High school students in Turlock are getting real world experience while earning class credit thanks to the school district’s ever-growing Career Technical Education program, which has partnered with local businesses to prepare students for the workplace.
The CTE program within Turlock Unified School District provides students with career “pathways” in industries like agriculture, business, child development, industrial technology, healthcare and countless others. Each pathway lays out a track of classes that are placed in order for students, giving them a progression of skills to learn as they complete high school that will prepare them for the career path they choose.
“We’re trying to attach what kids are learning in class to real world experience,” said CTE Director David Lattig. “For a lot of these seniors, life is going to hit them in the face here in a few short months, and we want to do whatever we can to help them transition from the theory of school to the concrete, real world of life.”
In order to make each pathway as realistic as possible, the CTE program provides students with the opportunity to work at businesses throughout the city, through either work experience, for which students receive class credit, or paid internships.
To date, the program has grown to include 17 local businesses and organizations that allow students to participate in day-to-day operations — 13 of those provide a place where students receive work experience, while five offer paid internships. Businesses like I am Yoga, Brenda Athletic Clubs, Tower Physical Therapy and Turlock Nursing and Rehabilitation Center have given students a place to practice skills like keeping the workplace clean and in order, changing patients’ beds and working directly with clients, and others like Foster Farms and Crust and Crumb have hired students to work for them through internships. The City of Turlock has partnered with the school district to provide both.
“Down the road, the vision would be to have such a strong program and such a strong partnership that our local businesses are turning to TUSD for some of those entry level, part time — maybe even full-time — positions, and keep our kids local, keep our workforce local,” said Lattig.
Many students have found success through the program, and Pitman High School senior Alexa Mendoza originally became involved with the CTE program because she needed the credits, she said, but after working at I Am Yoga through the work experience class. For the class, students spend Monday-Thursday at their job site, and Friday is spent in a classroom on campus where they learn everything from how to write a resume to how to ask for a raise.
“The most valuable thing I’ve learned is how to write everything out, like my resume. I didn’t know how to do that before,” said Mendoza. “It’s giving me the experience I need.”
In addition to off-campus training, students have a variety of on-campus courses to choose from at both high schools as well, like working in the autobody shop or putting together horticultural designs. Turlock high School has its own industry standard kitchen, at Pitman’s growing culinary program is well on its way to serving the campus body as well. In all classes, the most recent technology is taught.
“In the transportation sector, we’re not teaching them to hook up a horse to a buggy,” said Lattig. “We’re always trying to teach relevant industry skills so kids have an edge.”
The CTE program places an emphasis on preparing students for life after high school, and that goal is emphasized by giving them a jumpstart on their college careers. Many of the CTE courses at both high schools provide students with college credits at Modesto Junior College and Merced Community College.
Lattig hopes to see the program continue to evolve and expand, he said, and the most effective way to do so is to partner with even more businesses in the community.
“Some businesses think that being a partner is, ‘Hey, help out the schools, they’re asking for money.’ That’s not what we’re doing - we just need a little time and experience,” he said. “The community has shown an incredible support for wanting to be involved and help our program.”