Career Education Centers: Please Get Back On Board

College doesn't have to be the only option. Here's another approach.

3 mins read
A group of people preparing food in a kitchen
Kern County High School District’s Baking and Pastry Arts class. Photo: Tammy Silver

Early one morning, a bus pulled out of Pasadena and headed up to Bakersfield. Who was on the bus and why?

Mayor Victor Gordo, PUSD Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Blanco, PCC President Dr. José Gomez and other representatives from the City of Pasadena, Pasadena Unified School District, and Pasadena City College were on that bus. Why Bakersfield? We went to see Kern High School District’s amazing Regional Occupational Center and Career Technical Education Center and to bring their good ideas back to our community.

Over the years, career education has fallen out of favor in our education system. Encouraging all students to consider college is the right thing to do, but we can’t overlook students who want to learn a skill or a trade instead of, or in addition to, a college education.

Kern County High School District’s career programs and facilities will knock your socks off. Their two beautiful centers have up-to-date equipment and facilities, and the faculty are passionate experts in their fields. There are 32 different fields of study in areas from auto repair, construction trades, and health careers to drone operating, digital marketing and media design, robotics engineering, and video game design. The program currently serves 2,900 students, with a waiting list of 1,800 students.

Encouraging all students to consider college is the right thing to do but we can’t overlook students who want to learn a skill or a trade instead of, or in addition to, a college education.

Tammy Silver

First stop was the Regional Occupational Center, where we got off the bus, stretched our legs and entered the bright and cheery “Café ROC”. There was hot coffee waiting for us and fresh-baked cookies made by the students in the Baking and Pastry Arts class. All of Kern County’s career courses are in three-hour blocks from 7:30 am to 10:30 am or from noon to 3 p.m. The students we met had been there since 7:30 am, baking and decorating cakes, making an assortment of cookies, and packaging those cookies for sale at a city event later that evening.

We then met faculty and students in cosmetology, welding, auto tech, construction trades, and veterinary programs. The faculty was committed to teaching the younger generation the skills they had learned over the years. Students beamed with joy when they talked about what they had learned and how proud and confident they had become with these new skills.

We heard how career programs benefited all kinds of students. There were students who didn’t connect to school in traditional classes, and when they participated in a skills or career-focused class, they then found purpose and focus. After these courses, some students chose to take a career path out of high school, and some decided to go on to college. We heard from the construction trades teacher about a student with a 4.5 GPA who wanted to learn how to build things. She took his construction trades class and will take skills in carpentry, electrical work and plumbing with her as she moves on to college. These career courses serve all.

The next stop was the sunlight-filled Career Technical Education Center. It was buzzing with students in dress shirts, ties, and professional attire, as this was mock interview day. Tables were filled with adults from the community doing mock interviews with the high school students to help them sharpen their interview skills. We continued our tour and observed programs in dental assisting, fire technology, video game design, mobile app development, and business and accounting.

The program currently serves 2,900 students, with a waiting list of 1,800 students.

Tammy Silver

A highlight was the robotic engineering class. Students created and programmed robots that rolled around the floor and one that had a conversation with us. Students attached light sabers to two robotic arms and used controllers to have a robotic light saber duel. An incredible sight was a quadruped dog-like robot that one student operated to walk across the room, push the classroom door open, step out into the hallway, then turn around and pull the door open to walk back in. It was amazing. The crowd went wild.

To create a center like this takes a community. I think we have that here in Pasadena. With the City, the School District, and Community College all “on board” the bus together, I see that we are also all “on board” with a shared vision of serving our entire community with skills and education that suits each and every student.

The short URL of this article is: https://localnewspasadena.com/f0zq

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