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High school vocational program options grow

Career and Technical Education (CTE) at Mercer Island High School is taking the spotlight this year. As technical and vocational job opportunities continue to grow, Eastside school districts are funneling more resources into preparing students for these careers.

According to Mercer Island High School CTE Coordinator Mark Roschy, a growing number of Island students are turning a keen eye to this academic arena. And the job-market is calling.

“There’s a much larger focus [today] on trying to meet the job demands of our region,” Roschy said, citing health care as an example. “We’re projecting that there’s going to be a shortage of employees in Washington’s health care industry.”

Eager to promote all career opportunities for students, Roschy is aware that vocational courses demand just as much attention as core classes.

“I think it’s very valuable to look into career options now that will frame students’ experiences at the University of Washington or grad school,” he said.

This year, MIHS offers more than 30 CTE courses. In addition, MIHS students have access to off-campus Northeast Vocational Area Cooperative (NEVAC) courses, offered to students at nine Eastside schools. Both programs are growing.

Earlier this summer, the state Legislature awarded NEVAC a $49,500 research grant for a “skills center.” Rather than use this money to build an Eastside facility, the funds will be distributed among the various programs at participating NEVAC schools. A share of these funds will go toward the MIHS radio program, the high school’s only NEVAC class.

“We wanted to model this new skills center on our NEVAC model — a radio branch at MI, for example, and design course at another high school,” Roschy said. “Legislature has come to realize that this model is the future version of a skills center, rather than brick and mortar building.”

In an effort to promote the CTE program, Roschy organized a special CTE open house on Sept. 23, an hour earlier than the general MIHS open house. Parents, students and members of the community were invited to attend the tour and learn about the growing number of CTE courses offered at MIHS. Roschy also urged vocational professionals on the Island to attend the open house and get involved with the CTE curriculum.

“I feel like we’ve got an amazing community to tap into,” Roschy said. “We want to make sure people are aware that CTE is still here and [has an] open door for professionals to get involved.”

Some of the more popular classes, according to Roschy, are engineering, tech, business classes such as DECA, the student store and graphic design. The CTE coordinator is working to start an entrepreneurial class in the near future.

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