Every year, millions of students across the nation finish their coursework and graduate from high school, but some are still missing the skills they need to enter college or the workforce.
Now leaders in Sparta are taking steps to change that.
The hallways and classrooms in Sparta High School won't be filled until September, but about 70 educators and business leaders are already facing a tough challenge.
“What can you do to provide a complete education for your child and your student?” asked Tom Steward, director of Instructional Services for the Sparta Area School District.
They’re participating in the area's first ever Career Technical Education Summit. It’s an opportunity to brainstorm ways to make sure students are college and career ready.
Steward said some students have trouble seeing the connection between what they learn in the classroom and how it applies in real life.
“Do they have the skill-set in order to do the math concepts, in order to understand how the math applies to building a road or to working at the casino up the road or different places that people go to work?” asked Steward.
Tim Hyma, the executive director of the Sparta Area Chamber of Commerce, said the disconnect translates into the workforce.
“There's hundreds of jobs available in the Sparta area, but the jobs that are available aren't being met by the skills needed,” said Hyma.
Hyma said closing the skills gap will take more hands-on learning in the classroom, but the work needs to start with the basics.
“All of the employers around here say that they hire someone, and they don't show up for work, and I think part of that is to teach kids is that it’s good to work hard,” said Hyma.
The answers aren't going to come overnight, but Steward hopes these conversations will lead to significant changes in education.
“Then we can infuse those programs and make a better graduate, and have our students be better prepared for what they have after they graduate from high school,” said Steward.
Steward hopes to see some changes in the curriculum as early as next year.
The Sparta School District's superintendent. John Hendricks said getting kids prepared with the skills they need to enter the workforce could help reduce the relatively high poverty rate in the area.