Sparks flew earlier this week as students at the Northeast Washington Technical Skill Center tried their hand at welding, some for the first time, others on their way to certification.
“My parents are both engineers; they do a lot of soldering, and this is along those lines,” said Blythe Irwin, 15. “I just wanted to see what it was like.”
Career and technical education programs give students like Irwin the chance to satisfy their curiosity. They also give students hands-on experience in a potential career field or the opportunity to earn college credit.
Such programs are popular; all but two of the 21 summer courses at NEWTECH and its branch campus, Spokane Valley Tech, are filled to capacity. About 500 students are enrolled in the two schools.
NEWTECH, at 4141 N. Regal St., is operated by Spokane Public Schools. Spokane Valley Tech, at 115 S. University Road, is operated by the Central Valley School District. But students from schools throughout the region can take classes at the campuses.
Washington lawmakers are funding the programs as a good fit for high school students. In the state’s most recent budget, legislators invested $13.5 million to help build up the two regional centers.
NEWTECH’s campus will receive a $12 million update and expansion for the center’s nursing and dental programs along with other facilities.
Spokane Valley Tech received $1.5 million for a second biomedical lab and classroom space for sports medicine and entrepreneurship.
Programs offered at NEWTECH include automotive technology, collision repair, criminal justice, dental careers, veterinary science, culinary arts, welding, medical and nursing careers and cosmetology. New this fall, tourism and hospitality management courses will also be offered.
Students have the potential to earn college or high school credit.
“If we want to change Spokane’s economy, we have to focus on the kids in poverty,” said Superintendent Shelley Redinger. “We need to have strong programs for kids.”
Spokane Valley Tech, which opened in September 2012, offers aerospace and advanced manufacturing, fire science, cosmetology and advanced engineering.
The school will be adding a computer science program with a focus on network engineering – the skills to install, maintain and support computer communication networks.
Spokane Valley Tech “fills a unique niche, especially in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics),” said Ben Small, Central Valley’s superintendent. “Spokane Valley Tech offers college and career readiness, not either-or.”