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Working Together: Engaging business, education for new Nevada economy (Voices)

Amy Fleming and Josh Hartzog

Working Together

Amy Fleming
Courtesy photo

RENO, Nev. — Our region is fortunate to have many strong business partners working to reinforce our educational system as a pipeline for the future workforce, and one of the most common questions raised is how to make that relationship even more robust.

There are several reasons and ways businesses can and should engage with career and technical education locally. 

Career and technical education (CTE) is a framework for integrating academic knowledge with the technical and occupational skills that provide clear pathways to postsecondary training and/or careers.

In Washoe County School District (WCSD), this framework is centered on Programs of Study that typically engage high school students for three years with an optional fourth year of advanced study and work-based learning experiences.

There are currently 36 of these programs across the district, with at least one CTE program at each of the 12 comprehensive high schools. Each program provides a rigorous applied curriculum that includes opportunities to earn college credit and industry certifications, develop workplace readiness skills, and network with local business and industry. 

A core CTE priority is to help meet the demands of our local workforce by continuously aligning with the in-demand industries of the new Nevada economy, resulting in a variety of community benefits. Project collaborations promote stronger public and private advocacy teams to enhance resources.

Work-based learning opportunities expose students to careers and industries they may not have otherwise been aware of. And there are, of course, reciprocating benefits to businesses such as heightened brand awareness, pipeline development, and employee enrichment. 

WCSD is investing in a significant expansion of CTE programming with development of the new Debbie Smith Career Technical Academy at the campus currently occupied by Hug High School.

This school will provide a broad spectrum of educational pathways focused on meeting the needs of Northern Nevada with the following programs planned: Natural Resources & Animal Sciences: Greenhouse Management & Veterinary Science; Culinary Arts & Nutrition; Engineering: Manufacturing & Robotics; Marketing; Medical Professions: Nursing & Biomedicine; Skilled Trades: Construction Technology & Welding; Teaching & Training.

This renovation is funded by the capital improvement funds approved under WC-1 by Washoe County voters in 2016 and is expected to go online in the fall of 2023.

CTE maintains the full support of the federal government, which, in 2018, enacted the fifth revision of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act.

This legislation committed an investment of nearly $1.3 billion annually in CTE programs across the nation and we anticipate this support will continue to grow as we address the evolving needs of our nation’s workforce and competitiveness in a globalized economy.

Intrigued? There are many ways you can get involved with CTE programs in our district:

  • 1. Participate in a virtual Q&A discussion to share information about your job or industry and the story of how you got there.
  • 2. Provide feedback on the design of the Debbie Smith CTA so the district can ensure the facility meets the needs of industry.
  • 3. *Take on an intern or two … or three!
  • 4. *Host a small or large student group tour of your workplace.
  • 5. *Tour and observe CTE programs to see firsthand what they’re all about.

*Currently postponed due to conditions related to COVID-19.

Looking for inspiration? Many employers in the Reno-Sparks area maintain a strong relationship with WCSD in ways that best leverage their resources. For example:

  • Lincoln Electric, B&J Inc., Haws Corporation, Triad Technologies, and Elemental LED have hosted tours of their facilities during Manufacturing Month in October. They, and many others, use these tours to enable CTE students to connect directly with workforce representatives while seeing firsthand the equipment and technical processes they’re studying in their programs.
  • Renown Health has been a leading partner in providing students with internships to earn real-world experience and academic credit. The success of their program has inspired replication across industries including agriculture, digital communications, engineering, hospitality, and education.
  • Tesla, Inc. has provided an enduring commitment to expand robotics education across all WCSD schools while coordinating closely with the CTE Department to develop a sustainable workforce development program specializing in manufacturing and engineering.

For more information on these and other ways you can engage with WCSD and help build a better workforce community, please contact Julie Henderson (Career Exploration Facilitator) at jhenderson@washoeschools.net.

“Working Together,” which focuses on fostering a future workforce for the greater Reno region, is a recurring Voices column in the NNBW authored by the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada. Amy Fleming is director of workforce development for EDAWN. Reach her for comment at fleming@edawn.org. This month’s column is co-authored by Josh Hartzog, director of career and technical education at the Washoe County School District.