BY CHRISTOPHER MORANT
For the Record Gazette
Beaumont Unified School District’s Director of College and Career Readiness, Michael Breyer, took to the stage on the evening of Feb. 10 at Beaumont High School for a short presentation highlighting the school’s Career Technical Education (CTE) programs.
These CTE courses are electives, such as culinary arts or engineering, that students have the option to take.
But as Breyer explained, “the thing that really sets our CTE programs apart from any other educational endeavor is the industry experts that are standing up here.”
Breyer introduced a selection of educators that act as the instructors for these classes. Some of these individuals included sports medicine teacher Nicole Calderilla, construction teacher Jeremy Rager, engineering teacher Matt Medure, culinary arts teacher Ross Carter, and digital media production teacher Barry Steele.
“I wanted to, in a very real way, shine a spotlight on the amazing individuals that are on this stage,” Breyer said, thanking the teachers for their work in bringing success to the CTE programs.
With many of the instructors having years of experience in the fields they are teaching about under their belts, the CTE classes are able to provide students with learning opportunities that are centered around real-world industry level standards.
In other words, students are able to experience a snippet of what these certain career paths have in store, and can leave the classroom with both knowledge and experience that — at the highest level — can set students up with a solid career straight out of high school.
The high school’s intent is, that if a student does not pursue a career in the industry they completed CTE courses in, they can still walk away with skills that can be applied throughout their lives.
For example, the building and construction classes impart knowledge on house maintenance, which is a handy life skill going into adulthood. Similarly, the patient care and sports medicine classes educate students on life-saving first aid skills. Whether or not a student chooses a career in public safety, they will learn how to write clear and concise reports in the public safety courses. And of course, skills learned in Culinary Arts can help students serve up great meals regardless of them wanting to become a professional chef.
“These classes are leaving students with real-world skills,” Breyer said, “and with the industry-level experience they need to start long-lasting careers.”
As a part of the presentation, Breyer turned things over to the CTE teachers and their students to demonstrate and display the skills students can expect to gain as a part of these courses.
Parents and students in attendance gazed in awe at the complex professional machinery they were surrounded by as they walked through the engineering classroom.
Most notably, the demonstrations involving the use of these machines were directed not by the instructor, but by the students enrolled in the class.
Student demonstrators used laser machines to engrave the names of visitors in wooden keychains, while the instructor simply supervised the processes and answered inquiries from curious parents. Guests typed their names into a computer, watching as the demonstrators navigated industry-standard computer software to activate the laser cutter and produce the souvenirs.
Additionally, engineering students narrated the process, explaining their actions to the audience as they ran the demonstration.
Overall, students seemed to display a high level of proficiency in the skills used for their demonstrations, and little guidance from their teachers was necessary..
Engineering teacher Matt Medure explained that this class “provides a positive environment for students” who are looking to become passionate about manufacturing and engineering.
The CTE pathway opens up opportunities for students to earn scholarships and even gain industry level certifications that put students in positions to enter into high-demand careers upon graduating high school, according Medure.
In the culinary arts classroom, a pair of students cooked and served samples of chicken fried rice while CTE instructor Ross Carter gave commentary and answered questions from onlookers.
Carter explained that culinary students are held to the same standards as a professional kitchen-- including handling food safely, food safety inspections and of course, doing the dishes.
Students are expected to understand and master seven recipes over the course of the class, and keep journals to track their progress featuring industry-standard vocabulary.
Not only are students learning how to cook, but they also gain valuable skills when it comes to running a business through pricing their equipment, ingredients, and products in certain projects, according to Carter, who explained that in upgrading the Culinary Arts program from a simple elective to a CTE pathway, it is “opening up doors for students to realize they can make a career out of this.”
The Building and Construction CTE pathway is currently under construction at BHS quite literally, parts of the classroom and items such as cabinets still need to be built, and instructor Jeremy Rager wants to encourage students to contribute in putting this program together.
With a lifetime background in construction and woodworking, Rager plans on implementing two, possibly three, construction courses in the CTE pathway.
These courses will teach students essential skills for getting into the construction industry, ranging from basic safety skills in a workshop to full on architecture, according to Rager.
Similarly to other CTE classes, students will be familiarized with industry standard tools and techniques of construction.
Most skills, such as running wiring and conduits through houses, can be applied to house maintenance outside of a career in construction, making this a beneficial class to acquire skills that will make life easier as an adult, according to Rager.
“I think this class is the perfect example of the ‘but why?’” Rager explained. From the chemical formulas for things such as concrete students learn in their science classes, to the mathematical techniques students must memorize in order to calculate the slope of a triangle-- the Construction CTE classes apply these ‘school smart’ skills to real world situations, which as Rager put it, “shows [students] the reason they need to learn things in their other classes as well.”
“CTE is about recognition,” Breyer said, “that students need these real world skills, and that college is not the only option. Beaumont Unified is enabling students to start with, not just jobs, but careers right out of high school.”
As for the future of CTE programs being implemented in Beaumont, Breyer said, “I see tremendous potential for growth in the future, as the popularity of CTE grows. This is truly just the beginning.”
Correspondent Christopher Morant is a sophomore at Beaumont High School. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .