The Lake County High Schools Technology Campus's newest director, Steven Clark, said he'll focus on keeping track of emerging business trends and rapidly changing technology in his tenure starting later this year.
Clark said this generation's students face unique challenges, and that understanding how technology affects learning is important.
"The younger generation learns differently," he said. "We need to use technology to make it both interesting and viable for them."
Clark, currently director of the Technology Center of DuPage, formally takes over at the technology campus, located at the College of Lake County, on July 1. He and his wife, a principal in the Schaumburg school district, plan to move to the area.
The Lake County High Schools Technology Campus opened in 1977 in Grayslake. The school accepts high school students from 19 schools throughout Lake County and offers a program of career and technical education, including some courses that offer full college credit.
Clark said the tech campus has a long history and a good reputation throughout the state, and he looks forward to establishing relationships with the students and learning about their communities.
"This is a chance to put a new set of eyes on a program that has been excellent in the past and make it more so as it moves into the future."
The tech campus held an open house recently to welcome Clark, who said he would like to expand its dual credit system, in which high school credit is paired with college credit for the same classes.
"This puts money in the pockets of parents struggling with college fees," he said.
Clark feels that developing business partnerships also is critical.
"They can see what technology, equipment and soft skills will be necessary," he said.
Soft skills, he said, are general work skills used in almost any job—such as working with other people, following orders intelligently and learning to behave professionally—as opposed to "hard" skills specific to a particular industry, like knowing how to take someone's blood pressure in the health care industry.
Clark said that, no matter how the job market changes, so-called "soft" skills will remain valuable.
Clark said it's crucial to keep track of labor market statistics and the changing technology demands to keep the curriculum as current as possible. He also plans to survey the students themselves.
"What was successful for their parents may not be what's right for these students," he observed.
Clark says he is excited by the opportunities presented at the Lake County campus, but plans to make "no major decisions until I get used to the culture. I want to take at least six months before recommending anything to the board of directors."