Valley education, business leaders meet for career education summit

The Fresno BeeFebruary 4, 2014 

MTD CEK GOV VISIT

During a 2006 tour of Duncan Polytechnic High School in Fresno, then-Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger takes a closer look at wheel allignment equipment as automotive technology student Johnathan Vargas explains how it works. The governor was on a tour touting money included in his 2006-07 budget for vocational education.

CRAIG KOHLRUSS — The Fresno Bee Buy Photo

More than 100 business and education leaders met in Clovis on Tuesday to talk about making robust career-oriented education a priority in Valley schools.

The participants at the first Central Valley Career Technical Education Conference discussed how schools and companies can work together to get teens skills in high school so they're on the way to well-paying jobs after graduation.

"If something goes wrong with your home, if something goes wrong with your car, it's likely someone who went through a career technical education who helps you get back on the straight and narrow," George Railey, a vice chancellor at State Center Community College District, told the group.

The conference at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District building was hosted by the State Center Consortium, a group committed to improving relations between schools, businesses and colleges.

The group spent the morning in workshops focused on successful vocational programs and the political stumbling blocks they're facing.

In one session, Fresno County education administrator Valerie Vuicich said career programs are under pressure from all sides. Federal sequestration cuts, plus changes to how local programs are paid for, are concerning, she said.

The Local Control Funding Formula -- the education spending overhaul approved by lawmakers last year -- ends special grants for regional career programs typically sent to county offices and schools.

Those dollars will now be spread out across California districts and dropped into their general budgets, which Vuicich said puts certain career programs in jeopardy.

In another workshop, business executives touted partnerships they've developed with local school districts. Tracy Gill, service director for Future Ford of Clovis, said at least 15 Clovis Unified students have gone through his automotive technician program.

Gill said students get school credit for shadowing employees and learning how to do basic car repairs.

"They learn the tricks of the trade," he said. "Hands-on is just the best way in our industry."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6412, hfurfaro@fresnobee.com or @hannahfurfaro on Twitter.

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