February is career and technical education (CTE) month! CTE provides students of all ages with the academic and technical skills, knowledge, and training necessary to succeed in future careers and to become lifelong learners. Plumas Unified School District (PUSD) and Plumas County Office of Education (PCOE) offer hands-on opportunities to explore careers, learn industry skills, and gain experience in leadership roles.
As an educator, seeing the transformation CTE students go through in a school year is very satisfying according to PCOE/PUSD CTE Coordinator Gina Pixler. “It’s exciting to watch our students grow academically and as leaders,” she says. “We are preparing them to be able to walk in the door (at a new job) and know what they need to do to get the job done.”
In addition to familiar courses like wood shop and culinary, the CTE program in Plumas County offers classes of interest to our region such as Agri-Science, Agri-Mechanics, and Farm to Fork, as well as classes like Desktop Publishing, Graphic Design, Sports Entertainment, and Computer Applications where students learn the essential skills of that industry.
CTE is where students connect academic knowledge with real world situations. In culinary classes, doubling or tripling a recipe requires careful calculations to measure ingredients correctly. Students designing yearbooks use writing skills gained in English class to create journalism stories about events from that school year. Metal and wood shop projects must be planned with precise measurements and a solid understanding of physics for sturdy construction. Gardening students growing flowers and vegetables learn about soil acidity and ratios, a practical application of science and math.
Thanks to the Career Technical Education Incentive Grant and Strong Workforce Program, CTE classrooms throughout the county have been upgraded and modernized to reflect current workplace standards. Culinary classrooms have been fitted with modern cooking equipment so that students can go from the classroom to a commercial kitchen knowing what to expect. New computers with industry standard software are available for graphic design students, again with the goal to prepare graduates for the workplace. Currently tower gardens and greenhouses are present on three of our four campuses for agri-science and culinary students to grow flowers and vegetables, and new industry standard equipment and tools have been added to our construction and agri mechanics shops.
“Our classrooms are skills labs where our students can experiment and learn how to be successful, with end results they can be proud of,” says Pixler. In these work based learning environments, students are not only gaining hands-on experience and knowledge in a specific field, they are also learning bigger lessons about how to behave in a workplace, how to work within a team or on their own to solve problems, what it takes to lead a team – many of the skills they will need for success in a career or further education.