“This way to the Electrician Program!” called out the signholder as a large group of high school students followed behind and headed over to Building B on the Bellingham Technical College campus. The electrician program was one tour choice of nearly 30 offered to high school students visiting campus for the BTC Tour Day 2015. Other groups toured programs in Culinary Arts, Welding Technology, Veterinary Technician, Nursing, Mechanical Engineering, Radiologic Technology and Automotive Technology to name just a few.
During the electrician program tour, BTC instructors Brad Willbrandt and William Wells gave sweeping overviews of the electrician field of study as current BTC students worked busily around them installing electrical systems in onsite replicated home construction in front of the school group. The high school students listened intently to the career opportunities available to those with a certificate in this field, learned the high demand and high wages associated with it, and viewed firsthand how these students learned by doing.
While students had time for three tours as well as visits to program information tables during their BTC campus visit that particular morning, BTC Tour Day is only one of several opportunities throughout the school year for those interested in the trades. With the support of Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers, career/vocational guidance assistants and the counseling staff in our schools, students are given career exploration assessments that might identify them with interest in the trades. These students are then encouraged to participate in tour days, try-a-trade events or attend the Northwest Career and Technical Academy (NCTA) in Mt. Vernon or the satellite program located at Meridian High School. Every school year, nearly 60 district students attend the NCTA.
Jeff Tetrick, director of Career and Technical Education, says the district continually strives to develop ways to promote skilled and technical careers. By working with our education partners and creating more dual credit opportunities, students can get a jump start into the skilled and technical programs after graduation.
“With an aging workforce for skilled labor in our state and not enough skilled and technical workers to fill future open positions,” Tetrick says, “Bellingham Public Schools is committed to support students interested in pursuing skilled and technical careers through strong partnerships with Bellingham Technical College, Northwest Career and Technical Academy, and through development of our own Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses.”
“This commitment supports The Bellingham Promise outcomes for developing students who are skilled users of technology and trades people, preparing them to become employable in high-wage, high-demand areas, while earning industry recognized post-secondary certificates.” The next opportunity this school year will be the Try-a-Trade event that will take place in February 2016 at BTC. Students participate for in two 90-minute sessions alongside current BTC students in the program of their choice deepening their interest and knowledge further.
As visioning and planning is underway for both Options High and Sehome High, Tetrick sees a bright future for CTE programs in our district. “New CTE spaces will be designed with flexibility in mind to allow programs to adapt as industry trends change,” he says.