D200310 STEM

Austin Middle School student Aliyah Carmoega talks to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey about her STEM project during the governor’s tour on Monday. [JERONIMO NISA/DECATUR DAILY]

Jobs of the future will revolve around the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math, Gov. Kay Ivey told students at two Decatur schools, and it is vital they learn about career opportunities in those fields.

The Republican governor toured Austin Middle and the Career Academies of Decatur during a Monday morning visit, and the schools highlighted programs they say expose students to career options at an earlier age than in the past.

She touted Learning Blade, a statewide program in its first year that shows how all subjects, especially STEM and computer science, relate to careers.

“It’s a wonderful program to help young people explore career paths so they can find out at any early age what kind of careers are there and what they are interested in and what kind of materials and training they need to fulfill those careers,” Ivey said at Austin Middle after visiting with students.

"You are learning about jobs today that will be in the economy tomorrow. ... It is important that you dig in and find areas of interest and go forward. ... Hands-on (experience) any time with any subject matters. STEM is very important.  Those are the jobs of tomorrow. These young people are going to be leaders of tomorrow, employees of tomorrow.”

Dane R. Boyington and his wife Sheila, owners of the Chattanooga-based Learning Blade company that is in four states, joined Ivey on the Decatur tour.

“The point is to have a career goal. You can’t be what you can’t see,” Dane Boyington said. “If all you see in your community is just a very limited number of jobs, you can’t imagine yourself in other opportunities. Our goal is to help these kids imagine themselves doing other things, learn about those things. They work toward that.”

Austin Middle School students Ruby Arroyo, Payton Jones and Josh Brackin each said the STEM program at the school has opened their eyes to new career fields.

Sheila Boyington said Learning Blade offers project-based learning using everything from 3-D printers to pencils and rulers.

The program is in 100 state schools targeting fifth through ninth graders.

Austin High School senior Delroy Tulloch gave the governor’s tour group, which included State Superintendent Eric Mackey, a detailed update on the career academy, at the former Austin High School building on Danville Road Southwest, saying the practical experience the school offers has him “career ready.”

Tulloch said the school’s engineering and precision machine shop students work with NASA on specific projects. He said some parts made at the academy are flown into outer space.

“We make real parts for them, real tolerances, real applications,” said Tulloch, 17. “There’s no room for error, but room to learn. What we make here actually goes up into space. On projects like this, we apply what we learned. We’re coming out of here career ready.”

Tulloch showed the group his class ring, which he made in the school’s machine shop.

Career Tech Supervisor Shelton Cobb said the system has more than 25 programs that offer students career path options.

"We strive to make sure they have a plan after high school," Cobb said. "If they want to work right after high school, they can do that and achieve success. If they want to pursue college, they can do that.

"These programs aren't the old vocational school programs we think of. These are highly skilled positions in great need. It was great to have Gov. Ivey and the state superintendent here to see what we're doing."

Decatur City Schools Superintendent Michael Douglas said having Ivey and Mackey tour the schools speaks well for the program’s teachers and students.

“It’s a testament to what we’ve been doing here,” he said. “In just a couple of years with the career academy, we’re already a leader in the state with STEM. It shows people moving in here that their children can get a great education in terms of STEM in the Decatur City School system.”

Ivey toured the Cook Museum of Natural Science before visiting the schools Monday morning.

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mike.wetzel@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2442. Twitter @DD_Wetzel.

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