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Career Academy to host open house February 17

One of the hidden gems of the Butler County School System will be on display Saturday, Feb. 17 as Butler County Career Academy hosts an open house at Greenville High School.

The open house, to be held in the school’s cafeteria from 10 a.m. until noon, is a result of a budding partnership between the Career Academy and the Butler County Concerned Citizens organization.

For the uninitiated, Career Academy provides approximately 500 students in Butler County with vocational skills for career opportunities in culinary arts, welding, nursing, industrial maintenance and more.

Jennifer Burt, director of Butler County Career Academy, said that the seed for the open house was planted following a discussion with Kenneth Crum, president of Butler County Concerned Citizens.

“Mr. Crum had a desire to reach out to me to find out himself about the programs we offer,” Burt said.

“And when he came in and toured himself, he realized that this is something that some people in the community did not really have a knowledge of. And he wanted to see if we could do something in conjunction to basically open it up to parents, community members and so forth during a time when people weren’t necessarily at work.”

Burt admitted a bit of surprise that the program, now three years into its life, still went relatively unknown among some members of the community, though she attributes it to the decline of emphasis on vocational training in the past decade or two.

“As funding has declined over the years for vocational courses and technical schools, we’ve just become a more college-going society,” Burt said.

“Now that we’ve been able to open our center back up, and we’ve been able to refocus on what business and industry needs in our community, I think that people are just now coming around. You hear that the unemployment rate is at an all-time low, so I think people are becoming aware of the need for more skills or the need to be better skilled.”

Students and their parents are encouraged to attend the open house to learn about the academy’s various programs, but the open house is also for adults seeking to further their own education.

“For example, if we have night courses in the past such as welding, they may be interested in taking a course not for credit, but for themselves,” Burt said.

“And maybe if they just wanted to do it to see if its something that’s of interest to them, or something that might help them with their current job or maybe even in getting a future job.”

One of the major selling points of the Butler County Career Academy is the head start students receive upon their completion of the program.

Students are able to leave high school armed not only with their diploma, but also a credential allowing them to enter the labor market and get an entry-level position with the skills they’ve honed in Career Academy–all at zero cost to the students and their families.

Students can also earn dual enrollment college credit for courses such as welding, culinary arts and industrial maintenance.

Burt said that Butler County students earned 1,300 college credits during the previous school year.

But an intangible, but perhaps no less equal, value is that sometimes students complete the program and discover that it’s not what they wanted to do after all.

“I have people that ask me ‘what happens if my child spends three years here and they decide that’s not what they want to do?” Burt said.

And I say ‘then we have done no harm.’ I feel like I’ve still done you and them a service when they leave here and say ‘well, I’ve decided not to go into the medical profession.’ The more exploration that we can do on this side of graduation, the better off they are in the long run.”