This column was originally published in the Gettysburg Times, February 13, 2020.

When someone has energy and passion for a cause, it’s contagious. Kim Jenkins is one of those people!

There’s a growing movement recognizing that a 4-year college degree isn’t the only post-secondary career route. That awareness is driving more and more attention to additional options available to today’s students.

In Adams County, Kim is helping to lead the charge. A counselor at Upper Adams Middle School, Kim talks excitedly about a recent conference she attended at HACC. It featured a dynamic speaker, Josh Davies from the Center of Work Ethic Development based in Denver.

“He was talking about the next decade. Sixty to 80% of the careers haven’t been developed yet, so we’re preparing students for a workforce that doesn’t exist yet. I was sitting there thinking about my students, because 10 years from now, our middle school kids taking the traditional route will be graduating from college and entering the working world,” Kim explains.

It planted a seed of an idea, and Kim is growing it into an event potentially planned for this fall. She wants to bring all Adams County middle school students, and possibly parents, together for a career awareness event. She would like to bring Josh Davies back to the area to speak and energize everyone, the same way he sparked her interest. And her fellow middle school counselor counterparts are on board with exploring this opportunity.

Deb Allison, middle school counselor at Littlestown puts it this way: “We are looking at how to enhance current career education practices and present students with more learning opportunities.”

We are grateful that Kim wants to dovetail efforts with our Alliance staff, since our workforce development efforts directly impact our future Adams County workforce. Five areas that we have identified as growth industries in Adams County include: manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture, tourism, and small businesses/retail. We continue to keep our fingers on the pulse of emerging careers as identified by the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

Kim is especially excited to share information about Adams County Tech Prep (Career and Technical Education, CTE) and Cumberland-Perry area Vocational Technical School (available to Upper Adams’ students). She’s seen the programs work, from welding to mechanics, culinary to carpentry, and more.

“The things these kids are doing, coming out of the programs and making money with zero debt, or companies providing additional training—I just love our vo-tech program, connecting our kids to careers, and it’s helping our communities get our middle class back,” Kim says.

We at the Alliance are excited to continue working with Kim and all middle school counselors, supporting their efforts, and impacting our future Adams County workforce.

“This is the shot in the arm I needed to get reenergized with public education,” Kim says. “There can be a lot of reasons why people want to get out of education, but to me, this is a reason to stay.”