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Monday, February 29, 2016

Catholic board expands manufacturing and technology programs at Assumption

The Windsor Star/Dave Waddell

Ironically, a day after the provincial government left Windsor out of its Innovation Corridor plans announced in last week’s budget, the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board unveiled new programming for Assumption Secondary School that emphasizes innovation and entrepreneurship.

The board will expand its existing aeronautics and robotics program at the school by adding advance manufacturing, coding and app development.

“We’re trying to be part of the solution,” said Paul Picard, WECDSB’s director of education.

“This ties into the whole Innovation Corridor concept. Times have changed and we’re trying to create a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.

“We’re going to force this down at the school level to Grade 7, depending on how successful we are, perhaps even lower. It’s important that younger students get exposed to these different career pathways.”

The board also plans to expand its existing International Baccalaureate program at the school to grades 7 and 8 should the proposed middle school be created at Assumption. An expanded arts portion of the IB program will be included in that.

Picard said some of the new offerings will appear in September.

Susan Friedl, a curriculum consultant and the co-ordinator of the board’s OYAP and Co-op programs, said experience has shown the effectiveness of exposing students early to different career pathways.

“Early exposure keeps students’ minds open and helps eliminate misconceptions,” Friedl said.

“We’re trying to respond to where the jobs are, especially locally. The primary area of growth is in the manufacturing centre.

“We’re trying to target the manufacturing sector with innovation. That’s what the sector is asking us for.”

Assumption Grade 12 student Elizabeth Moses knew nothing of the school’s robotics program until teacher Mike Costello invited her to join the robotics team.

“It opened another career pathway for me,” Moses said.

“I didn’t know if I’d even be suited for it. I had no background in it.”

Now, Moses plans to enrol in the robotics program at St. Clair College next fall.

Ben Skill, who has taken several tech courses at Assumption, applauds the direction the board is going in with more hands on experiences and more involvement with industry.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Skill, who will study electrical techniques at St. Clair in the fall.

“Kids really want to work with their hands.

“When I finish an essay all I have is a piece of paper. When I finish a project in the shop, I have a piece that I’ve created.”

The board plans to team up with industry and educational partners in the coming weeks to create a task force to design the program. It will include co-ops, apprenticeships and experts from industry visiting the classroom.

The coding and app development components will also tie into Apple’s iTunes University.

“One thing we don’t do well in education is listen to the marketplace,” Picard said.

“We want industry to tell us what they want to see in these programs. What kind of training and workforce do you want us pushing towards you?”

Picard said the board will take the information and fit it in within the parameters of the Ontario curriculum.

In creating a new hub at Assumption, Picard said the board expects to attract more students and ensure the long-term viability of the school.

“We want to provide big-time programming at the school,” Picard said.

“It’s already one of the best performing IB programs in the world. We’re creating the middle school IB program because parents have been telling us if we did that they’d bring their younger children for that too.”

Currently, there are 256 IB students attending Assumption out of a student body of 613.

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