The Independence School District plans to adopt a “career academies” approach in its three high schools, shaping the curriculum for some students to meet the needs of local employers.

The initiative, announced today by the district and the Independence Chamber of Commerce, is a partnership with Ford Next Generation Learning, part of the Ford Motor Corp. Ford NGL has implemented this program in 17 other cities around the country, and consultant Carl Leiterman said it’s proven to keep kids in school and raise standardized test scores.

He said Ford NGL has looked over Independence carefully – school leadership, current programs, business leadership – and said there’s a strong foundation on which to build.

“You are a good community,” he said at today’s Chamber of Commerce luncheon. “We want to take you to that greatness level.”

Ford NGL and school officials will survey students about their interests and involve local employers as they spend the next six to nine months developing a specific plan. Officials did not give a cost or source of funding for these changes, saying that’s still to be worked out.

Other districts, Leiterman said, have started small and added more and more career academies over time. Superintendent Dale Herl said it’s likely the district will start with one academy, focused on engineering, for all three of its high schools.

The chamber said this program will help keep major employers in the area and let them expand. Board president Stan Shurmantine specifically thanked not only Ford but Bayer Crop Science and ATK, which runs the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant, for their involvement in the process so far.

Many employers have expressed worries about finding workers with the right skills.

“Good-paying, sustainable jobs are going wasted,” Leiterman said.