Education, community and business leaders came together Thursday in Marietta to explore ways to better prepare students for college and careers.
The "think tank" event was held in the Community Building at Lookout Park as part of the "Building Bridges to Careers" collaboration between Marietta City Schools and the Washington County Family and Children First Council.
Twenty-five representatives of public and private sector organizations broke into groups to assess what the area offers in terms of college- and career-readiness and where improvements need to be made.
"It went really well," said Tasha Werry, Race to the Top and Teachers Incentive Fund grant coordinator for Marietta City Schools. "I think we have a general idea of the direction we need to go."
Those next steps include helping businesses understand the curriculum being taught in local schools and finding way to involve those businesses in specific projects related to the curriculum.
DeeAnn Gehlauf, senior vice president of business and organization development for the Memorial Health System, said cooperation between the community, businesses and educators benefit all three groups.
"At the end of the day, go back to the old adage that it takes a community to raise a child," she said. "The stronger we are collectively, the stronger we are individually."
Gehlauf said the health system and other employers rely on schools to help produce their incoming workforce, but those employers must communicate with the schools about their needs.
"It doesn't do us any good to say, 'Well, get 'em ready and send 'em to us,'" she said.
One of the main points of emphasis for Family and Children First when it comes to careers is job shadowing.
"That's a good way for them to find out if they would be interested in that career," said Cindy Davis, council administrator. "So the goal would be to have students do many, many job-shadowing experiences."
Davis said some school districts in the county require job-shadowing and career education, but Marietta currently does not. That's why so many of the group's resources are focused on providing opportunities for students in the city school district, although they serve all districts in the county.
Individual job-shadowing opportunities are available to Marietta students through the council, but they aren't required.
The district is looking at adding a career transition class for sophomores as a graduation requirement starting in the 2013-14 school year, and Superintendent Harry Fleming said a job-shadowing component may be considered as well. Something he expects to come out of the work of the Building Bridges group is an increased focus on college and career preparation in middle school, to get children thinking about their future options before they get to high school.
"By the time it dawns on them, it's sometimes too late to go back and correct the lack of preparation" with classes they needed to take, Fleming said.
Marietta Mayor Joe Matthews said the city provided a chance for children to be exposed to jobs in May by bringing back the student government day he held during his time in office from 1992 to 2003.
"They get a chance to see how government works," he said, noting there are more positions than the elected ones and municipal jobs like police and firefighters. "There's water, sewer, recreation and various departments in the city."
Werry noted the work being done through the Building Bridges effort isn't limited solely to Marietta, as area employers have current and potential future workers in all six of the county's districts.
"Whatever work we do can apply to all of the county schools," she said.
Werry said the group plans to meet again in September, and community members who wish to join in can contact her at 374-6500.