Manar speaks at Southern Macoupin Consortium press conference held at Staunton High School

Manar speaks at Southern Macoupin Consortium press conference

Staunton advanced welding student Andrew Wieseman demonstrates the school’s virtual welding system, which school superintendent Dan Cox stated was useful for students who may be apprehensive about using the real thing. Staunton agricultural science teacher and FFA sponsor John Davin added that the purpose of the system is to develop the muscle memory to prepare the student for a real-life situation. Coal Country Times photo by Jordan Grucza.

By JORDAN GRUCZA

Coal Country Times Reporter

School superintendents from the southern part of Macoupin County gathered at a press conference with State Sen. Andy Manar in the Staunton High School metal shop Tuesday to express their enthusiasm and share information regarding the $2 million state grant to the Southern Macoupin Consortium for Innovation and Career Pathways.

The grant, which will be used to implement new programs to open the door to new careers for students and fund technical education facilities, benefits the school districts of Carlinville, Staunton, Gillespie, Southwestern, Mt. Olive and Bunker Hill.

“Career pathways are an important step for our districts and rural communities,” said Staunton CUSD No. 6 district superintendent Dan Cox. “Moving forward, we’ll work together in analyzing how we design our high school programming to prepare our students for the future. I want to thank my colleagues who are here today for their willingness to break down the traditional laws of high schools so we can share our resources and ideas.”

Cox stated after the conference that the Macoupin school districts don’t have the resources or personnel alone to achieve these goals.

“What the superintendents, guidance counselors and principals in this consortium are doing are first looking at the career pathway standards,” Cox said. “We’re looking at what we can currently offer but also at what we can add.”

Additions the Staunton school district are presently looking at are adding eight TIG-capable welding booths and a virtual welding lab.

Among other comments from the superintendents, Carlinville school superintendent Becky Schuchman expressed that she was excited to use this program to “grow rural America” and to work collaboratively with other school boards, breaking a barrier that hasn’t ever been broken before.

Bunker Hill superintendent Todd Dugan, in his second year in the district, stated that he has had students tell him they are “just surviving school until they can start life and start working.” Dugan stated that this grant will help put an end to that.

“Six Macoupin County school districts are embarking on an aggressive plan to lead students to new career pathways after high school,” Manar said. “This will fill vacant jobs and give them the skills to compete in today’s job market. We need more vocational and technical education in our schools in Illinois.

“It’s a fact that I hear every day that there is an unprecedented shortage of skilled workers in the workforce,” Manar said. “Companies today are unable to hire enough of the welders, nurses, construction workers, medical technicians, computer scientists and truck drivers they need to be successful enterprises.

“This $2 million grant was included in this year’s fiscal year 2020 bipartisan and balanced state budget,” Manar said. “It is proof that I present to you today that good things can happen when Democrats and Republicans can put their political differences aside and decide to work together for a change.”