Spokane Valley Tech shares how they are using principles of Career Connect Washington in their programs

By Jennifer Ferrero, APR

Scott Oakshott has been a teacher and administrator for over 35 years. He has had a particular emphasis in Career and Technical Education (CTE) during his career and said, “The legislators think they’ve done a good job in preparing high school students to go to work, but many counselors still believe that everyone should go to a four-year school. In my 35 years, I haven’t been able to crack this.”

Although Oakshott, director of Spokane Valley Tech, a skills center high school focused on STEM and CTE programs, said that there is a lot of headway being made toward the concept of Career Connect WA.

Career Connect WA was launched by Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee in 2018 and whose mission is “career connected learning in action.” They also note that the program is about “career awareness and exploration.”

The website, www.careerconnectwa.org states, “Governor Jay Inslee created Career Connect Washington to bring together business, labor, government and education leaders with one goal: to improve the ability of young people to connect with high-demand, high-wage careers in Washington.”

At Spokane Valley Tech, they are doing just that. Oakshott noted that Scott Morris, CEO of Avista, an electric and gas utility in Spokane, has partnered with the Governor on this concept.

He brought the idea to Spokane Valley Tech and helped to set up a summer school in 2018 with 16 students at their Jack Stewart Training Center. Oakshott said, “They learned all about the industry and job shadows – lineman, dam workers, and more – exposure to over 45 jobs within Avista. It went so well that Avista is doing it again this year.”

Oakshott said that the program will be offered again this year through NewTech Skills Center.

“This is the textbook example of industry stepping up and saying, we just need to do this. It cost them a lot of money, they had a trainer develop the curriculum, and they bought what they needed to make it work. The program will yield several good employees, said Oakshott.

They ended up with three students in the program, all with diverse goals. He said that the program isn’t for everyone, but the students that do attend will get a lot out of it.
Wagstaff, a Spokane-based casting operation said that “if Avista can do it, we can do it,” said Oakshott. They need welders, so they are having a 20-person welding camp at Wagstaff in summer 2019, and, the kids are compensated $2000 for participating, plus they get a CTE credit.

“They will learn to weld from professionals, they may be eligible for part time jobs during the school year and when they graduate, they will have an inside track to work. This is for sophomores and juniors to change their track during high school – if they are interested in the trades, they will take courses at their high school or at NewTech or SVT,” Oakshott added.

Camille Nielsen, also with Spokane Valley Tech, is the STEM Academy principal within the school. They are running an accredited program for high school students starting as early as freshman year.

There are STEM Pathways that they follow, “As sophomores, students choose one of three primary STEM pathways: Engineering/Manufacturing, Health Science/Biomed or Computer Science/Information Technology. The STEM Academy at Spokane Valley Tech is ideal for students who are self-motivated and enjoy working collaboratively with others to solve real-world problems.”

Their program also included a design project. They are working to guide students into STEM-related fields. Literature from the program said, “The STEM Academy at Spokane Valley Tech integrates language arts and social studies in a STEM-focused learning environment. Students utilize 21st century tools to engage in relevant and rigorous learning activities that are highly collaborative, and student centered. Our goal is to provide students with a variety of career and college readiness courses to equip them with a foundation to successfully pursue careers in STEM-related fields.”

Within these two programs, and Career Connect WA, there are many approaches to career-based learning in the Spokane area, and throughout the state.

For more information:
Scott Oakshott, Director
Spokane Valley Tech
115 S. University Road, Suite B
Spokane Valley, WA 99206