SYRACUSE — To use the analogy of an automobile, the Career and Technical Education program of Pathways is shifting into a high speed gear. Course offerings have grown considerably in the last four to five years and will continue to expand even more.
And those associated with Pathways, more recently known as the Wawasee Area Career and Technical Cooperative, want more people in the local communities to know about the program and also to form partnerships with an increasing number of local businesses.
In an effort to help spread the word, a community tour was held Friday morning, Dec. 2, to show off some of the many CTE course offerings. A group of roughly 20 people representing local businesses such as Polywood, Jasper Plastics Solutions, Shiloh Industries, Polar Kraft, SEI Manufacturing and others attended.
Prior to the community members being divided into two groups to tour facilities, a meeting was held in the Warrior Room at Wawasee High School. During the meeting, Jon Everingham, Pathways director, and Kim Nguyen, former CTE director and now the WHS principal, spoke and shared why they believe there is such an urgent need to promote and expand CTE.
One video shown included a study done by Harvard University saying by the year 2018, only slightly more than 33 percent of jobs will require a four-year college or university degree. But nearly 60 percent will require middle skilled workers. The narrator noted the “college for all” mentality is becoming a thing of the past. Instead, the thinking should be “post high school credentials for all.”
Everingham said a big push will be made on social media, and also possibly TV commercials, to promote career and technical education. “Part of what we are up against, I believe, is perhaps not enough people know what we are doing here,” he said. He added more partnerships are being sought with local businesses too.
Nguyen said having students excel in academics is important, but only a certain percentage of students will do so. Others will struggle in that setting, but can do better if given opportunities for hands-on, project-based learning.
He said the recent donation of the former VFW Post building in Syracuse will allow for expansion of the welding program into more advanced levels and also allow for expansion into machining and tool and die. Discussions have also been held to integrate a shop for incoming freshmen who have been identified as at-risk students where they can help build wakeboards, snowboards and other types of boards. “We want to excite those kids as they come into the school,” he said.
During one of the tour stops at where the welding program is being held temporarily in the agriculture area, Nguyen noted an agreement has been reached with Lippert Components to have welding students, once they learn the skills needed, to complete projects on unfinished trailers.
He said administrators and teachers have envisioned the possibility of having students earn degrees they can transfer to a college upon graduation from high school. “That’s something we hope to do once we have enough programs to offer,” he said.
CTE areas toured were building trades, agriculture, culinary arts, engineering technology, automotive technology, radio and TV, marine/powersports and welding.