Hancock County High School Principal Ginger Estes and HCHS Teachers Lori Roberts and Greg Tate spoke at the HC Chamber of Commerce Breakfast on Tuesday, September 12th at the Career Center.
Estes said if anyone in the county has ideas about apprenticeships and internships for HCHS students to call or email her. “We’ll talk and we’ll get it working,” she said. “We want to continue to build with you all. You can reach out to one of us and say, ‘Hey, I have an idea.’ That’s where we’re at with education. We’re about ideas and growing our community with our students.”
For a high school student to be “transition-ready” in KY, they have to be either college-ready or career-ready. To be college-ready, they must meet an ACT benchmark of: 18 in English, 19 in Math, 20 in Reading, or have a C or higher in a college level class.
“It’s a little muddy,” Estes said, “because in order to take a college level class they have to have an ACT, except when they’re juniors because they haven’t had a full ACT at that point, most of them. So OCTC allows them to use their Grade Point Average and a teacher recommendation.
In order for a student to be career-ready they have to pass an end-of-course test, earn an industry certification in one of our programs of study, or be part of a track apprenticeship – and it’s a true apprenticeship through KDE (KY Dept. of Education). That’s brand new to us this year, so we’re still learning. We’re super excited about it.
Last year, we ended our school year with 97 percent of our seniors at transition-readiness, which is HUGE. We’re so proud of those kids and our staff. We’re starting the year, with this year’s seniors at 90 percent transition-ready. That means 90 percent of our current seniors are already ready to go to college or career – which is FANTASTIC. And, that’s from you all. That’s from our community. That’s from giving them the opportunities that we’re going to talk about today. Thank you very much from the bottom of our hearts because we want our community to grow and we want our kids to stay here and work and do and be part of our lives.”
“In 2018, we started what’s called work-based learning,” she said. “It’s very loose as far as apprenticeships or on-the-job training goes. If a student had accounting in their background, if they had taken their pathway classes for accounting, then they could go out to you all and say, ‘Hey, do you need somebody to help keep the books for a little while?’ And then you would say, ‘Sure, let’s do that.’ So they would schedule part of their day with you. They had a weekly turn-in where you evaluated them on their work-based skills to include employability skills, which is super important. It was a good place to start, but it didn’t have the ‘meat’ that we needed.
In 2020 was covid, and we’re not going to talk about it. In 2021, we were still trying to recover from covid but we started kids back in the building which meant that kids could be back [working] with you all too.
In 2022, we realized that our partnerships were struggling and we did a Local Needs Assessment with Perkins – a regional conglomeration of people, different schools and we partner with OCTC and do a huge assessment. They look at our census, our employability rates, our success rates and how many people are coming in from other counties, etc. We listened and realized we needed to up our game as educators in this community to make sure kids were being in prime opportunities.”
The 2 new track programs at HCHS, she said, are for diesel mechanics and engineering. “Carmeuse, this last spring, came to the school and said, ‘We have an idea. We want to work through KDE, their formal track apprenticeship, where students get paid while they’re in your classroom.’ They met with parents and gave their benefits package,” Estes said. “Students applied. There were a very limited amount of positions.
Those selected students, Carmeuse pays them $20 an hour to learn while they’re in the classroom with us, going over their program. It’s a commitment for 4 years. So we get them their first 2 years, juniors and seniors, and then Carmeuse goes ahead and adopts that track program for the next 2 years. They baby step their way into a full-time position.
Then, Domtar came to us and wanted to do a track [program], but with a different need. They needed operators and their operator program was very specific and needed a third partner with OCTC to come in and give them a very specified curriculum. Domtar’s track program, students get paid $18 an hour, but they get college credit while they’re also taking these classes so it was kind of a joint partnership.
They did the same thing, they came in and met with parents and talked about their benefits. They talked about being local and students were very interested. We had a ton of applicants. It was limited. This year it’s just seniors and next year will be juniors and seniors. Each year they want to add a couple more. They also agreed to the 4 years. Even though we only get the first year of that, they agreed to do 4 more years after that for on-the-job training.”
“The pathways we offer currently, we have 13 programs (Engineering, Agribusiness, Culinary, Accounting, Administrative Support, Graphic Design, Diesel, Agricultural Power, Early Childhood, Financial Services, Management, Entrepreneurship and Allied Health). In our small school that’s quite a feat because we have 35 certified teachers. The Allied Health and the Ag – those students are in work-based learning opportunities. It is very solid and growing and they still have students everywhere in our community that are working and learning.
