When a nurse cares for you at one of Lake Houston’s hospitals, there’s a pretty good chance that nurse is a graduate of Lone Star College.
“We graduated 306 nurses last year, the third largest graduating class of any college in Texas,” said Amos McDonald, vice chancellor of external affairs for the Lone Star College System. McDonald spoke at the Lake Houston Chamber’s annual Education Outlook luncheon April 18 at Kingwood Country Club.
“How can we create the right jobs for our students?” McDonald asked. “We listen to companies to find out who they’re hiring and what their needs are. That tells us what training and educational programs we need to develop.”
In addition to nursing degrees, Lone Star has developed workforce degrees and certificates for jobs in the oil and gas field, information technology, transportation, and the construction trades, to name just a few.
“Skilled truck drivers and construction workers are in demand. We offer certification for those positions,” McDonald said. “We’re working with Harris County Commissioner Jack Cagle to develop a park ranger program. Cyber security is another program that we’re developing.”
McDonald recalled former Texas Governor Rick Perry’s appeal for a degree that could be offered for less than $10,000.
“You can get a wonderful education at many of our fine Texas universities that will cost you $100,000 or more,” McDonald said. “The question, of course, is what is your potential for earning after you receive that degree? We can offer many of those same degrees and certifications at Lone Star College for under $10,000.”
While McDonald focused on Lone Star’s reputation as third in the state in the number of nurses graduated, Humble ISD Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Fagen centered her presentation on creating the portrait of the Humble ISD graduate.
“There was a time when assembly lines were cool,” Fagen said, “but they’re not cool now, and we can’t be preparing our students for that kind of work.” Instead, Fagen focused on businesses and asked, “What are you looking for in your future workers? What is the portrait of the future Humble graduate?”
The Dream Team, a group of parents, business people, students and educators, began setting the foundation for that graduate portrait. The district then created an online survey and invited everyone in the community to share their thoughts.
“Eighteen themes emerged from that survey,” Fagen said, “including critical thinking, communication, personal responsibility and incorporating technology. From this foundation, we’ll continue down the path to figure out what the Humble ISD graduate looks like.”
“Safety, teacher competency and challenges from the State of Texas are additional issues that Humble ISD must focus on,” she said.
“We’ve learned a lot about school safety since 1999,” Fagen said. “Every time something happens, we learn something new that we can use. This is important because Humble ISD is developing a good safety foundation.”
The district also recognizes the importance of keeping teacher compensation competitive to attract and retain good teachers.
“We recently offered our teachers summer learning opportunities,” Fagen said, “expecting that 70 or maybe a hundred teachers would participate.”
There was an overwhelming response and more than 1,000 Humble ISD teachers will join in the summer program.
Then there are the challenges created by the State of Texas.
“Teachers were invited to propose improvements to the new ‘A through F’ grading system,” Fagen said, but boiling all these suggestions into a final recommendation will be difficult.
One suggestion from the state to improve a school’s grade would be to create a pre-K program. “If we create a pre-K program, we get a ‘bump’ in our grade,” Fagen said, “but this is an unfunded mandate. Humble ISD would have to pick up the cost.”
The next chamber luncheon, the annual Transportation Outlook, will be held May 16, 11:30 a.m., at Kingwood Country Club. A panel of transportation chiefs and experts will discuss mobility in rapidly growing Lake Houston. For more information or to register, call 281-446-2128 or visit lakehouston.org.
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