Students at three Hamilton County high schools will have the opportunity to earn dual high school and college credit for their career and technical education courses through a new partnership between Hamilton County Schools and Chattanooga State Community College.
The pilot program includes welding, machine tool and cosmetology courses at Brainerd, Howard and Sequoyah high schools. Juniors and seniors in the advance vocational courses will be able to complete up to two-thirds of the one-year certificate program at Chattanooga State's Tennessee College of Applied Technology.
"I think this is going to revolutionize the way that we offer technical education in the high schools," said Jim Barrott, executive vice president of Chattanooga State's TCAT.
Barrott said the goal is to shorten the time it takes for students to earn a credential and get a job.
"Welding and machining are two of the industrial-related programs that are very much in demand in our community," he said. "Cosmetology is in great demand in the high schools, and it's a program that a lot of people want to take here."
Under Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Bryan Johnson's leadership, the district has been working to increase student access to early post-secondary options such as dual credit courses, dual enrollment and the opportunities to earn industry credentials while still in high school.
"What we are trying to do is make sure our students get the post-secondary credit, so the pathway for them becomes clearer toward a credential or certificate," Johnson said. "One of the priorities of our district strategic plan is making sure our kids have access to post-secondary opportunities. It's one of the areas of investment in our proposed budget."
Johnson said district research shows 75% of students who have access to a college-level course or opportunity in high school go on to college or another post-secondary program.
There is no cost for the students or for the school district. Chattanooga State will train current district instructors this summer and they will become certified TCAT adjunct instructors in order for students to earn TCAT credit.
Dual enrollment courses have existed for years, but students have not often had the opportunity to earn TCAT credits while in high school. Most TCAT programs take about a year to complete and end in a certificate and, ideally, a job.
Barrott said 90% of Chattanooga State's TCAT students are employed after completing the program.
The dual enrollment courses will take the place of advanced career and technical courses in high school, said John Maynard, the district's career and technical education director.
"What made sense to us all, instead of our students taking Welding 3 and Welding 4, let's just start TCAT," Maynard said. "TCAT articulates with Chattanooga State, so if the students were to finish the TCAT program they could either get a job or continue their education. In a small way they are working towards their associate's degree."
Contact Meghan Mangrum at email@example.com or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.