Advanced Career Curriculum Pilots Virtual Mentoring Program

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A pilot group of 10 high school classrooms that are participating in the Southern Regional Education Board’s (SREB) Advanced Career (AC) curriculum is tapping into new expertise via virtual mentors from Siemens and National Instruments Corporation.

Students who take AC pathway courses complete hands-on, project-based assignments while they study college-readiness academic content. They work in teams to research and develop solutions to project problems, then present their findings. Each four-course pathway is developed with direct industry involvement and allows students to communicate with and ask questions of experienced professionals.

SREB is establishing an online network of mentors from approved companies, which currently includes Siemens and National Instruments. SREB intends to attract more mentors from companies in high-demand, high-wage fields that are important to state and national economies.

Mentors are not a substitute for teachers and do not directly help the teams solve problems. Instead, they are content specialists who support student teams with advice and counsel. Students can request feedback about the problem statement, design solution, research findings, final report and presentations. Weekly communications are monitored through teachers email accounts.

Bruce Hamrick, who leads ACs integrated production technologies curriculum at the Carver Career and Technical Center in Charleston, West Virginia, hopes virtual mentoring will help his students gain a better understanding of class projects and how each relates to work in a manufacturing setting. “I hope that it helps my students develop better communications skills as well as [gain] a better understanding of 21st-century skills needed for careers and/or postsecondary education.”

Hamrick adds: “I do think that the students will get real-world experience by establishing communications with a mentor in the industry. It will help encourage and motivate students.”

Corporate involvement with high schools has proven to be a win-win-win for schools, students and participating industries. The pilot is being conducted in four AC pathways: clean energy technology, energy and power, innovations in science and technology, and integrated production technologies. The other four AC pathways are aerospace engineering, global logistics and supply chain management, health informatics, and informatics. SREB and states are recruiting virtual mentors for these pathways. Each pathway offers four courses of increasingly challenging industry-based projects for students in grades nine through 12 and continued learning in work and postsecondary 9-14 programs.