Federal Way schools embrace vocational and technical training

A new push is on for high school education to include more access and options to vocational and technical training for students, both while still in high school, and beyond.

For Federal Way Public Schools, the Career and Technical Education (CTE) program is aimed at just that. The program is already well positioned to help students take the next step beyond high school, said Nancy Hawkins, the program's director.

"In the 10 years I've held this position, we've grown from about 720 full-time equivalent students, to just around 1,100. We have 19 new or expanded programs in those 10 years. We organize our programs based on the 16 national career clusters," she said during the April 10 school board meeting.

Along with those programs, FWPS has 13 community advisory committees for the CTE program comprised of more than 100 people from varying backgrounds. Hawkins highlighted the increased need for students to expand their thinking beyond a four-year college after high school.

"Nearly 90 percent of the fastest growing jobs in the U.S. will require some form of education beyond high school. Almost 80 percent of all jobs in the foreseeable future will require some type of certification/credential/post-secondary degree or long-term training, though only 40 percent of those jobs require a four-year degree," she said.

Here in Washington, Hawkins said there will be 3.5 million jobs in the state by 2018. Citing statistics compiled by a Georgetown University study, of those 3.5 million jobs, 36 percent will require some college or an associate's degree. 31 percent will require a high school education or on-the-job training. 32 percent will require a four-year degree, she noted.

"What we really need to do is change our concept of what 'college for all' really means, so that we can understand that what it really means is a post-high school credential for all," Hawkins said.

Current programs Hawkins highlighted included Decatur High School's NATEF (National Automotive Technical Education Foundation) program, which prepares students for work in the automotive industry or other industries related to combustion engines.

There's a construction apprenticeship program at Thomas Jefferson High School, which has a lucrative partnership with some of the larger unions in the region. This partnership allows TJ students to jump to the front of the line when looking for an apprenticeship with those unions. Decatur also has a Project Lead the Way program, which is geared toward the engineering and manufacturing fields.

On the horizon will be the implementation of the Microsoft IT Academy next fall, Hawkins said. The intent of that program is to provide students with the opportunity to become certified in the Microsoft Office suite of programs, along with more complex areas such as programming and database management.

FWPS is also eyeing how to get the ball rolling on incorporating programs for aerospace manufacturing and health informatics. Health informatics, for FWPS, would probably most likely focus on electronic medical records, Hawkins said.

School board member Ed Barney, who was absent from the April 10 meeting, had written a question for Hawkins, asking what additional programs could be incorporated in Federal Way schools without needing a drastic overhaul in infrastructure.

Hawkins told the board that something like the electronic medical records program could be easily incorporated because it's mostly a matter of computer software and hardware. Something like aerospace manufacturing, however, would be difficult to pull off in terms of space available and costs.

Hawkins closed with a quote from John Gardner about society's placement of importance on certain jobs, and not on other jobs:

"The society that scorns excellence in plumbing because it's a humble activity, and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it's an exalted activity, will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water."


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