Starting next year, students in the Park West School Division will have the opportunity to graduate with two diplomas.
“As a student you have the potential of graduating from high school while also graduating from (Assiniboine Community College) with a health-care aide designation all in the same year,” PWSD Supt. Tim Mendel said.
The course, which is part of a unique partnership between ACC and PWSD, starts this September in Birtle. While originally selected for the course as part of the rural rotating program, Mendel expects it to be a permanent piece of the division’s curriculum choices moving forward, provided there’s enough interest.
Mendel said the first year might see low numbers as there are prerequisites that students need to enroll in the course. However, if numbers dip too low, the course could open to the general public, a possibility Mendel said has already garnered interest.
An intricate busing system will mean every student in the division will get the opportunity to take the program. Mendel said he has asked schools to build compulsory courses into the first semester of the school year to clear the way for students to be bused to Birtle for the second semester when the course will be offered.
It’s just another option for a division looking to diversify the type of programming it can offer students.
Birtle already offers a building/construction program that enables students to graduate as a “Level 1” apprentice in the eyes of ACC, according to Mendel.
The course gives students a head start in a potential career in the trade industry, provides future university students an opportunity at a better job in the summer between classes, or helps graduates get their foot in the door with a construction company in the area.
“We have students that have gone through the course and are already working in industry,” Mendel said. “One of the female students who graduated last year is on the crew that is building the new pharmacy in Birtle.”
Mendel said the division and school board have made a conscious effort to invest more in vocational training for students.
“We gathered a variety of stakeholders and came up with a strategic plan and a big part of it was expanding our programming, specifically in the vocational area because there was a feeling that is an area schools should be investing in,” Mendel said. “The community, and the business community, told us don’t just provide opportunities for kids going to university because not everyone goes to university. We seemed to be a little top heavy with university and now I think our vocational is starting to balance that out.”
The division still offers a variety of advanced placement courses through Interactive Instructional Television for students looking at university. And there’s still an emphasis on academics, but Mendel said vocational training can provide a lot of the same type of learning in a different environment.
“We’re still fighting the stereotype of vocational, which is seen as kids that aren’t academically strong and that’s not the case,” Mendel said.
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