February 12, 2010 By Marina Leight
As Lieutenant Governor of Georgia, Casey Cagle has worked to strengthen his state's work force through innovative education programs. Cagle focuses on giving Georgia residents the technical skills required for economic success in the 21st century.
With programs like Georgia QuickStart, Georgia Work Ready, the Career Academy Network, and research and education at colleges and universities, Georgia is equipping its students with training and resources to thrive in up-and-coming careers -- even during these difficult financial times.
What are the greatest challenges facing public education -- especially from your perspective as an elected official?
What I believe as a businessman first is that we really are stuck in a 1960s era. We haven't really moved to the 21st century as it relates to public policy and education. I believe very strongly that for a child to learn and succeed in education, they have to see the relevance in what they're learning. We have not allowed a paradigm shift from a top-down style of management to really a bottom-up, where you enable teachers to ultimately design an educational curriculum around the needs of the individual student.
Eighty percent of the work force in Georgia is going to need some kind of technical training. If that is true -- and we know that it is -- then more kids need to be on a path of technical learning. That brings the career academy concept to fruition to where we take a traditional high school and a technical college and blend them together in a stand-alone facility. What's fascinating is that shows relevance. Students understand that if they're studying to be a pharmaceutical technician and that motivates them, then in the classroom, they're getting the core curriculum but also the technical background in how the two merge. I think it all comes down to changing the paradigm. I think it comes back to demonstrating relevance in the classroom.
How do you define career paths?
The best definition of a career path is a clear road to employment in a defined, growing and relevant industry. We see, even here in Georgia, individuals who go to four-year institutions of higher learning and may end up with a psychology degree but they aren't employable. Oftentimes, they return to a technical college and get the necessary skills that are relevant to industries here. We need to be more proactive at an earlier stage with kids to get them clearly focused on a road to employment. If you look at the career academies we have in Georgia -- there's one in Newnan that has a partnership with Yamaha whose technology is integrated into the curriculum. They also have an internship program for students studying film. One individual loved NASCAR and thought he'd become an automobile technician, but he really got [excited] by film and now looks at NASCAR through a lens. He's one of the youngest producers at Turner Broadcasting -- where he did an internship as a high-school student; there were numerous college students there, and he was offered the job at the end.
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