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Career and technical programs are breaking barriers in rural areas of Monterey County

MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. (KION) One way students in rural areas are getting ahead of their peers is by taking Career and Technical Education, or CTE courses in high school. South Monterey County schools are joining forces to advance work-based learning opportunities for high school students.

Essentially, work-based learning is an educational strategy that provides students with real-life work experiences by connecting academic knowledge and technical skills to apply them in the workforce. These technical courses prepare students for the workforce and high education.

South Monterey County work-based learning collaborative is a collaboration between South County Career Technical Education (CTE) programs, Gonzales Unified School District, Soledad Unified School District, and South Monterey County Joint Union High School District.

Students learn what it takes to thrive and succeed in the professional world with opportunities for part-time employment, shadowing, internships, mentorships, and apprenticeships. On top of getting a high school degree, students can specialize in a technical career. Some careers include agriculture, engineering, computer science. Nearly 2,000 students sign-up for the CTE program every year in South Monterey County Joint Union High School District from freshman to senior year in high school.

"CTE programs are essential to California's economy. The state's Department of Education recognizes it and that's why it invests so much in these programs because it helps provide the skill sets the next generation of our workforce needs to succeed," said Liliana de la Torre the CTE Coordinator for SMCJUHSD. "We're constantly trying to elevate our CTE programs to be an important part of the recovery for our rural economy."

CTE programs also allow students to explore other career paths. Gerardo Solís did the four-year engineering track in Greenfield High School's CTE program. But when he started taking computer science classes, he quickly realizes that was the career he wanted to pursue.

"If it wasn't for this program, I probably would be pursuing an engineering career. I don't think I would have liked it as much as computer science," Solís said. "I wanted to learn more about computer science. I knew engineering had computer science skills, but I didn't know if I would like it."

Solís founded Robotics Club at his school where the team competed against other schools in Monterey. Apple funded the club which helped them recruit more members. On top of that, Solís is the treasurer for the computer science class and the president of the Computer Science Club.

Each district has its own specialties. SMCJUHSD has agriculture, engineering, and computer science. Soledad High School as an education CTE program to build the next generation of teachers.

Currently, students can only participate in CTE courses that are offered in their respective school districts. However, de la Torres said they're trying to expand their program. In addition to learning how each district implements different career course curriculums, work-based learning collaborative allow all participating districts to take advantage of job opportunities for any industry. For example, if an agriculture company reaches out to the South County school district with 20 spots for students, all the participating districts can provide that opportunity to their students.

"We want to work together to reinforce and strengthen our region," said De la Torre. "That's the key of what we're trying to do."

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Melody Waintal

Melody Waintal is the Digital Content Director for and


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