The Silver City-Grant County Chamber of Commerce held its monthly luncheon on Thursday, July 12, 2019.

img 1454The featured speaker was Curtis Clough, the new associate superintendent for Silver Schools.

He said he had participated in a conference call with the New Mexico Public Education Department the prior day. "We are going back to educating kids for jobs."

Clough is in his 29th year working in public schools. "I've held almost every position, even cook and bus driver. I had to fill in once for the cook when all the cafeteria staff were ill with the flu. I had to drive the bus for the girls' basketball team once, too."

He presented his simple math: SR + SC = SS.

SR stands for shared responsibility. "We have to work together on how to develop students to be ready for the work force. We have to determine how to get the workforce that you, business owners, need. Who is ultimately responsible for the training and education of students for future needs?"

"The Secretary of Education yesterday admitted that assessments and teaching to the test have not provided the best outcomes," Clough said. "It's a job for parents, teachers, the community and businesses. The sooner we get to it, the better the work force will be. So, we are doing career exploration starting with high school freshmen, and ultimately into junior high and elementary school. The new model of education coming from the PED will allow school districts to be creative. At first, we will start with the freshmen, but in the future, it will be in grades 5-8."

He noted that the average age level for students to get into drugs and alcohol keeps dropping and now is at the 7.7 grade level.

SC stands for shared commitment, and it also applies to post-secondary education.

"When I went to college and when many of you went to college, you went right after high school," Clough said. "The average wait time for students now is 3.2 years before they go into college. Forty percent of college enrollment now consists of adults. More and more kids are getting experience in jobs or traveling before going back to school. How do we get them hooked in earlier? This is training not just for local jobs, but globally."

He asked with a PowerPoint slide who should be totally committed to educating and training the future work force for tomorrow's needs and what roles must be filled and partnerships created to fully service the sectors.

Clough noted that if a company loses a senior executive, the average cost to train someone to replace him or her is $37,000 per year until they are up to speed.

"If we do the training in the schools," he continued, "it's better because the company would rather retain them than keep retraining every couple of years."

Microlevel problems are global and societal that can majorly impact the schools' ability to educate and employers' ability to acquire quality individuals for employment purposes. They include drug testing, socio-economic status, displaced workers, age discrimination, remediation and training issues, and employability and professional skills.

He said what was once called Vo tech is now being called the Career Education Model.

Clough said in the past, a blame game has ensued with the businesses blaming education. "How do we do this in partnership without the blame game?"

He said businesses want employees with base level skills where they can come in and be a valued employee from Day 1. Those with abilities to work from Day 1 can be retrained to specific needs for the organization. Businesses also need individuals who can fill specific needs right now.

The No. 1 need for employees at present is dental hygienists. "They can be trained with an 18-hour certification. However, the cost of living in some places and the number of hours they have to put in at work can be job barriers."

What education wants is to prepare students for future endeavors whether they go to college or are prepared for a career opportunity upon graduating from high school. "We want to expose students to multiple exploration opportunities, so they can make informed decisions for their futures. We want them to develop the necessary skills, so they have multiple opportunities to pursue their dreams after graduation, which is the beginning of their lifelong journey."

"They are training now for jobs that in 2029 may not exist," Clough said.

He said it is not an us-versus-them issue. "We're seeking partnerships, so we can place kids on the right career path."

"We want to work together for the best for our students," Clough said. "I'm passionate about this and want the best for our students. I have not yet met a kid who didn't want to go to the next level in his training."

He said the PED has put in new graduation requirements for 2022. "They are in the process of setting the rules, but they include demonstration of competence in four areas: 1) apprenticeship controlled at the local level; 2) full enlistment in the military where they can graduate; 3) admission into college; and/or 4) demonstrate competency in a career pathway, such as Microsoft or Google certification. They haven't set the final rules, but we are required to let all incoming freshmen know that graduation rules are changing."

Clough said assessment tests would still be given, but which ones will be decided at the local levels.

"We are expanding dual enrollment," he said. "That's a pathway that's already there."

Clough also does consulting R2NL Consulting, which stands for Rise to the Next Level Consulting.

Shin Wei Weeks asked what the administration was going to tell the teachers to get them to encourage the students.

"We will develop our plan at our administrative meeting next week," Clough said. "We have to look at it from a district perspective. It's a huge thing in training and a huge change in thinking about soft skills. We are already talking to post-secondary institutions. We need to get to the parents. It can't be done in a vacuum. The sooner we get the kids, it will help them learn the implications of early choices."

Tom Vaughan said he had been to White Horse High School, where the emphasis was on learning. "They did an approach that every work was a vocation."

Clough said standardized testing was the biggest injustice done to "our kids. My personal experience is that our kids are competing worldwide. In Alaska, the kids are flying drones to map out areas for the U.S. Geological Survey and for the oil and gas business. We have to show kids how to have hope and opportunities."

Sandy Feutz announced the upcoming Red Dot Gallery Walk from 5-7 p.m. Friday, July 20, put on by the Silver City Art Association.

Chamber President Scott Terry promoted the Wine Festival, which occurred this weekend, July 14 and 15.