Professional technical education advocates look to shake stereotypes

Hundreds of Treasure Valley high school students are doing more than hitting the books and taking tests to figure out their future.

From auto mechanics to Zoology, professional technical education (PTE) is an important part of education.

Roughly 670 PTE classes are offered in the Gem State with plenty of room for students who may have different minded career goals.

One major hurdle for PTE? Exposure to students, especially at the ages between middle school and high school and stereotypes about the type of students the classes attract.

“We are still fighting the stereotypes. We are still working to change the perception that these programs are for kids who can't cut it academically," Director of Idaho SkillStack and Business Outreach Wendi Secrist explained.

For people like Borah Senior Griffin McCulloch, taking summer school and zero hour classes to free up his schedule for hands on welding is worth it.

"After high school, I plan to go to CWI to expand these skills and then go to university in chemical engineering and then apply for the Navy to be a jet propulsion engineer," McCulloch explained enthusiastically.

McCulloch’s mom, Danielle, wasn’t so sure at first but has since warmed up to the welding idea.

“At first when Griffin said he wanted to take welding I kind of had that stereotype until we came out here and saw what a huge technological background is behind it," she admits.

Statewide, 67% of PTE students attend higher learning centers compared to 53% of traditional high schools.

It’s a race of time to equip and train the future students of America in these classes.

“The Department of Labor predicts there will be 109,000 job openings by 2020. And we will only have about 14,000 people come in to our workforce at that time," Secrist said.

Of the twenty occupations with the highest job vacancy rates in Idaho, seventeen are tied to PTE career pathways.

Parents that we talked to about PTE loved the programs because it offers the chance for students to earn college credit while still in high school and learn a skill.

For students, the classes are viewed as freedom and an opportunity to mingle with like-minded classmates who want to build, sculpt and craft. 

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