Dawson County students are taking part this week in a new program that can better prepare them for life beyond high school.
Dawson County High School’s class of 2009 will take part in testing today and Thursday as part of the Georgia Work Ready Certificate program.
Along with a high school diploma, a work ready certificate can better prepare students for their future, whether they look for immediate employment, further education or both.
The program, which is offered free through Lanier Technical College, was announced during a ceremony last week at the high school.
Guest speaker Fred McConnel, Georgia’s Work Ready community leader, told the high school seniors the assessment is a “new tool” that complements a high school diploma and “hopefully your college degree.”
“This certificate is going to be able to prove to your future employers that you not only have an education, but you also have the work skills necessary to do the job that you want to do successfully,” he said.
Appointed by Gov. Sonny Perdue, McConnel serves as the statewide Work Ready community leader for the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development.
He is responsible for providing support to all counties participating in the initiative, coaching and mentoring team leaders to achieve their certificate goals.
Cecil Bennett, chairman of the local school board, said the certificate will prepare students whether they “continue on to college or join the work force right away.”
“And it will give you the credentials to be able to tell the people that you are going to work for, that you have completed this test,” he said.
Perdue established the program as a tool to better connect Georgia’s education and business communities.
The assessment scores students on a scale of one to seven, with certificates ranging from bronze (three or four) to platinum (seven) awarded based on the scores.
The students can retake the test as many times as they want to improve their scores.
“Once you get your certificate and take it with you to job interviews, the company will have job profiles for each certificate level,” McConnel told the students.
The program, which is nationally recognized, has been around for about 20 years. Georgia has been participating in it since January 2007.
“This is a program that I see being embraced and becoming very important in many communities, especially ours and others in North Georgia,” said Michael Moye, president of Lanier Technical College.
Dawson County Superintendent Nicky Gilleland said the program is “going to set our kids apart and give them a leg up in both working and education capacities.”
Wayne Chelf, principal of Dawson County High School, said the program is “not something we did for us.”
“My hope is that at your graduation in the spring, I will be able to say that 100 percent of our graduates are work ready certified,” he said.
E-mail Elizabeth Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org.