Career technical pathways provide students with real-world experiences at Tahoe Truckee Unified
Woodworking, welding and auto mechanics classes once offered students a hands on education with a path to jobs straight out of high school.
Traditional vocational education is a thing of the past, now being replaced with Career Technical Pathways which not only prepares students for skilled trade jobs but can lead to higher paying jobs and better opportunities for a higher education out of high school.
For the past decade, Tahoe Truckee Unified School District has implemented this structure of teaching at the high school level through career specific classes and professional experiences. It began with a foodservice and hospitality pathway and has now culminated into a variety of programs including biotechnology and engineering.
“We have more students that are going to the appropriate level they need after high school,” said Todd Wold, manager of college and careers for the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District. This could mean a four-year university, a two-year college, a special certification program or going straight into their desired industry.
Currently, the school district offers six different themes of pathways: foodservice and hospitality, systems programming, biotechnology, emergency response, manufacturing and engineering design. Though some pathways are exclusively taught at one high school, as it is with biotechnology at Truckee High School, the school district has an open-enrollment policy allowing students to attend classes at different schools.
“We have some students that attend part day at Truckee High School then go to robotics at North Tahoe High School.” said Wold. “We want to ensure equal access to everyone.”
In addition to teaching career specific classes the school district with community partners to provide students with professional experiences and insight into their desired industry. Students studying foodservice and hospitality have the opportunity to work in local restaurants, while emergency services students work closely with the Truckee Fire Protection district and biotechnology students partner with staff at Tahoe Forest Hospital.
“It’s amazing what our kids are being exposed to,” said Kelli Twomey, Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Coordinator of Parent and Community Relations. “We want to ensure they have the skills for jobs in the 21st century.”
According to Twomey, the pathways are designed to give students relevant experiences but point them in the right direction. She recalled one student who had studied foodservice and hospitality for three years in high school, earning an internship at a restaurant in Tahoe City. Twomey said that although he enjoyed what he was studying, it was not a career he wished to pursue for the rest of his life.
“Because of the experience he got, he was able to shift his interest to something he wanted,” she said.
Ken Gracey, president of Parallax, a company that provides hardware and support for education technology, has been volunteering with the school district for the past seven years through teacher trainings and internship offerings to high school students.
He said that teaching robotics to students allows them to create something useful entirely on their own.
“What it really does it get them enthused about engineering with activities of their own choosing,” he said. “In school we don’t give them the chance to do something totally on their own.”
Without businesses like Parallax, Twomey said the district would not be able to offer the same type of rigor and hands-on opportunities to students.
“If it weren’t for people like him and his company we just wouldn’t be able to offer the caliber of experiences,” she said.
Despite existing partnerships, Wold says that the district needs additional community support to give students the best education possible.
“It really takes the whole community,” he said. “We need to work together.”
Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-550-2652.