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Schools urged to promote career programs

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With federal funds drying up in three years, school districts need to stick to their vision for and strengthen community involvement in School-to-Careers programs.

That is the advice of J.D. Hoye, former director of the National School-to-Work Office and keynote speaker at the fourth annual School-to-Careers conference Thursday at Utah Valley State College."Don't, for goodness sake, wait for (the federal government) to give you the idea of where you should go," Hoye told about 500 educators and work force representatives. "It's on us to not be floating with the winds. Take a position . . . and stick with it."

Utah is one of 39 states implementing School-to-Careers programs, aimed at easing the transition from the classroom to the workplace or other educational environments. Such programs came out of need to equip students with modern skills for a competitive world economy.

The program receives federal seed money - $1 billion so far - to develop such systems under the 1994 School-to-Work Opportunities Act, Hoye said.

"It's growing up in my mind because of the move from a federal agenda to a community idea," the Maryland resident said in an interview. "That gives a much greater hope for its sustainability."

Programs such as business partnerships were planted in Utah in 1990, years before federal funding was available. Programs are unique to individual school districts.

In the St. George area, representatives of the Department of Workforce Services have set up in high school career centers for eight years, said Sandy Goulden, employment counselor for the department. There, students can get advice, witness employer presentations and participate in job shadowing.

"We're trying to make school so much more relevant," said Goulden, who presented the program at a workshop. Other workshops ranged from teacher-business internships to subconscious gender practices limiting student choices.