CTE provides opportunities for students
Career and Technical Education provides opportunities
Posted on 01/16/2019
Career and Technical Education provides opportunities

There is one common thread they all seem to share — a compassion for helping others.

Yet, the reasons students choose to take the Nursing Assistant Certification class at Emerald Ridge, Puyallup, or Rogers high schools vary. Some will choose it as a career; some see it as an introduction to the medical field which will lead them to a career as a nurse, doctor, or technician; and others will use it as an avenue to a medical career in the military.

There are currently 35 students enrolled in the NAC classes. It is one of many Career and Technical Education classes offered in Puyallup schools.

ER CNA ClassEmerald Ridge students
(from left) Alexa May and Ana Mendez)


Emerald Ridge senior Ana Mendez says, “It’s not just medical skills that the class is teaching but being able to interact with other people.” Mendez will have her CNA by the time she graduates. She plans to attend a four-year college where she will continue to pursue a career in the medical field.

Career and Technical Education

Through CTE courses, Puyallup junior high and high school students are exploring career pathways in Arts & Communications; Business & Marketing; Engineering & Technology; Health & Human Services; and Science & Natural Resources. Career pathways are tools to help them get where they want to go.

“It’s really about preparing students for careers ultimately. And when we say careers, it’s not just a job. It’s making a living wage and also having opportunities for future advancement, whether college, military, or the workforce.”   
Director of Instructional Leadership Maija Thiel

Career and Technical Education prepares students for access to meaningful postsecondary opportunities in a highly competitive, global economy. The program is responsible for supporting student college and career readiness through real world, real life skills requiring both academics and training.

For example, the NAC certification classes are divided into two parts: First semester is lecture/theory, written exams, and introduction to skills. Second semester is hands-on learning including demonstration, practice, and testing on 22 skills. After passing all skills, students go to the clinical site and work with actual patients. The instructor will accompany and supervise students in the clinical setting.

Rogers students
Rogers High junior Kiana Jones, who is considering a career in the military, says she is taking the class to explore whether she wants to pursue a career in the medical field.

Teacher Nicole Ratliff says NAC students who pass the course successfully receive a certificate of completion. They must also pass a state exam; however, they can be hired with the certificate if they show they have registered to take the exam within 120 days. Ratliff says the NAC is a prerequisite for nursing programs.

Puyallup High senior Erica Roloff plans to attend Marion Military Institute in Alabama. She plans to use her NAC to work part-time while going to college to become a nurse in the military.

The CTE courses are not one-size-fits-all. The goal is to prepare students for the next step after graduation. It may be training to get meaningful employment such as in the automotive field. It may be Microsoft Office skills certification in order to gain a starting position with a company. Or it may be an apprenticeship in manufacturing as a production technician which can lead to a career in aerospace.

“How can we engage people at a younger age and strengthen our training in jobs that need skills? Look at aerospace manufacturing and Amazon with robotics. There’s a lot of different companies that have parts to be made. Someone has to engineer these and understand the detailed specifications. Those skills have to be learned. You really need someone to mentor you.”
Director of Instructional Leadership Maija Thiel

The district currently partners with the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC) to provide students with the opportunity to enroll in AJAC’s Production Technician (Youth) Apprenticeship program. AJAC is a non-profit, state-funded advanced manufacturing apprenticeship organization serving over 200 employers in Washington state. The growing demand for the aerospace industry is the driving force behind AJAC.

“Students can have the skills earlier and be better prepared to enter the workforce. We have a new focus on the industry or career connection. Honing in on what is needed that will help them not only get those jobs, but move up in careers,” says Thiel.

The district looks to the community to learn the current skills that are needed in order to provide courses that are relevant. The more closely the district is connected to people who are in the industry, the more beneficial. For example, are there equipment changes? Are there new standards required? Which new laws can impact the way we do things?

“We are also taking care of our community as a whole. If we are doing things the right way, as we prepare our students, the community wins. They are going to have employees who have the right training and skills,” says Thiel.

Nancy French
frenchnl@puyallup.k12.wa.us