Students in the Tumwater School District are lucky to experience career readiness early in their schooling thanks to the Career and Technical Education Program (CTE). CTE lets middle and high school students see what their possible future occupations look like in the real world, take courses that support their career pathways, and become leaders, all long before they don their graduation caps and gowns. CTE Students’ Work Readiness.
“If you can see it, you can do it,” says Melissa Stussy, a nutrition and chemistry instructor who is a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) with CTE at Tumwater High School and Black Hills High School.
Career and Technical Education Program Provides Early Pathways to Tumwater Students’ Success
CTE programs help students connect their personalized High School and Beyond Plan to their post high school training and education. Career preparation courses beginning in the middle schools’ support career exploration in the Health Sciences, Environmental Studies, and Engineering Pathways for all students to experience. These opportunities provide the academic and technical skills needed for students as they transition to 2- or 4-year colleges, technical schools, military, apprenticeships, or directly to the world of work.
“We support all students by advocating for career exploration and preparation as they launch their futures with confidence,” says CTE Director and K12 STEM Supervisor Brian Hardcastle.
The middle school CTE/STEM curriculum is called “Project Lead the Way.” Class titles are Design and Modeling (sixth), Medical Detectives (seventh), and Energy and the Environment (eighth). Elective offerings include Flight and Space, the Magic of Electrons, Science and Technology, Robotics, Green Design, Photography and computer science. High school classes include Introduction to Engineering Design, Aircraft and Drone Flight School, Technical Drawing, Culinary Arts, Cybersecurity, Plant Biology, Marketing, Principles of Biomedical Sciences, Nutrition and Wellness, Construction Trades, Video Productions, Natural Resources Ecology, Entrepreneurship and many more.
Hardcastle says the CTE program in its current form developed about seven years ago. He explains that the district is committed to providing students with the skills needed to thrive in an ever-changing work world, by combining hands-on experience with academics. The district works with industry partners and organizations to place students in a FieldSTEM environment or by bringing industries into the classroom for context and relevance to what they are learning.
Hardcastle says about 625 full-time equivalent students are enrolled in CTE in grades seven through 12.
“We strive to be beacons of light and hope for all our students by advocating, preparing and cheering them on to bright futures.”
Industry and Organization Partners Provide Expertise in CTE’s Work-Based Learning
Michelle Paul, a Teacher on Special Assignment instructor in the district’s middle schools’ CTE program, says industry partners and organizations include the City of Tumwater, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Thurston County Conservation District, LOTT Clean Water Alliance, Providence Swedish, Washington State Employees Credit Union, Olympia Federal Savings, and the Pacific Shellfish Institute, to name just a few.
“In the middle schools, we bring experts from industry into the schools,” says Paul. “It makes the curriculum more rigorous. And we have an expert in the room.”
Stussy adds, CTE partners like Providence Swedish want to find ways to keep district students employed in the area after they graduate so there is a strong local workforce, and CTE offers them that connection to their future employees. “Providence says, we want to keep our kids here, we want them to work here,” she explains.
Hardcastle says students working with industry partners and other organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Washington to develop apprenticeship opportunities to connect students with future employers and empower coordination between the two. “Our greatest asset and priority is bringing industry and education to the table,” he explains.
CTE Students in Tumwater Schools Gain Valuable Field Experience
In addition to coursework, CTE students gain valuable field experience. Students attended a Pacific Logging Congress in Rainier to learn about the technology driving today’s forestry programs. “On the bus home, I heard several students say, ‘I want to do this,’” Paul recalls.
Students work with state agencies to study water quality in local streams and learn about the use of drones. A future opportunity will include a student-run tourism and retail center. “The students will receive training and be assessed on their knowledge to become a Certified Tourism Ambassador for Thurston County. The topics include; knowledge of historical and current events in our communities, landmarks, shopping and resource needs while learning the importance of customer service and financial literacy, ” says Hardcastle. “Tumwater School District attire and student items designed and produced in a variety of classes that will support the Career and Technical Student Organizations leadership and competition events.” Another class will have staff and students designing and operating a food truck as a service project for our community.
CTE Provides Tumwater Students an Efficient Jump Into Careers, Higher Education and Leadership
CTE classes fulfill future job or schooling requirements, providing a credential or a dual credit opportunity with local colleges. These equivalencies give students an early jump into careers and post-secondary education.
In addition, students learn leadership through school organizations that focus on their career interests.
Family, Career and Community Leaders of America
Health Occupations Student Association
Future Business Leaders of America
Technology Student Association
Skilled and Technical Trades Association
Future Farmers of America.
Source: CTE Students’ Work Readiness
Tumwater School District
621 Linwood Avenue SW, Tumwater