Jan 23, 2018
Attendees Celebrate Program Progress, Strategize for Future at 4th Annual Gathering

BATON ROUGE, La.- The Louisiana Department of Education today hosted the 4th Annual Jump Start Convention at the Raising Cane's River Center. More than 1,400 Louisiana education and industry leaders gathered to celebrate the state's progress in implementing the career and technical education program, to share resources, and to strategize for the future.

Launched in 2014, Jump Start is the state's initiative to provide all students with career credentials that allow them to continue their education after high school. To achieve the Jump Start credential, students complete graduation pathways of courses and workplace-based experiences developed by regional teams comprising high school, college and industry leaders. Thousands of students in Louisiana are currently pursuing a high school diploma through one of 45 approved graduation pathways. At the start of the program, students earned about 14,000 industry-based credentials. The following year, in 2015-2016, that number leapt to about 37,000, and in 2016-2017, it topped nearly 63,000. The program will see its first graduating class--about 20 percent of all seniors--in spring 2018.

"It is my goal that no student ever feels like they need to leave Louisiana to receive a quality education or find a good paying job," said Gov. John Bel Edwards, who delivered the keynote address during the event's opening session. "In fact, when I meet with CEOs looking to build or expand their businesses in Louisiana, they always ask if we have the talent pipeline to meet their needs. Programs like Jump Start make it easy to show that our education and economic development goals align, encouraging students to obtain industry-based credentials in order to prepare for high-wage, high-demand careers."

State Superintendent John White agreed: "Jump Start has changed the way we view career and technical education in Louisiana for the better. More than ever before, students--both college and workforce bound--recognize the benefits of earning valued credentials and honing their technical and soft skills. We look forward to further strengthening this important program by diversifying its offerings and ensuring equal access to all students."

At the day-long event, state leaders lauded recent milestones. Among the highlights, in 2017:
  • Local education and business leaders across the state partnered to launch the inaugural Jump Start Summers program, which allowed more than 250 students, including those with disabilities, to receive paid, on-the-job career and technical training during the summer months. Participating students earned a total of 445 industry-based credentials and academic credit.
  • Nearly two dozen educators were selected to participate in the first Louisiana Educator Voice Fellowship. Fellows receive intensive, paid professional development and co-create curricular resources to enhance career and technical education.
  • The state approved a Pre-Engineering Certification Pathway to provide high school students with the opportunity to develop skills to help them succeed in college or career, all while earning transferable Pre-Engineering course credit at Louisiana State University.
  • Louisiana launched a statewide financial aid planning process that resulted in 65 percent of students completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid by the priority deadline, surpassing the state's all-time high and the national average, and funding college and/or post-secondary advanced credential training.
State leaders also looked to the future. They detailed the development of a suite of new K-16 pathways, including but not limited to entrepreneurship, digital design, and environmental management/coastal restoration, and announced a new opportunity for school systems and private party course providers to sponsor student summer training sessions in collaboration with industry partners.

In addition, attendees participated in breakout sessions to learn best practices for implementing various aspects of the statewide program, and to receive and share resources and supports. The sessions covered a wide range of topics, from building successful relationships with high-demand industries to creating virtual externships. For the first time this year, attendees also experienced "Galleria Walks," in which 10 schools and school systems set up tables throughout the venue to provide passersby with information about their unique Jump Start journeys.

Education and business leaders in attendance said the Jump Start program's evolution is as promising as it is important.

"Louisiana's Jump Start program provides students an opportunity to explore, learn and achieve in academic and career interests that are tailored to their individual aspirations," said Zachary Community Schools Superintendent Scott Devillier. "Building from a sound academic and career-oriented foundation, both teachers and students are able to further their skill sets in 21st Century, real-world experiences."

Jump Start also encourages collaboration among industry officials and educators across Louisiana, said Aaron Schwindt, director of high school programs for Operation Spark, a New Orleans-based company that teaches students coding.

"These innovative initiatives have allowed us to connect students to mentors in the software development field and train the next generation of computer programmers," Schwindt said. "Through fostering these partnerships, students are able to gain valuable training, career development, and internship opportunities that will put them on a path towards high wage positions following graduation."

For more information about Jump Start, click here.

For more information about the 4th Annual Jump Start Convention, click here.

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