Leaders in the Bulloch County Schools career, technical and agricultural education, or CTAE, programs showed off a brand-new website for students, parents, counselors, industries and the community Thursday morning at the 2022 Bulloch Career Workforce Summit.
The website, www.careerreadybulloch.org, went live just the afternoon before.
“All of these pictures you are seeing are our Bulloch County students and business and industry,” said Bethany Gilliam, Bulloch County Schools CTAE director. “This is unique to us in Bulloch County, and it’s a great opportunity for parents and teachers and everyone, really, to find out what opportunities are available in education and also postsecondary and business and industry.”
The “WBL” on the menu bar at the top of the homepage stands for “work-based learning.” From the WBL page, the “Job Sites” Image leads to a page filled with logos from many of the 176 current or past sites employing students from the three high schools in the county system.
Last school year, 236 students were employed in work-based learning, together earning a reported $546,511 – an average of more than $3,100 per student – as well as course credits.
Most of the logos have links to the employers’ local webpages. The work-based learning main page also carries at least one student testimonial video about work experiences.
Back at the top menu of the Career Ready Bulloch main page, the “Clusters” tab leads to photos and information on the 13 career clusters, ranging from Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources to Transportation, Distribution & Logistics, for which the Bulloch County Schools offer CTAE courses.
Among those courses, the school system offers 23 recognized career pathways, which vary among the high schools. Students complete a pathway by successfully taking three courses in that career area and an end-of-pathway assessment. Last school year, 1,642 students in the three high schools took at least one CTAE course, and 439 completed pathways. Of students who took end-of-pathway assessments, 84.8% passed. All of these and other statistics are also touted on the new website.
The “Industries” tab leads to a page with links to 16 employers, including manufacturers, distributors and food processors but also some employers such as a credit union, a hospital and construction-related firms not always thought of as industries, in Bulloch and neighboring counties.
The “Discovery” page illustrates annual events and continuing programs planned to expose middle and high school students to career opportunities. Examples include the sixth-grade Ag-Grow Expo, eighth-grade Manufacturing Day and 12th-grade Career Fair, with at least one program for each year, grades 6-12.
A “Plan” page on the website describes Bulloch County’s Career Workforce Development Plan.
The website was built by School Improvement Director Jeff Giddens and originally suggested by Executive Director of Program Improvement Julie Chance.
About 85 people attended Thursday’s breakfast gathering in the Nessmith-Lane Conference Center on the Georgia Southern University campus. It was the second annual Career Workforce Summit organized by the Bulloch County school system and its Career-Workforce Steering Committee, with representatives of industries, the university, the Development Authority of Bulloch County, Ogeechee Technical College and East Georgia State College invited.
The first such summit, held in October 2021, had been used to publicly launch the new workforce development plan.
With this year’s summit, the steering committee intended to hold itself accountable for what it set out to do, provide an update, celebrate successes and look forward to the future, Gilliam said.
“As I’m sure I don’t have to tell any of you, there’s lots of changes coming and lots of fun, exciting things going on, and CTAE is perfectly positioned to play a huge role in all of that,” she said. “So we are excited to have the opportunity to continue to prepare our future workforce and give them options for the future.”
Since last year’s summit, the region has seen a surge of job creation announcements, including the planned construction of Hyundai Motor Group’s 8,100-employee electric vehicle factory at the mega site in northern Bryan County and of two factories expected to eventually create, together, more than 880 jobs at Bulloch County’s Commerce Park at the I-16 interchange on U.S. Highway 301. Several other industries have announced plans to build in Bryan and Chatham counties.
Several speakers during Thursday’s meeting, beginning with Georgia Southern’s Vice Provost for Research and Scholarship Christopher Curtis in his welcoming remarks, alluded to these developments.
Workforce Development “is an important topic for us, particularly in this rapidly changing landscape in the economy of South Georgia,” Curtis said, “and I said that yesterday … in a different context, and I realized I’m not even sure ‘rapidly changing’ adequately captures all that’s going on in the region.”
He mentioned the Hyundai Motor Group project and noted the university’s role in bringing several other advanced technology firms to its service area as part of what he called an ongoing “regional revolution.”
The Industry Group, a collection of leaders from 20-plus large industries and businesses in six counties – Bulloch, Screven, Candler, Evans, Emanuel and Tattnall – collaborates to plan for workforce development needs from the industries’ perspective.
Bobby Jones, quality manager at bearing manufacturer JTEKT’s Sylvania Plant in Screven County and one of the leaders of the Industry Group, attended Thursday’s summit.
“I have to applaud the Bulloch County educational system,” he said afterward. “They’ve been partnering and collaborating with industries, businesses to help ensure that students that come out of school have a direction, they’re pointed in a direction that they have a passion for and a skillset for so that once we employ them, they prosper in our businesses.”
The Industry Group was formed by the industries themselves but works with area boards of education, development authorities, Georgia Southern, Ogeechee Tech, Coastal WorkSource and the Georgia Department of Labor.