A career move

Mineola High CTE training preps kids for workplace




Now in its second year, the Career and Technical Education (CTE) program at Mineola High School has grown by 190 students, and now roughly half of all high school kids are enrolled in one of six “pathways” designed to prepare them for the workplace.

The mission of CTE: Developing in students the marketable skills and training they need to secure a foothold in a competitive workforce. Kids earning a diploma from Mineola High School should be ready for either the academic rigors of college or the demands of the workplace at the entry level.

Mineola’s CTE program offers career pathways in education, health services, information technology, ranch and animal management, welding tech, and auto tech.

“We decided to focus on those high-need areas for this region of East Texas,” said Mark Parkerson, director of special programs for the Mineola Independent School District.

Within those pathways is an array of classes and programs in which students can achieve industry certifications, and these certifications are looked upon favorably by potential employers, according to Gary Allen, economic development manager for the East Texas Workforce Development Area.

“Absolutely, along with a high school diploma, it also covers preparedness accreditation and gives evidence to them that they have the skills and competencies within those occupations,” Allen said. Further, to a prospective employer, a certification “demonstrates that they know how to learn.”

Along with teaching students a set of specific skills related to their field, CTE training also includes “soft skills” instruction.

Employers want students to have basic communication skills, to look at a person when being spoken to. They want them to be emotionally stable with the ability to work with others. They want new employees who report to the job on time and work a full day. They want employees who are ambitious and motivated.

“Just those things that you and I thought was normal stuff years ago; we’re having to teach kids that stuff now,” said Parkerson.

For a kid who completes CTE, it could spell the difference between making $7.25 an hour and earning a living wage. For instance, an entry-level welder in East Texas starts at about $38,000 per year, according to Parkerson. And even those students who go to college can parlay CTE training into a decent part-time wage. “Instead of making (minimum wage) they can get a job at $15 an hour even if they decide to go to college and work part-time,” he said.

In addition, the CTE training in high school gives them a leg up in some collegiate fields, such as nursing. “If they go to TJC (Tyler Junior College) and decide they want to go to nursing school, they have a couple of points up on everybody else, because getting into TJC is tough,” Parkerson noted.

Meanwhile, with the East Texas economy approaching full employment, economists are forecasting growth in sectors across the board.

“All areas are seeking more workers,” said Allen.

Pairing skilled entry-level workers with industries hungry for competent employees is the perfect scenario.

Said Allen: “It’s definitely a win-win.”