Monday, November 12, 2007

Tech Learning

Students get a leg up on tech
By Erin DeMuth Judd
Published in The Post-Star: Saturday, November 10, 2007

See a photo gallery of students at BOCES learning about high-tech careers.

HUDSON FALLS -- When John Stoothoff traveled to Hillsboro, Ore. in April as one of 19 local delegates seeking to learn how that community has dealt with explosive growth fostered by a thriving high-tech industry, he saw a lot of familiar things.

"When we traveled to Hillsboro, we would see various elements of work force development, and I would say, 'You know, we've got that,' " Stoothoff said, addressing a group of local leaders and business professionals on Tuesday, Oct. 30. Stoothoff is the Warren-Saratoga-Washington-Hamilton-Essex BOCES district superintendent.

The group was gathered at the BOCES Southern Adirondack Education Center in Hudson Falls to learn how BOCES prepares area students for higher education or careers in fields like health care or technology.

"There are a lot of things people don't know about BOCES," Stoothoff said. "This tour is designed to show you what we've got.

"These are real kids doing real things. One of the things we saw in Hillsboro was they were taking these kids and dealing with 15 or 16 different languages. These kids here are all English-speaking, but they all come from very different situations, so there's that commonality."

Another similarity between Hillsboro's efforts to offer job-based education and the local BOCES' efforts to do the same is the involvement of businesses with classroom programs.

Though Hillsboro's collaboration with businesses like Intel was on a much larger scale, BOCES worked with Glens Falls medical device maker Boston Scientific to create a similar program.

In Hillsboro, Intel had a plaque outside many computer labs in Liberty High School to indicate the company's support of education.

"Boston Scientific has been behind the development of our Mechanical Technology program," Stoothoff said. "It's representative of great community interaction."

The two-year program, in which students learn computer-aided manufacturing, robotics, mechanics and sensor technology, has already been useful to both Boston Scientific and BOCES students.

So has another program called New Visions Engineering, for which students must apply and be interviewed before they are accepted.

New Visions Engineering

students, who must have above-average math and science abilities, conduct hands-on engineering projects and experiments and observe professional engineers in the field at local businesses.

"We've utilized these programs," said Boston Scientific recruiter Mike Perez. "With New Visions Engineering, we had some students from there go into our intern program.

"This is great because they're local students, and maybe we can keep them here longer -- maybe three summers in a row. Productivity is so much more this way, since interns are familiar with the site and what its needs are."

Similarly, a student in the Mechanical Technology program also interned at Boston Scientific, going on to become a full-time Boston Scientific employee, Perez said.

While that employee is now going back to school, Perez maintained that programs like those at BOCES are important for companies like Boston Scientific.

"They touched on it before with the employee shortages," he said. "We're in the midst of an employee shortage now -- of skilled employees and just the employees who want to work for you and who want to stay local."

Another organization, Fort Hudson Health System, also benefits from BOCES job-based education and training programs.

"A lot of our certified nursing assistants go to nursing school here and then become licensed practical nurses," said Amy Adams, nurse educator at Fort Hudson Health.

"We have an agreement with BOCES to train our nursing assistants.

"Also, students from the

New Visions Health Careers

Exploration program, they've been great interns for us. They're very interested and engaging."

At its Southern Adirondack Education Center, BOCES also offers programs in cosmetology, the culinary arts, outdoor power equipment technology and heavy equipment operation.

While these programs may not be as large or as glamorous as some of those offered in Hillsboro, they nevertheless serve the community well and maybe even have something of an edge over their Oregon counterparts, according to another local leader who was part of the Hillsboro delegation.

"We saw a lot of this at the community college level in Hillsboro, and now we're seeing this more at the high school level here," said Len Fosbrook, president of the Economic Development Corp. of Warren County. "So, I think we're kind of ahead of the curve here."

"I like the BOCES programs," Fosbrook added. "I think they're tuned in to what our work force needs. And I know they are always willing to put programs in place, if a demand exists, to help those students find jobs."