The Southwire students, those are very developed as well. The new track programs are important because we still have culinary and food, with catered weddings, banquets, etc. The kids do all of the cooking, serving and developing. If you’ve not been in our school and seen how beautiful the culinary department is – it is a full-size, full-scale restaurant kitchen. We want to provide opportunities for those (culinary students). If you have ideas, please reach out to us. We are so interested.
Early childhood education – we are kind of working on that a little bit internally. Our juniors and seniors that want to be teachers or educators are working with younger students in other buildings in our district.”
College Level Classes
“We currently teach 9 college level classes,” Estes said. “That’s pretty impressive for our little school. I’m super proud of everybody in our building because they work very hard to get this done for kids. One of our classes is through OCTC. We’ve been working this summer with Western to get some WKU classes in for the internal education program.
Our gateways to the future are: early college, dual credit, pathway completions, industry certifications, work-based learning, internships, apprenticeships, and then high school diploma – which is just as important.
Our uniqueness is that we have the ability to develop students where they’re at. You all have the content knowledge of your areas and we’ve got a captive audience, and so we get to work with those minds and develop what most of us would consider employability skills that are lacking right now – attendance and the ‘want to’, the drive. That pendulum has swung so far outside the box that we need to bring it back in and provide some of that for our students. We promise to do that if you’ll work with us to provide those programs outside of our building.
Our future goals – we want to partner more with you all. We want to partner with teacher apprenticeships, do some internal building, and work with our Industrial Foundation and the Chamber. We want to develop those partnerships because that’s so important for so many levels and our kids are worth that.”
Career & Technical Education Teacher, Lori Roberts, teaches Entrepreneurship, Financial Services I, Business & Marketing Essentials and Microsoft Office classes at HCHS, and talked briefly about the Management & Entrepreneurship Pathways.
HCHS Arts & Humanities Teacher Greg Tate showed photos of some new equipment and what students have been making with those. “We’re able to do t-shirts in-house now,” he said. “We have a few different methods of doing that, a sublimation process where we can make mugs, tumblers and those kinds of things. We can sublimate on hats, put decals on hats. Any kind of sign, we can do those things now. It’s exciting watching the kids be able to actually take a design they have and put it onto a product they can hold in their hands. I think that’s been what’s made them excited about it. We have food preparation box lunches, something our culinary guys have been working on, and they recently baked cookies for all of the bus drivers.”
“Our engineering department is just getting started with this,” Tate said, “and we have so many things we’ve made just in the last week. With the 3D printers, we’ve been making little things that we can maybe market and sell like key rings, things to hold your cell phone and that kind of stuff. They 3D printed a heart for our health sciences. One of the mannequins, the heart was broken out of it so they 3D printed a new one.”
“Our sublimation printer,” he said, “prints color just like a normal color printer with special ink on the paper. You take that paper and put it onto a shirt under one of these heat presses – we bought a couple of heat presses. The heat transfers the image onto clothing, license plates, etc., there are a lot of different materials that can accept it.”
Vinyl Cutter & Printer
“The commercial grade vinyl cutter we bought cuts vinyl up to 24 inches,” he said, “and however long you want to cut it. The vinyl printer we have prints onto vinyl for making decals. The GN Excavating sign – the students printed that decal. They can be put onto automobiles, computers, etc.”
“The laser engraver,” he said, “you’ve seen the engraving done on wood and it can cut out shapes. We’ve done a lot of things with it. It’s fun watching the kids because they figure this stuff out. I’ve kind of got the basics going for the equipment. They help build them and put them together. They troubleshoot; when I have issues on some things, the students look for ways to fix it.”
Metal Plasma Cutter
“These are all additional things in the Ag. Dept.,” he said. “We have a 4×8 sheet metal plasma cutter. You can cut out any shape in metal that you want. You can cut signs out, or a bracket out for your tractor, that kind of thing.”
“We have new state of the art welding equipment,” he said. “There is a press that can press out shapes, bend things, cut things, however you want. It’s a very powerful machine and very expensive, an iron worker machine. We have a low humidity container to store our welding rods in so they don’t go bad, as well.”
“We have a little greenhouse coming,” Tate added. “It’s exciting. For the community here, once we get this thing rolling, I would encourage you – if you have needs from some of the things you’ve seen here, we would love to work with you and be able to provide some of those services. It lets the kids learn while they’re doing it and it can help your businesses and help to support the school overall.”
By Jennifer Wimmer