January 17, 2000
00-05

Jennifer Tanner
Communications Specialist

VSU Cooperative Education earns grant to expand work-based learning

Valdosta State University's Office of Cooperative Education was recently awarded a $74,420 federal grant to help better prepare students for workplace challenges of the 21st Century.

VSU's "School to Career" grant comes through The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), which bestowed nine awards totaling $672,533 to post-secondary institutions through a national competition. ORISE is managing the awards and project under an arrangement with the National School-to-Work office (NSTWO).

The goals of the awards are to engage institutions of higher education with demonstrated expertise in work-based learning and school-to-work systems, and to encourage, promote, and build upon local efforts in expanding work-based learning for high school students. The slate includes nine baccalaureate institutions, 10 community or technical colleges, and 40 high schools throughout the country.

VSU has more than 1,300 students participating in cooperative education, structured internships and service learning each year. Expanding on this 15-year co-op program, the Tech Prep Consortium, and existing work-based learning programs, this project will focus on increasing work-based learning opportunities for high school students and increasing the number who enroll in baccalaureate institutions. Elements of this project include opportunities for high school students to job shadow college co-op students at their work sites, the Teacher in Industry program designed to provide educators with up to 20 hours of experience in the workplace, summer internships, assistance with Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) preparation, and student visits to college classes in their field of interest. VSU is exploring ways to move high school students with work-based learning experience directly into the VSU co-op program.

To meet these goals, VSU is partnering with Valdosta Technical Institute, the Berrien, Brooks, Cook, Echols, Lanier and Lowndes County school systems and the Valdosta City Schools system.

"We're trying to make a smooth transition for students to go from high school to higher education institutions, and then on to work," said Lynne Wilson, director of vocational education for Lowndes County Schools and a member of the grant writing team.

"I feel we're extremely fortunate to be one of nine institutions in the nation to receive this significant grant," said Dr. Hugh C. Bailey, VSU president. "We must encourage students to begin planning for their careers while still in secondary school. This program will enable the Cooperative Education Office at Valdosta State University to work closely with high schools and technical schools in the region to achieve that goal."

"The theme here is partnership," said Don Parks, director of VSU's Office of Cooperative Education. "We have a wealth of experience embodied in the high school vocational education coordinators. By partnering through VSU's co-op program, we strengthen the educational experience for students."