When Jay Bomberger enters college next fall, he'll have skills beyond the three R's.
Bomberger, 17, is spending his senior year at Lawrence High School attending school in the morning and working as an office clerk for an LHS department in the afternoon.
"I love this," he said. "I am missing out on some things. I don't get to see my friends as often as I used to. But I have a good income and fixed hours."
Bomberger is part of a program called office education. The courses teach skills such as computer literacy, typing, business communication and other skills that would help him enter the work force directly after high school.
LHS offers several such vocational programs besides office education. Other programs offered include agriculture, home economics and technical and applied science.
"We have a lot of students who graduate and continue to work at the jobs they held while in our program," said Helen Seeley, director of marketing education. "They work their way through college at these positions."
THE SKILLS the students learn in high school prepare them for entry-level positions with companies, Seeley said. About half of the 100 students enrolled in office education courses work after classes.
"There is more pressure now for these kids to have more skills as they leave high school," Seeley said. "They need computer skills, typing skills, communication skills. A lot of businesses require it."
Those are skills workers are lacking, a national survey shows. The Olsten Corp., a nationwide temporary personnel firm based in Westbury, N.Y., surveyed 402 companies in July. The firms identified writing as the most valuable skill in a worker, but said 80 percent of their employees at all levels needed to improve.
Seventy-five percent of the companies identified as a key problem interpersonal skills, such as speaking, listening and talking with customers and co-workers.
"OUR STUDENTS learn how to interview, how to write resumes," said Robert Eales, director of vocational and continuing education at LHS. "They have to know how to communicate. We're hearing a lot from businesses in the area that students aren't prepared to enter the work force."
But none of the vocational education courses at the high school is required for graduation, not even typing.
Recently the school added 38 new computer terminals to the program. Computer programs taught include Wordperfect and Microsoft Word. Students learn spread sheets, data bases and computer programming languages as well as word processing.
"We try to keep up with the technology so the students can," Seeley said. "They have to keep upgrading their skills to fit the market."
There are also night classes offered for adults, Eales said.
"We're getting a lot of adults coming back to pick up the skills our students now have."