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Menomonee Falls paves way for career paths

Dec. 10, 2013

Menomonee Falls — Menomonee Falls is paving the way to connect students to careers.

A slew of new courses will be offered starting in sixth grade to compliment science, technology, engineering and math classes, known as STEM, that are already integrated in the district. The goal is to develop students critical thinking and problem-solving skills, while introducing them to career fields that have been identified as being in-demand over the next 10 years. Part of the curriculum development has included working with WCTC and local universities to ensure the district is building courses around careers that make sense in today's job market, Director of Curriculum and Learning Gary Kiltz said during a presentation to the School Board on Monday.

The School Board's Curriculum and Learning Committee has approved new STEM courses in three fields: innovation and technology; engineering; and energy, power and transportation. They will be offered in 2014-15.

Building on STEM

New applied innovation and technology courses for middle school include design and modeling and introduction to applications. These courses coincide with manufacturing, automation and robotics that are already offered at the middle school level. Engineering courses include green architecture, a medical detectives course, as well as introduction to programming. Two new energy, power and transportation courses will be implemented next year, including an energy and environment class.

High School STEM courses both new and current include: materials and processes; welding and fabrication; wood and plastic production; advanced manufacturing; construction; civil engineering; digital electronics; alternative and renewable energy; automotive servicing; and apprenticeship options. Engineer, design and development will be the new capstone course for the district's STEM academy.

"That will establish a real strong foundation moving forward," Kiltz said of the new course alignment.

Matched to courses

The district has also developed a template that would show students their earning potential for specific jobs in in-demand markets including manufacturing, healthcare, information technology and programming. Based on the career, an appropriate sequence of courses would then be identified detailing what students should take to go into a respective field.

"Obviously, students can pick any career option even if knowingly it wouldn't be in-demand, but at least they have a focus of that as they are entering into their career planning," Superintendent Patricia Greco said.

The idea is to match up career options around what wages students can expect to earn when obtaining specific degrees and diplomas, Kiltz said.

"It gives students a real good sense of what they can expect to make career-wise and then attaching that to a four-year university or bachelor degree and what that would look like moving forward," he said.

As the district continues development of its curriculum and career pathways, School Board member Ron Bertieri asked that the district be sure to thoroughly communicate with parents.

"I don't think we can emphasize that enough because they are the main factor in deciding where the children are going to go and what they are going to do," Bertieri said.

Greco said in working with WCTC, one area that has been identified as lacking in the district, though it is an in-demand market, is cyber security programming. This is an area where Greco said the district needs to do the most development moving forward as it is a programming strand considered to be in high demand with a lot of potential.

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