The call for more career technical education opportunities is being answered. After years of pushing all students toward college, local school leaders have awakend and realized that college is not for everyone.
The new emphasis is on graduating students college or career ready – just as Duncan Polytechnical long has done at its campus in east-central Fresno.
Come fall, construction will begin on a charter school that will provide students throughout Fresno County and adjoining counties a chance to graduate and land a job with excellent pay and benefits, or enroll in college and major in a challenging discipline such as engineering.
The school’s name is CTEC, or the Career Technical Education Charter, and it will rise on the Kermit Koontz Education Complex at the intersection of Mariposa Street and Floradora Avenue, next to San Joaquin Memorial High School.
Jim Yovino, the Fresno County Schools superintendent, is excited about the school, which was approved by the Fresno County Board of Education by unanimous vote in November.
“This will be ideal for Fresno kids and ideal for Fresno County, as well as nearby counties like Madera,” Yovino says. “If a kid wants to be here, we will take them. We believe CTEC will really appeal to those kids who are seeking an alternative to traditional schools.”
I share his enthusiasm because the school represents progress. Not just in responding to the needs and aspirations of students, but also in demonstrating the good that can be accomplished when leaders team up on a project.
The charter has the full support of Fresno Unified School District, State Center Community College District and business leaders. When everything is in place, CTEC will provide career training in commercial construction and advanced manufacturing for high school students, as well as community college students.
Thus taxpayers will see their funding put to maximum use. Yovino says that he wants to see the lights on at the 10,000-square-foot shop “all the time.” Meaning: High school students will attend during the day, followed by community college students during the evening.
The shop will include welding and construction booths and will be adjoined by two classrooms. Outside the shop there will be a large area where students can hone their masonry skills.
The facility, including equipment, has an estimated cost of $6.7 million. State bond funding will provide $6 million, Yovino says, and he has secured a $500,000 donation from a local family that wishes to remain anonymous until the groundbreaking.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of CTEC involves dual enrollment. Though there are details that still must be worked out with the charter’s community college partners, Yovino foresees ambitious students earning up to 60 college credits and receiving an associate’s degree the same day they get their high school diploma. This is in addition to certificates earned along the way in construction and manufacturing.
“Our students will be heavily involved with classroom learning their first two years and then transition into job shadowing and apprenticeships as juniors and seniors,” Yovino says. “We want them to explore the world and see what’s out there, both in jobs and academics.”
Part of community
CTEC will have a strong civic engagement component. The goal is for students to apply the skills they have learned to neighborhood projects. In addition, Yovino says, the school will develop the soft skills that employers demand. CTEC graduates will know the importance of being polite, working as a team and showing up on time.
Crucial to a successful career tech program is having instructors who teach the most up-to-date techniques. Another key is to consistently survey the employment needs of local businesses. And the school must utilize the latest equipment. It makes no sense to teach yesterday’s skills on yesterday’s equipment for low-demand jobs.
Yovino says he is well aware that CTEC must always be relevant to students and prospective employers: “We will have a state-of-the-art school and outstanding instructors.”
Right now, Yovino feels a bit like a football coach who is starting a program from scratch.
The timeline calls for CTEC to be completed in March 2018 and for an initial class of up to 100 freshmen to be on campus for the fall semester. The school would like to add 100 incoming freshmen each subsequent year until reaching its capacity of 400.
“It’s a wrong perception, but many parents think that career tech isn’t for students who want to go to college,” Yovino says. “So sometimes I wonder where we will get 100 kids for the first class.”
That shouldn’t be a problem. A school as well-thought-out as this one should have families knocking down the doors to get their children in.
If you have a seventh-grader now, consider CTEC. Your child could be in the freshman class that opens the school Aug. 13, 2018. If you know of a seventh-grader, spread the word.
There are many options today for high school. And they are all worth exploring.
Registration: Begins spring 2018
School opens: Fall 2018
Learn more: ctec.fcoe.org