Jake Duran had always enjoyed growing plants, he said, but the Shadle High senior never thought of it as a career.
“When I joined the (Career and Technical Education) program, it seemed possible,” the 17-year-old said as he arranged greens in a vase to accompany a floral arrangement.
Duran is taking horticulture classes at Shadle, where the Spokane high school’s recent remodel included a new greenhouse and expanded floral shop. The new facilities are a close comparison to the working world.
“This is such a change from what we’ve had,” said Marti Daniels, one of the horticulture instructors at Shadle.
The program is just one of many exploratory career pathways available to students in Spokane Public Schools. The district’s career and technical education program, formerly called vocational classes, offers electives in trade and industry, business administration and entrepreneurship, culinary arts and health and human services.
The classes are not new to the district, and schools throughout the region offer a variety of similar opportunities. In the Coeur d’Alene School District, the program is called professional technical education.
As Spokane Public Schools remodels and modernizes its school buildings, officials are taking the opportunity to enhance facilities for the program’s courses so students can get the best possible hands-on opportunities.
Another example is the recent remodel at Rogers High School that enhanced the auto mechanic and services area.
“This gives kids a head start,” said Lisa White, director of the district’s career and technical education program. “This is also a chance to get a taste of what you like and don’t like.”
The classes often lead to internships, apprenticeships, college credits or a job.
“The key is making the classes relevant to the economy,” White said. “If we can give them the skills, then we feel our kids can compete when they leave us.”
Duran has already worked at the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department, and he’s earned 12 college credits toward his degree at Spokane Community College. “I’m thinking when I’m 18, I might try to work at the Manito greenhouse,” he said. But his ultimate dream is to own a greenhouse.
More than 120 of Shadle’s 1,400-plus students are participating in horticulture classes. Ferris and Havermale high schools also offer the courses. Different classes are offered depending on the high schools. Computer repair is offered at Rogers and Lewis and Clark high schools; jewelry design is offered at two schools; filmmaking is offered at North Central and Ferris. Culinary arts, Web design and sports medicine are a few other examples.
Students have the choice of going to the Spokane Skills Center for three hours a day to study the topic or career field in greater depth.
“It is leadership in employability and the soft skills – being to work on time, good customer service and flexibility – that’s what professionals say makes the kids employable,” White said.
According to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, about 240,000 students in Washington take career and technical education classes.
“The more options and opportunities provided to kids while they are in the high school setting, the better the chance they have of becoming productive citizens,” said Kathleen Lopp, assistant superintendent for career and college readiness at the state superintendent’s office.
Said White, “Awesome classes for kids, awesome opportunities for kids.”