Dr. Grego, Board Member Wikle headed to Germany to study career technical education model

Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Michael A. Grego and School Board Member Robin L. Wikle will travel to Germany next week to learn more about the German vocational/apprenticeship educational system. They will be joined by Paul Wahnish, Director of East Lake High School’s Academy of Engineering, and other Tampa Bay area educators.

The delegation will visit Germany between Jan. 13 and 18 to tour several academic institutions and industry headquarters. The trip will provide the opportunity to study Germany’s dual education system, which offers students hands-on experience in various fields. This model prepares German students for college, vocational schools, apprenticeships and careers after high school.

“This trip is a wonderful opportunity for us to learn more about Germany’s highly successful dual education model and consider which pieces we may want to implement or expand upon here in Pinellas County,” Grego said.

One of the district’s goals is to provide relevant career exploration experiences for all students, Grego said.

“A sound educational system is the fuel for economic development and for attracting high-salary industry to our county,” he said.

The Pinellas Education Foundation is funding Pinellas County Schools officials’ trip, in its entirety. The nonprofit organization’s vision is that every student will be prepared for life after high school, whether the choice is to attend college, to enter the workforce or to obtain technical training.

“We live in a global marketplace, and it is essential for businesses to stay abreast of benchmarks and practices of industry peers in other countries,” said Pinellas Education Foundation Chairman Jim Myers. “It keeps our skill sets current and elevates our competitive edge. We want the same for our schools and ultimately for our students.”

Wahnish, who participated in a similar trip in 2008, is also the founder of Career Technical Education Foundation Inc. (CTEF). The Pinellas County-based nonprofit career education foundation supports high school career academies throughout the southeast.

The number of German companies operating in the Tampa Bay region has grown 35 percent in the past four years, Wahnish said. The delegation will visit with several of those companies.

“The idea is to be able to give our students here in Pinellas County an opportunity to have a viable job and be an asset to the community,” Wahnish said. “Our goal at CTEF is changing the face of education today to meet the needs of tomorrow.”

Board Member Wikle said she is excited to bring back ideas and initiatives to share with her fellow board members.

“We do such a great job with our current career academies and Centers of Excellence that this could only give us further insight into other avenues of career and technical education,” Wikle said.