking to have certified nursing assistant and certified patient care programs in place by the end of the year.

“We want them leaving with credentials that will either provide a stepping stone to the next school level or will provide them with the opportunity to go out and get an entry-level job while they’re working on that next step,” Day said.

The district also plans to expand partnerships with healthcare personnel in the area, and it plans to implement another health sciences program focused on sports medicine at Helena High School when it opens next year.

Hospitality

Hospitality is another area in which the district already has experience. The culinary program at Pelham High School opened last year and welcomes a new award-winning chef this year, former UAB Hospital executive chef Doug Allen.

The district is also in the process of adding a new culinary kitchen to Montevallo High School, which already has a teacher with a culinary background. Day said the kitchen should be completed by spring.

“Hospitality and tourism is a growing area for this part of Alabama, so we’re trying to get kids ready to go to post-secondary programs,” said Day, noting the Birmingham area’s growing food reputation. “Jeff State’s program feeds into both Alabama and Auburn’s event planning and hospitality and tourism programs.”

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

While many people might be familiar with Calera High School’s engineering teacher Brian Copes, who has received national recognition for his classes, Calera isn’t the only engineering program in Shelby County.

The district started a pre-engineering program at Oak Mountain Middle School last year and another at Chelsea Middle School this year. While engineering-related credentials often involve advanced degrees, Day said the programs do offer OSHA safety credentials, and the district is working to get other smaller credentials in place.