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Carson City teachers get crash course in manufacturing needs

Anne Knowles

On Wednesday, 20 teachers from the Carson City school system will spend a professional development day touring local manufacturers.

The field trip is part of an ongoing partnership between schools and local businesses, the goal of which is to better prepare area students for life after high school, in this case by better preparing educators to teach them about opportunities at local employers.

“We recognize that a skilled workforce is critical to our survival,” says Jonathan Begley, director of community engagement for Click Bond Inc., a Carson City manufacturer of bonded fasteners for the aircraft industry. “We need people with skills, and we believe more needs to be done. We also see that we have a part in that, by stepping up and articulating our needs effectively.”

Click Bond is one of six manufacturers that the group of teachers will visit in Carson City, Mound House and Minden, where they’ll hopefully get a better grasp of a typical manufacturing operation and be able to use that knowledge to teach students.

“It’s just like any other business. It’s not just the production floor. We have IT and HR and sales,” says Begley. “The objective of the day is to build relationships between the educators and manufacturers. And for a teacher to teach an algebra problem, for example, what better way is there than to use a real world example like manufacturing?”

Richard Stokes, superintendent, Carson City School District, says it’s important that students be career and college ready. Collaborating with local industry is one method the school system utilizes, says Stokes. Another is a diverse Career and Technical Education curriculum that includes computer technologies, welding, auto body, maintenance and repair, agriculture and engineering.

“This is our first year with engineering. We’re working to perfect our lab, using the curriculum that has been provided and an individual teacher who is a former electrical engineer,” says Stokes. “We expect it to be highly sought after. Agriculture is relatively new. We’re working with Karen Abowd and The Greenhouse Project. That group is doing a lot to expose students to agriculture, maybe not in the old familiar sense, but landscape design, horticulture, and urban agriculture.”

Carson City is also developing a CNC machine operator program spurred by a virtual class introduced to the school district by Ray English, vice president of engineering at American International Tooling Inc., a manufacturer of machine parts in Minden.

“We’re still in the development stage with the curricula,” says Stokes, but the goal is to offer a program next year. “It’s another great opportunity for partnership with industry.”

The teacher field trip this week comes after one held last November in which area manufacturers were toured by 45 educators from Washoe County, where collaborations between schools and businesses have been going on for years.

The Education Alliance of Washoe County, for example, is a 20-year-old non-profit formed by business and civic leaders to improve education. It focuses on three areas, including a program the group calls Career and College Readiness.

Earlier this month, the alliance issued a set of materials for teachers, students and parents that outline goals for high school students to achieve in order to prepare themselves for college or work. They include SAT and ACT score targets as well as a core set of classes needed before graduation.

“The goal is to educate parent and students,” says Jim Pfrommer, alliance president and co-founder, Pfrommer & McCune Ltd., certified public accountants. “Whether for a career or college, you need to plan. It’s not the old economy. You don’t just get a diploma. You need to aim higher because employers need more skilled employees.”