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Making Academics Count: educating students, businesses

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Bill Keyes, a local lawyer, has agreed to participate in the Making Academics Count program. Keyes will be doing more extensive background checks on those seeking possible employment. Lawyers are not the only ones participating though. Local businesses, ranging from big business to fast food eateries, are also participating in the program.

The business and education communities have come together to help create better student-employees.

Making Academics Count is a new incentive program that spreads the benefits to both parties. Businesses will get better-equipped employees. Schools will graduate better prepared students.

That is, theoretically speaking.

The "initiative" program is a response to a survey that was done about seven years ago with the business community. Employers felt the education system was not producing students that were qualified for the work force, according to Marsha Gaylard, president of the Chamber of Commerce.

Students will have the opportunity to sign a release form allowing employers access to the records.

Making Academics Count is also educating the business community that all diplomas are not the same.

"Before this program, many Pike County employers were unaware of the fact that there are 10 different types of high school diplomas awarded in Alabama. The type of high school diplomas awarded measures the student’s proficiency and academic competencies.

"An employer, unaware of this may repeatedly select diploma standards for employment students whose diploma choices represent certain skill levels that do not match their employers’ needs- believing that all high school diplomas are the same," said Evelyn Watson, project director for School-To-Work/School-To-Career.

Making Academics Count is also related to the School-To-Work/School-To-Career program, which allows students to choose an endorsement diploma. Culinary arts, global studies and business and finance are current endorsements available, and students are able to attend classes related to their choice.

Local businesses are agreeing to join the program and will be able do a more extensive background check on possible applicants. An employer will now be able to know whether the person surpassed minimum requirements or if they were content with mediocrity.

"An employer will be much more equipped with more information before a student comes to work. That information will be available during the hiring process at the point of application instead of after the student is hired. It’s called hiring smart.

"This will hopefully motivate students to work hard in school. Often time students do not make the connection with employment and school performance. We want a diploma to mean more than just getting a piece of paper," said Shirley Bodkin, project director for the national program.

"If a student presents a regular high school diploma, that means they met the minimum requirement. Now employers are going to probing just a little bit more. They’ll be asking, ‘Just what kind of dip do you have?’" Bodkin said.

The program is a year-round operation, so applying for a job during the summer will not be a loophole for job applicants looking for a way around it.

"We’re asking businesses to require school records and attendance when considering hiring someone age 16 to 22. This way they can see what type of attendance the applicant had in high school, whether they were tardy 58 times or what.

"If they were tardy to class, they will be tardy to work," Watson said.

The various forms of diplomas will let employers know what type of academic background the applicant has while a transcript shows absences and tardies.

"We are concerned about Troy area employers attracting and retaining the best possible workforce available," said Marsha Gaylard, president of Pike County Chamber of Commerce.

"Currently, our school system offers ten different types of high school diplomas. Each diploma represents the student’s proficiency in basic core subject areas. It is our belief that if young people make the connection between their high school records and employment, it would dramatically increase the importance of subject grades and attendance for Pike County students," Gaylard said.

There are ten different types of diplomas that a high school senior can obtain: Alabama High School Diploma, Alabama High School Diploma with Career Technical Education Endorsement, Alabama with Advanced Academic Endorsement, Alabama High School Diploma with Advanced Career Technical Education Endorsement, Alabama High School Diploma with Academy Endorsement, Alabama Adult Alternative Diploma, Alabama Occupational Diploma, Alabama Certificate of Course Completion, Alabama Certificate of Graduation/Attendance and AISA Regular/Advanced Diploma.