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Jefferson County Public Schools received its apprenticeship certification from the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Jan. 18, 2019. JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio and Derrick Ramsey, secretary of the cabinet, announced the program during an assembly at Ballard High School.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Some Jefferson County Public Schools students soon won’t have to travel far for their apprenticeships.

The district announced a new apprenticeship program Friday that will give JCPS students opportunities to get hands-on experiences in various district-level jobs, such as in graphic design and early childhood education.

Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio, who spoke alongside state and local officials during a presentation at Ballard High School, said the idea to offer apprenticeships at JCPS came as district officials recruited local businesses to partner with the Academies of Louisville.

Derrick Ramsey, commissioner of Kentucky’s Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, presented the district’s apprenticeship certification during Friday’s event.

Pollio said students would be offered apprenticeships at JCPS throughout the school year as they keep up with their studies in core classes and in their chosen career pathways.

“They can now practice that in an actual job opportunity,” Pollio told reporters.

Pollio said the district hopes to pay students through its apprenticeship program, although some may earn school credit for their work.

“We think it’s a great opportunity for students to have paid apprenticeships,” he said, noting that the district could eventually hire some of the students who participate in the program.

JCPS also celebrated the rapid expansion of its Academies of Louisville program, which began with 13 business partners last year and now boasts more than 100. Through that initiative, students enroll in career paths, learn through curricula designed around those fields and gain additional experience at local businesses through internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing and other means.

Fourteen participants representing each school in the program spoke during Friday’s presentation, offering insight into their experiences learning more about their preferred career fields.

Folly Aboussa, a senior at Seneca High School and president of his class, has “a huge interest” in business and hopes to work in that field after he graduates. He said he’s landed an internship at KFC through his participation in Seneca’s law and information technology academy.

“This is a corporate business, KFC, all throughout Kentucky, and being able to sit there and see what goes on behind the doors is an amazing experience,” said Aboussa, who plans to attend Sullivan University after he graduates.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer predicted that the burgeoning Academies of Louisville program will help keep young people in the city as they graduate and enter the workforce.

“For years people talked about ‘brain drain,’ young people moving away,” Fischer said. “We’ve changed that narrative. It’s now brain gain.”

The program clearly has support from area businesses, said Greater Louisville Inc. President and CEO Kent Oyler. Just this week, two other companies expressed interest in partnering with a JCPS academy, and Oyler noted that 49,000 area job openings had been posted during the last three months of 2018.

One of the primary concerns of the local business community has been that high school graduates aren’t prepared to enter the workforce or move on the college. Oyler told reporters that the Academies of Louisville program is a key tool in reversing that trend.

“This program here, the Academies of Louisville, will do probably more than any other program to help drive that statistic up,” Oyler said of college and career readiness for JCPS graduates. “We need to be there where every kid is ready to go to work or go on to college.”

Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.

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