Program gives Oak Harbor students a technical edge

"Helping young people to achieve the desired end result is a big part of the career and technical education program at Oak Harbor High School.And, the students are doing some amazing things with their training, school officials say.Sean Dowling is one such student who has found his niche. Working on a computer with an architectural design program, Dowling, with a few clicks of the mouse, it seems, designs a house. He makes it look easy.Dowling is a senior who has focused on the industrial technology program. Dowling hopes to become either an architect or an engineer someday. Recently, Dowling drew a print of a mobile home park in the city of Oak Harbor. A local construction company needed an accurate drawing of the existing park, and Dowling provided it - using skills he gained from the design and engineering courses.The plans the construction company had were inaccurate, and Sean helped correct the discrepancies. The actuals, as they are called, drawn by Sean, corrected some major problems.Some things were way off - like sewer lines, Sean said.Career and guidance counselors at the high school get together with students interested in career and technical fields and find out what kind of job the students would like to pursue after graduation. Then the counselors are able to show the students which courses to take to gain the desired goal, said Cynthia Shelton, director of career and technical education.For students that aren't sure if a certain career is for them, exploratory courses are available to test the waters.There are five career clusters available at the high school. Some career paths will require college, some vocational or technical schools, and some of the high school programs provide enough basic skills in the field to begin entry-level work immediately following high school.Only 20 percent of students nationally go on to four-year colleges, Shelton said. Career and technical education is a good option for the 80 percent of young people that don't have college plans.The five clusters include Arts and Communications, Business and Marketing, Human and Health Services, Technology and Industry, and Science and Environment. Within each cluster are subcategories of more specific job fields from which to choose.The students in Hans Hurlbutt's automotive technology classes are gaining valuable knowledge and skill in auto repair and maintenance.Students in the auto tech program can gain credit from Skagit Valley College for coursework completed at the high school. In addition, the high school classes are applicable toward the two-year minimum experience requirement to be eligible to take the Automotive Service Excellence certification exam. Many of the students go on to technical schools, preparing them for well-paying careers. Some students are gaining valuable experience immediately, with internships at various Oak Harbor car dealerships and auto shops.John Hellman's electronics lab is teaching students the cutting edge of technology. The class has the capability to build computers up to the newest Pentium IV processor. The lab recently gained 11 computers, rebuilt from parts by the students.Students in health careers and sports medicine are performing internships throughout North Whidbey, including Whidbey General Hospital, the Navy medical facilities, and local dentists. Youth interested in any health-related career, from fire fighter to physician, may start with this career and technical cluster.The culinary arts program is perhaps the most widely known of the career and technical clusters, thanks to Wildcat Catering. The catering operation provides culinary delights for school district functions, and even fills individual orders from its menu on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.At a lunch Wednesday, teachers from the career and technical education department had the chance to brainstorm with high school counselors, while the group happily munched on teriyaki chicken bowls prepared by Wildcat Catering.The communication between teachers and counselors was a sharing of information about the programs and ways to improve and expand the classes by letting students know what is available.Louise Reubel, home economics teacher, said she believes that career and technical education is a great benefit to students, particularly those that don't want to go to a four-year college.Speaking of the career and technical field clusters Reubel said, That's where all the jobs are.You can reach News-Times reporter Christine Smith at or call 675-6611 "

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