Carson High School senior Sarah Woods is well on her way to becoming a professional portrait and wedding photographer, a career that often comes with costs for equipment. She’ll have less to worry about in expenses for training thanks to the jump she’s had in her education, and she was eager to share that Thursday.
“I’ve gotten my workplace readiness and I’ve passed that and my end-of-course exam,” Woods said. “I’ve gotten my degree. I’ve saved money. … I’ve gotten hands-on experience and I’ve learned so much that I wouldn’t have been able to without this program.”
Gov. Steve Sisolak on Thursday recognized February as Career and Technical Education Month with Carson High’s faculty and students with a formal proclamation. The former member of the Nevada Board of Regents said he was excited to discuss the opportunities afforded to students who seek a different path other than obtaining a conventional four-year college degree.
“Quality job training programs, apprenticeships, business partnerships, community college degrees can help Nevadans of all ages learn the skills that they need for the jobs that are out in our state today that are immediately available for folks,” Sisolak told Carson High students, elaborating on Nevada’s and America’s diversifying economies.
Sisolak told students they’re likely more aware than most success might not always begin with a college degree, and to help those who can’t afford attending a traditional university, he’s ensuring his administration provides resources for a CTE program at the high school level.
“My executive budget recommends increasing funding for career and technical education to serve an additional 2,000 students statewide, that’s how important my administration feels career and technical education is,” he announced to applause from staff and students.
Sisolak said the state’s LifeWorks initiative, launched last year and funded by the New Skills for Youth Grant provided by JP Morgan Chase, will expand awareness of statewide CTE programs in a campaign to be announced in coming months. CTE participation has increased steadily by 25 percent in Nevada schools during the past year among those who have finished their programs, Sisolak said.
At Carson, CTE’s six-cluster pathway programs are flourishing, with adaptations made based on current needs. Carson High’s comprehensive CTE offerings are faring particularly well at second overall in the state, just behind Elko, according to CTE coordinator Candi Ruf. The six clusters are created based on community and regional needs but also cater to student interest, so flexibility is key when deciding what classes to offer.
Students are exposed to field trips to Western Nevada College or community businesses so they get on-site or hands-on experience with the career or vocation of their choice. Classes have visited Tesla’s Gigafactory in Storey County or visited veterinarians’ offices to observe common practices, for example. They’ve job shadowed and completed internships for credit.
In the next school year, program changes are coming, according to Ruf and vice principal and CTE administrator Amy Freismidl, to keep up with students’ interest and community demand for jobs. “Information Technology Essentials” is on the way out and will be replaced by cybersecurity to equip students for a growth in this field. Mechanical engineering also was created to help meet a demand in computer integrated manufacturing, and it will take students three years to complete courses for that curriculum.
The school receives state and federal funding to assist with equipment and program needs, such as computers for students to build or work on depending on what the activity is.
“The state is so instrumental in funding these programs, otherwise we would never be able to provide opportunities for our students,” Freismidl said. “We have, for instance … some money to purchase iMac computers for our photography program. In order to get (the students) business and industry prepared, we’re going to install some iMacs so they can actually learn how to use that equipment.”
Freismidl said currently students are using older desktop computers that will be replaced during spring break to help them become competitive with other candidates in the workforce once they graduate. Having access to the proper tools is as important as making the trips to local businesses or workplaces.
Teachers also are highly supportive of the program and speak to other skills CTE has produced, including developing self-confidence.
Kara Ferrin, CHS photography teacher, now working in her fifth academic year on campus, continuously encourages her students to submit their images for competition or publication. She said Sisolak’s message is helpful in raising visibility about its success in Nevada.
“I think it’s really important for everybody to be aware of what we do at CTE,” she said. “A lot of times, we’re considered the extra classes or the electives or the vocations that aren’t as deemed as important as maybe as some of the other classes, but we’re teaching our students a trade that is marketable, that they can leave high school with a trade ... or even step right into the job market and be ready to work.”