Teachers from around the state visited the Golden Isles College and Career Academy last week for the annual Camp T&I program.

About 30 percent of high school students today will go on to complete a four-year college degree, leaving 70 percent of students to seek other opportunities.

At the same time, certain industries are desperate to hire young employees to replace the thousands of employees retiring each year.

Students simply need to be informed of these opportunities and given the chance to develop an interest in these trades.

Camp T&I, an annual summer professional learning experience, brings teachers together who can help students develop interest in these possible careers.

More than 250 teachers traveled last week to the Golden Isles College and Career Academy for Camp T&I, which serves teachers in specific CTAE (Career Technical Agriculture Education) programs.

“This is really the cream of the crop in the state of Georgia that shows up here,” said Tim Eilliott, program specialist for architecture, construction, communication and transportation for the Georgia Department of Education. “These are the ones wanting to better themselves so they can better the classroom.”

Camp T&I includes workshops, hands-on training, testing and networking opportunities.

For the first time this year, more than 30 school counselors also took part in the program, to learn more about the CTAE education opportunities they can inform students about.

“We’ve been trying to get the counselors to push more for CTAE classes,” Elliott said.

Additional training and testing opportunities were also provided this year to automotive teachers seeking Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification.

The Georgia Department of Education is working to enhance automotive education in high schools across the state by requiring teachers to receive this training.

“We just changed our automotive standards, and they’ve been approved, where students are leaving high school with an ASE two-year credential,” Elliott said. “So they actually have a certification from ASE when they leave.”

The goal is for all teachers to have master technician level certificates, which require hours of training and testing.

“These are highly trained, highly experienced, gifted instructors that are wanting to give back to our entry-level students,” said Mike Batchelor, the southeastern region manager for the ASE Education Foundation.

The ASE certification will allow high school students to seek internship opportunities earlier and to better market themselves to potential employers.

The push for this enhanced education at the high school level has been supported by the automotive industry, Elliott said.

“We have a lot of industry that’s involved with all of this,” he said. “That’s why we’re trying to set the standard across the nation, in the state of Georgia, because we’ve started including industry and finding out what they’re wanting out of our students.”

Batchelor said car manufacturers in the state are reporting that around 300,000 employees are retiring annually.

“And this is a huge market, a huge successful career — not a job,” he said. “And an entry-level technician should be able to make $45-55,000 a year.”

Betsy Pye-Avellaneda, an automotive teacher in Vidalia, attended Camp T&I in part to work toward her ASE certification.

Pye-Avellaneda, like many, found that she had little interest in the four-year college experience. Instead, she pursued her passion for cars, which she developed at an early age, and worked in the automotive industry several years before becoming a teacher.

Today, she makes sure to tell her students about the vast array of opportunities that exist in the industry.

“When you think of a mechanic, you think of someone dirty covered head to toe in grease … And that is not true anymore ... There’s so many different ways you can go into this. You can be a technician, you can be a servicer, you can go in parts,” she said.

“I also let them know that you have to work hard at it, yes, but you can make good money in this.”

Spotlight on Schools appears Thursdays. Contact Lauren McDonald at lmcdonald@thebrunswicknews.com or at 912-265-8320, ext. 322 to suggest a topic for a column.

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