- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 4, 2014

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Ford Motor Co. is expanding a pilot program with Jefferson County public high schools that will mean more students are offered career programs such as engineering and manufacturing.

The Courier-Journal (http://cjky.it/1g7fOpx) reports Ford is announcing on Tuesday that Louisville is being designated as a “next generation learning community,” and the initiative will be expanded from a handful of high schools to 16.

Cheryl Carrier, director of the initiative for the Ford Motor Co. Fund, the company’s philanthropy arm, says the company will provide expertise and $100,000 that will enable teachers to connect with industry advancements, divide students into groups for project learning and expand mentoring and job shadowing.

In exchange, industries including Ford will get high school graduates who are better prepared for the increasing number of high-tech jobs.

“It’s important for Ford to have a well-educated, motivated workforce,” she said.

The announcement comes as many manufacturers across the nation say jobs are going unfilled because there’s not enough skilled labor.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the designation will help the city attract employers offering high-paying jobs that require “a highly trained and skilled workforce.”

School Superintendent Donna Hargens said the initiative will make school more relevant for students.

Jeffersontown High School welding instructor Jerry Burke said he did a weeklong summer externship at Ford.

“The best thing that came out of it is you had core-content teachers who had never seen an area of manufacturing, and could see exactly what it was we were trying to make those students capable of doing,” he said.

Jim Allen, president of the Jefferson County Education Foundation, said the partnership will not just help students prepare for careers, but will improve learning by giving students a relevant, real-world focus.

“We don’t want the community to think it’s a trade-school approach. It’s so much more than that,” he said. “You’ve got the benefit of educational relevance. It adds meaning to math and chemistry.”

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Information from: The Courier-Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com