Originally created 08/24/02

Group offers computer help



It takes a different type of reading and writing class to prepare high school students for the job market - according to the CSRA School to Work Partnership, a coalition of business and education leaders.

The partnership is offering to pay for a computer-based curriculum for local school systems that will increase vocational training and work-force readiness.

The KeyTrain curriculum includes courses in eight areas, such as applied math, observation and writing, and tailors the students to business situations so they can learn basic skills to help in the job market.

The program teaches and tests students on everything from the simple, such as listening and making a change, to the complex, such as interpreting graphs and charts.

Linda Sliger, the program manager for CSRA School to Work, said the federally funded group is willing to buy the computer software for all 19 high schools in Richmond, Columbia, Lincoln, McDuffie and Burke counties.

The partnership has about $200,000 in grant money to spend on its four program goals, one of which is finding a method of assessing vocational skills.

"We need to make sure that when (students) come out of high school, they have some marketable skills that are valuable to businesses in this community," Ms. Sliger said.

Sheila Boyington, the president of Thinking Media, the company that sells the software, said the cost of the program depends on order volume but varies between $5,000 and $10,000 per high school.

Deb Woolley, a spokeswoman for the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, said the assessment system, which was introduced in the state in 1999, has caught on in the business sector there.

"When I go around and talk to human resource people, they've become very familiar with it," she said.

Through the system, employers can test job candidates on the eight skill areas to see whether they are qualified, and both sides have an identical grading scale to work with.

Ms. Sliger said the partnership is looking for more funding to provide some companies with free job profiling tests to get them using the system.

"If you can get them interested, then they'll see the need to continue it," she said. "So, we're hoping to find enough funding to do all of it."

Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (706) 823-3227 or vicky.eckenrode@augustachronicle.com.