Hays CISD forging career paths for the next generation

by Moses Leos III

 

From welding to cosmetology and just about everything in between, Hays CISD’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program helps students forge paths into varying careers.

 Suzi Mitchell, Career and Technology director for Hays CISD, said certification programs in CTE provides assistance, as not every student is suited for college

“I want to make sure they are going to have a skill and a career, whether they are going to college or not,” Mitchell said. “Even if you want to go to college, you can do (these jobs) through college to support yourself, instead working fast food. You can make a lot of money and have so many skills.”

Hays’ CTE program features various certifications across a variety of career fields. 

Within the district’s EMT certification, students pair up with the Kyle and Buda fire departments for classes held during the spring of their senior year. Mitchell said the training allows them to be a fully licensed EMT when they graduate.

Other programs include pharmacy technician certification, along with certifications in QuickBooks for accounting, Adobe for computer science and Serve Safe certifications for students who go into culinary arts.

“In Austin, at all times, a restaurant has to have a manager on duty with a Serve Safe certification,” Mitchell said. “They (the students) have a step up. When they interview you, they don’t have to train you. You’ve already have it. That’s a big deal.”

One trade in demand is welding, Mitchell said. Next fall, the district is planning to open their welding and construction technology building at Lehman High. 

Roughly 130 students signed up to take part in the new welding program at Lehman, with the district hiring two full-time teachers to instruct them.

“They are going to go to work. They are going to make money right away,” Mitchell said. “It’s a huge industry. 

Mitchell said the district begins talking with students in their 8th grade year to begin directing them on a career path.

“We try to get them in and get them in the right direction from the start,” Mitchell said.

Students who take part in the CTE program start their career pathway during their freshman year of high school. She said House Bill 5 (HB5), which was passed by the Texas Legislature in 2013, allowed for funding for a four-year path toward a CTE career.

The district also partners with Austin Community College for articulation courses, which are “almost” like dual credit courses, Mitchell said.

Students who participate in articulation can take free classes in high school to obtain college credit at ACC.

Mitchell said 444 Hays CISD seniors from Lehman and Hays High collected credits via the articulation program, which saved the students roughly $171,000 this year.

Continuing to keep future high school students interested in possibly exploring CTE based careers is the task for the program, Mitchell said. It begins with the district’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) courses taught in elementary schools.

Mitchell said more girls are taking part in STEM courses.

“We try to get them to start thinking in that direction,” Mitchell said. “It’s how do we get more STEM classes in elementary school and what we need to do to start them. If we can start them young, it’s a good thing.”

While the focus for some career paths does change, such as the district moving toward bio-medical certification and away from health science, Mitchell said most CTE program’s are in demand and “aren’t going to go away.”

“There’s always going to be a demand. I don’t see our programs going away,” Mitchell said. “We have to make sure what we put our money into, we’re getting our bang for our buck. I don’t see those careers going away, not in my lifetime.”

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