By Emily Fitzgerald / email@example.com
The traditional college pathway is a good option for some students, but for others, following that course is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
At least that’s how Richard DeBolt, executive director of the Lewis Economic Development Council, described his son’s experience with college during his keynote address at W.F. West’s launch event for the school’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, which aims to prepare students for career opportunities after high school.
“(CTE) can help you get ready to learn and understand where you fit in and understand where you need to be. And you wouldn’t have the long journey that my son had to get to his course, where he’s finally doing what he wants to do,” DeBolt said.
Even though this year was hardly the CTE program’s first, it was the first marked by an official launch event, which program director Rick Goble said was part of the school’s ongoing effort to further engage industry experts, businesses and community members with the program.
“We want to work really hard on creating better business and community partnerships. Tonight’s kickoff event is just one of many things we’ll be doing this year to reach that goal,” Goble said.
Roughly two-thirds of W.F. West’s students are currently taking one or more of W.F. West’s 37 CTE classes, which are divided between six “career clusters”: agricultural sciences, business and marketing, family and consumer sciences, skilled and technical sciences, STEM and, new as of last year, health sciences, which includes a sports medicine course and a medical terminology course through Centralia College.
Program coordinators are seeking to further expand the CTE program to include more career pathways, more work-based learning opportunities and an increased focus on teaching soft skills that can be applied to multiple career paths.
Program coordinators are even considering opening a student store at W.F. West so students can make and sell their own products.
“We want to create as many opportunities for kids so that they can pursue the careers that they are passionate about,” said Goble.
The program is overseen by an advisory committee made up of Chehalis School District administration, teachers and industry experts that meets twice a year to review the CTE courses alongside current industry standards.
“Not only is that a requirement that we must do every year to go through our program reviews, but it’s also a great tool for us to see where your deficiencies are and to make strides, to become better every year. I really feel that if you’re not looking yourself and getting feedback, then you’re just slacking. You’re not gonna grow,” said Goble.
The goals for CTE students come directly from the district’s “student achievement initiative,” which lays out a goal for the district to raise the percentage of Chehalis students going on to earn college degrees and certifications from 20% in 2013 to 60% by 2022.
“Our goal is to maximize the opportunities for Chehalis students to be exposed to a broad array of courses, providing career and technical training. And we believe this will result in more Chehalis students being prepared to go on, to be successful in seeking credentials past high school and maximize their career opportunities in life,” said Vice Superintendent Dr. Brian Fox.
And that goal would be impossible without W.F. West’s teachers, many of whom were present at the kickoff event.
Also present were members of the Chehalis Foundation, which helps fund the CTE program and currently oversees an endowment scholarship for CTE students.
“It’s definitely an exciting time to be involved in the CTE and we could not do it with our awesome teachers and staff, our advisory committee, volunteers, and the support of our community and school,” said Goble.
For DeBolt’s part, he encouraged all parties involved with the CTE program to continue working closely together for the benefit of the students.
“One of the things that I would encourage you guys to do is to make sure that you listen to each other and you understand where everybody’s coming from and what their goals and expectations are, what success looks like … and how do we take our young people, get them employed, make our economy stronger and keep them here locally.”
More information on CTE at W.F. West can be found online at chehalisschools.org/cte/.
The program also has a new Instagram profile, searchable on the platform under “wfwestcte.”