New career and technical education programs

By Tyler Leeds The Bulletin

Central Oregon schools have received more than $700,000 for career and technical education (CTE) as part of a nearly $9 million grant program run by the Oregon Department of Education and Bureau of Labor and Industries.

Redmond School District took in one of the program’s largest awards, $474,955, while Bend-La Pine Schools received $268,045. Senate Bill 498, passed during the 2013 state legislative session, set aside $8.87 million for CTE, money which will reach 90,000 students in 23 districts.

Sisters and Jefferson County were among 38 grant applicants that did not make the cut.

“Over the past decade, districts have had to make challenging financial decisions, often reducing or eliminating CTE programs,” said ODE Communications Director Crystal Greene. “We know CTE programs play a vital role in engaging students and helping them to prepare for the transition to higher education and the workforce; so it’s very exciting to have such a significant reinvestment in these programs.”

While CTE programs often are associated with images of a shop class devoted to teaching practical skills, Greene said CTE education is aimed not only at kids who aspire to join the workforce after graduation, but for those eying an associate or bachelor’s degree.

“It’s now certainly broader than what people may think, as kids can learn about renewable energy, engineering, healthcare and other fields that lead to a higher education program,” Greene said. “But by offering these areas in high school, students can engage the field and see if they really see themselves in such a career.”

Redmond’s program, “Manufacturing the Future of Redmond,” aims to introduce students to the city’s expanding manufacturing industry.

“When you talk to a high school student about the industry, they don’t necessarily understand, and they often think of someone cutting into metal,” said Redmond High School principal Nicole MacTavish, the program’s director. “We’re trying to demystify the field; to show them a facility and talk about 3-D printers and how they could be working on building airplanes.”

The program, which the district hopes to begin offering this fall, will allow students to earn a certificate in manufacturing proficiency.

Another track allows students to earn an associate degree in manufacturing from Central Oregon Community College within one year of graduation; a third will lead to a bachelor’s degree from the Oregon Institute of Technology within two years.

A major component of all three tracks will be work experience at sites in Redmond. To this end, the grant will fund a program administrator who will work as a liaison between the school district and field sites, while providing a resource for students considering which track to pursue.

Jon Stark, Redmond manager for Economic Development for Central Oregon, notes the program will not only solidify, but spark further growth, of Redmond’s manufacturing industry.

“The availability of a skilled and trained workforce is the number one consideration for site selection in this field; so the program will go a long way in recruiting new firms,” said Stark. “We were ecstatic to be involved, as the demand is there, the school district wanted it, so the timing was perfect.”

Bend-La Pine’s program, “Engineering the Future of Power and Energy,” also is tied explicitly to a growth industry.

“The program is going to be about engineering and energy and how you pull those two together in areas like solar, wind, electric cars and charging stations,” said Bend High Principal H. D. Weddel, the program’s director. “When you start thinking about where our future energy will come from and what our kids will need to know to be prepared for careers in energy, these are the best things we can offer to prepare our students.”

As with the Redmond program, there are plans to bring students into professional settings where they can put their skills to use.

“It’s going to be great working with both people in the industry and the community, giving students the chance to do hands-on work, which I think is a great way to excite them,” Weddel said.

The district will design the courses and hire a dedicated instructor, with plans to begin offering the program this fall.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, tleeds@bendbulletin.com