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Oregon Family Magazine

A Reason to Go to School – and Beyond

01/31/2019 ● By Sandy Kauten
The pendulum of vocational education has swung dramatically between the glory days of shop class and industrial arts to a narrow focus on college acceptance. Today’s approach is much more balanced, with educators confident in the value of Career and Technical Education (CTE) not just from the perspective of preparing students to work, but because they’ve seen CTE programs engage students in a meaningful way.

Though in the past CTE programs were traditionally associated with careers in the trades, 21st century jobs demand sophisticated skills and competency in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects. With the benefit of a CTE program of study, a high school student can be equipped with guided practice in real-world environments, and connections to people in the community who already conduct that type of work. CTE also offers a path to discovery, giving students a way to ‘try on’ their future.

“So many students don't know how to figure out their path after high school,” says Joy Marshall, the Lane County Director of Stand for Children and a driving force behind 2016’s Measure 98, which allocated funding for CTE. “They wonder ‘What kind of work would I enjoy? What are my options?’ and even, ‘What is the point of high school?’”

That’s where CTE is expected to make the biggest difference: CTE classes make school relevant for students. It directly connects them to the world of work, whether in technology, health care, the skilled trades, or any other field. Students in CTE gain confidence and understand what job opportunities there are for them after high school.

“I've seen students who were planning to drop out of high school get engaged by an auto shop class, a robotics class and a pre-nursing class. These kids become auto mechanics, engineers, EMTs, nurses, or brain surgeons. They won't end up in poverty, or struggling for years trying to find their way,” says Marshall.

Many Lane County high schools offer CTE programs beginning in 9th grade. Here’s a glimpse of what’s happening:

·       Churchill High School Health Sciences students prepare for a wide array of medical careers. Simulation equipment for almost all medical professions helps students gain experience, and visiting professionals help to evaluate students and provide professional tips during their labs. Each year, seniors assist Eugene 4J Nurses and The Lions Club with the district’s Elementary Vision and Dental Screenings. 

·       Mohawk High School students designed and built a storage shed for their supplies for the growing Construction CTE program. Chambers Construction helped with the project by laying a concrete foundation.

·       Automotive Technology students in Springfield High School enter yearly competitions.

·       Willamette High School Graphic Design students explore and understand principles of design, art and illustration software tools.

·       Junction City High School Culinary Arts students have a new classroom and food service kitchen in which to practice their skills and gain college credit through Lane Community College.

Learn more about the programs across Lane County by visiting or visiting the website of your region’s high school.