28 Basically Blount 2018 “Our focus is on making sure our students are career-ready,” says Sharon Anglim, Maryville City Schools’ director of communica- tion. “Our schools offer experi- ences, certifications and course work that support that readiness, whether the student ultimately plans to go on to college, the military or straight into the work- force.” As Blount County has continued to attract new businesses to the area and seen established indus- tries expand, Maryville schools have adapted to that growth by offering experiences and program- ming designed to prepare gradu- ates for careers in the fields where demand for workers has increased the most. In particular, the system has aligned its Career Technical Education programs to match the criteria that local employers like Denso Manufacturing, for ex- ample, are using to find qualified workers. Meanwhile, programs like culi- nary arts, nursing, criminal justice, engineering, computer network- ing and web design, to mention just a few, are also helping qualify graduates to meet the demand for those respective positions at the local level. “We’re giving our students op- portunities at the early stages to explore what kinds of jobs are ac- tually out there and to help them hone in on the ones that interest them the most,” Anglim says. The growing culinary program at Maryville High School blends traditional classroom instruction with hands-on work, and, thanks to the program’s operational café, students who may not be inter- ested in pursuing a job in food preparation can still gain valuable experience as servers or kitchen support staff. STEM is Emphasis at Blount County Schools All you have to do is look at the industries that have experienced the most growth in our nation to see where the highest demand for new workers lies. Blount County Schools has been doing just that, which is why its curricula continue to evolve to help gradu- ates meet that demand. In recent years, the system has stepped up its development of coursework in the science, technology, engineer- ing and math (STEM) disciplines. “Emphasizing STEM courses is the best way to prepare students for the high-skill, high-wage, high-demand jobs of the future,” says Jennifer Moore, Blount County Schools’ director of sec- ondary instruction. “A lot of the jobs we’re preparing students for touch on a STEM field, includ- ing medical, manufacturing and computer technology.” It’s an approach that spans both the Career Technical Educa- tion path and the college-bound track, and it permeates every level of the system, from elemen- tary to high school. For example, one of the county’s elementary schools receives materials and cur- ricula from the Civil Air Patrol and utilizes hands-on activities related to space and aviation to reinforce STEM principles. At one of the system’s middle schools, the advanced-learners program (gifted students) has a STEM focus. This prepared stu- dents to participate in the Future City Competition in 2016 where they designed a project envision- ing what the cities of the future will be like and how they will be impacted by technology. One of Blount County’s high schools earned the system special recognition in 2016 by winning a gold medal at the prestigious National SkillsUSA Competition. The school’s robotics students designed, built and programmed robots capable of carrying out tasks related to urban search and rescue. “STEM is interdisciplinary, but it’s a collaborative and problem- solving-based approach,” Moore explains, adding that while STEM can be its own program of study, its principles and philosophies are also incorporated into the broader curriculum throughout Blount County Schools. Photo courtesy of the Daily Times READYTOLEARN