From Grocery Stores to Thrift Shops, Career Academies Find Homes In Unexpected Locations

grocery store open marketWhat we’re about to say is by no means fresh, relevant news, but we’ll remind you anyways: High school and community college career academies pay off (literally) when compared to many traditional high school programs.

According to Education Week, “researchers found that, even though career academy students are no more likely than peers from traditional high school programs to graduate and go on to college, they make more money eight years out of high school than students who do not attend academies.” This finding is the result of a fifteen-year long study tracking the trajectory of students who followed their instincts and chose a career academy.

Currently, there are over 8,000 career academies across the country, and results continue to show a proven impact on students’ future careers. Especially for students who are not as comfortable with traditional classroom settings, an environment dedicated to learning the skills of a trade or a specific career has proven to be fruitful. (You can read more here about career academy projects.)

Now here’s where the story gets interesting. When high schools decide to implement career academy models, those academies need to live somewhere. Many schools build completely new facilities or renovate their existing space to fit the demands of a career academy (labs, machines, etc.), but as evidenced in the Nebraska City School District’s solution to offering more career-based offerings, that just isn’t always the case.

Last week, KMA Land reported that the district has purchased the old Food Pride Grocery store building to offer academies in information technology, metals and manufacturing, and building and trades. City Superintendent Jeff Edwards says that “The Food Pride building had been for sale. There was a little grocery store in there after Food Pride Closed that lends itself to conversion into a school facility.”

In a fascinating turn of events, the grocery store is a perfect space to rehab for a career academy: “With all the freezers in there, the electrical service going into that facility is exactly what we need for manufacturing, or a metals lab with all the heavy equipment, and also the construction class. Then, the information technology part of that will be a computer lab. We didn’t have any electrical concerns going into there, so that’s going to help.” Who knew a grocery store could be such a perfect fit?

We rounded up a few other spaces across the country that have been the perfect match for a renovated career academy.

The Phoenix Career Academy: This career academy is a bit different, as it isn’t associated with a school district, but it does host a vocational program that assists with job placement skills. It’s located in historic downtown Brooklyn in two interconnected buildings, originally a paint and varnish factory. The building ended up being a perfect test project over two years for vocational students: Over 200 residents participated in the buildings’ reconstruction. “They received clinical support, safety and skills training, and the discipline of construction work.”

South Bend Career Academy: Last year, the South Bend Career Academy (which offers career-focused instruction in biomedical science, manufacturing, and engineering), expanded to offer career academy options to elementary students. So, they purchased the St. Vincent de Paul Society Building from the city of South Bend. The building originally hosted a thrift store and a Target store, but will now be open to any student in the state on a tuition-free basis for vocational training. 

Maccomb Community College: Originally a Farmer Jack’s grocery store, Michigan’s Maccomb Community College will partner with Wayne State University to offer a new Career Academy center that features an advanced battery system laboratory, computer science labs, mechanical engineering labs, and more. We imagine that it won’t look quite so much like a Farmer Jack’s after renovations are over…

Any we missed? Let us know!

photo credit: Pittsford Wegmans via photopin (license)