High school students get jump on careers with networking program

Mercer Island High School senior, Ian Munro, will be splitting his last year of high school between MIHS and Newport High School. Why? So he can take a class that is specific to learning about computer networking, called the CISCO Networking Academy, which is designed to teach students how to understand network routing and switching, communication protocols and how to design, build and manage corporate enterprise networks.

This is just one of many classes offered through the Washington Network for Innovative Careers, based in Kirkland.

WaNIC is a consortium of seven school districts that have been in partnership for 24 years, and share career and technical education (CTE) programs. Member districts include Bellevue, Issaquah, Lake Washington, Mercer Island, Northshore, Riverview and Snoqualmie Valley. There is no cost for the classes except lab fees, and students must provide their own transportation. Enrollment is on a first come, first serve basis.

Pamela Darling, skill center director, said WaNIC used to be called the Northeast Vocational Area Cooperative, but two years ago they became a skill center. WaNIC has just moved into new offices on the campus of Lake Washington Technical College in Kirkland. Students take classes at various high schools, but with the new location, WaNIC will have nursing and dental assisting programs at their Kirkland facility in the fall of 2012.

“We have programs all over,” Darling said. “Most skill centers are located in one facility. We’re more of a distributive model; kids choose where they want to go.”

Not every school offers every class; thus, the traveling back and forth.

Darling said the CISCO program that Munro will be enrolled in is one-of-a-kind and very popular. Mercer Island High School offers the International Entrepreneurship program, taught by Carol Wiseley, another popular program through WaNIC.

Darling said the automotive technology course, taught at Bellevue, Northshore and Snoqualmie, is in demand, as is the culinary arts class at Newport.

“One of our most popular is the nursing assistant program, which is where we have the highest enrollment,” Darling said.

The nursing assistant program is offered now at Bellevue an d Northshore.

Fire and life safety taught by firefighting professionals is also in demand, Munro said.

Courses available to WaNIC students include the areas of arts and communication; business and marketing management; business finance and operations; science and engineering; social and health services; technology and trades, and manufacturing. Darling said the DigiPen Institute of Technology is popular, too. Offered in Redmond, the program trains students to develop animation and programming for video games.

“All of our programs are articulated with our partner colleges for dual credit (with the high schools),” Darling said. She added that it makes the transition to college “seamless” for many of the students. She said around 150 students a year take part in their programs.

Munro said he is interested in aviation and is considering attending Green River Community College, which has a full menu of aviation courses, including air traffic control. However, the networking class may change his direction, he said.


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