Team Tech Kaua‘i would brings high-tech help to Kaua‘i’s public-school students

LIHU‘E — An ambitious program that links government, local schools and the Kaua‘i high-tech industry was unveiled Wednesday by Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste.

The Team Tech Kaua‘i program is scheduled to host a forum Wednesday, Oct. 29 at the Kaua‘i Veterans Center in Lihu‘e, to start a relationship between some of Kaua‘i’s high-tech firms and the island’s 15 public schools.

But the adopt-a-school program is only one of the mayor’s proposals to reverse the county’s “brain-drain” of students who believe that the only way to get a good-paying job is to leave the island.

“In the future, we will have quite a need for high-tech employees on Kaua‘i,” said Baptiste. The group has a “vision that whatever direction our economy goes, we need to get our kids prepared. We need to give them a chance to compete for these jobs.

“The expansion of our economy is only good when it benefits people who live here,” said Baptiste. “The challenge came in from (U.S.) Senator (Dan) Inouye. He has put the pressure to get something done.”

From tracking high-school graduates to a “tech on wheels” bus to bring science equipment to schools, the mayor’s office and a cooperative between members of the state Department of Education, business leaders, the Kaua‘i Economic Development Board, the county Office of Economic Development, the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility, and the National Tropical Botanical Garden are putting together this comprehensive program.

“We can use it as a template for all our economic-development strategies as we move forward,” the mayor said.

The mayor said Team Tech hopes each school will be sponsored by one of the 31 high-tech and engineering firms invited to attend the Oct. 29 meeting. At the forum, representatives of each school will present their schools’ math, science, and technology goals and needs, as well as a student presentation. The companies will then have the choice of schools with which to work. To help the firms and schools get together, the group has a number of ideas that the two can use to get students excited about science and math.

PMRF and NTBG have both agreed to adopt all 15 public schools already, encompassing students from kindergarten through 12th grade, said Mary Lu Kelley, Kaua‘i program manager of Oceanit Laboratories, one of Hawai‘i’s largest and most diversified science and engineering companies in Waimea. She is also a committee member of the Adopt-A-School program.

The Adopt-A-School program will continue throughout the school year, and school leaders will ask company officials to spend two to four hours with students each month.

“Each partnership will meet once a month to implement activities and projects that will promote awareness, exploration and preparation as it relates to possible high-tech employment,” according to the Adopt-A-School program coordinators in a statement.

Some ideas that the program will cover could be: career days, guest speakers, science demonstrations, new clubs, job-shadowing opportunities, awards programs, and Web site development, according to the program statement. Their hopes for the program include: increased state assessment scores; increased numbers of Kaua‘i students entering and completing post-secondary programs; increased numbers of Kaua‘i residents hired by high-tech companies on Kaua‘i; and expanded numbers of high-tech businesses on Kaua‘i.

In addition to Adopt-A-School, the program has some other exciting programs to help Kaua‘i students transition to high-paying jobs, the mayor said. Two of them involve Kaua‘i Community College.

The high-technology education and training project visiting lecturers program would coordinate with KCC to bring experts in technological fields to lecture at both KCC and some of the high schools, said Clifford Tanaka, a Trex employee and the co-chairman of the project. The program would get visiting lecturers to speak to KCC students for two hours a day for two weeks.

Tanaka said he hoped that the combination of visiting lecturers would create a class for KCC students so that KCC could offer an associate’s degree in electronics, with a specialty in photonics. Photonics is one area where employees are needed with the expansion of PMRF and the Westside technological community, he said.

The other program is to expand KCC to offer associate’s degrees in engineering technology, and to coordinate with the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and Manoa to offer students the opportunity to take advanced classes while at KCC, said Helen Sina of KCC. This would expand KCC’s coordination with the UH College of Engineering, and allow for expansion of the Running Start program, which allows high-school students to take college-level courses while still in high school.

“We want to create excitement that there is actually something there for people” interested in high-tech jobs, said Sina.

Other programs would create a high-tech job fair at PMRF next year, create a Web site that would coordinate all technical and engineering jobs on Kaua‘i, and a program to keep track of all Kaua‘i’s high-school graduates.

A science bus that would drive around the island, giving students the opportunity to work in a mobile library, is also projected. Organizers of that program are looking for funding.

Staff Writer Tom Finnegan may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 226).

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