Readying students for the future through career and technical education

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“Leading to a Bright Future” is more than a tagline for us in Leander ISD; it is the underpinning of everything we are working toward. Our goal is to prepare students to graduate equipped with all the skills, tools and knowledge to succeed on whatever path they choose.

This is beautifully illustrated by LISD alumnus Eric Zimmerman. Eric graduated more than 10 years ago after going through the Electrical Technology program at Leander High School.

Thanks to courses and training he received at LHS, Eric graduated as an entry-level electrician, earning $36,000 per year. His employer covered the cost of additional training and education and eight years later, Eric had become a licensed master electrician — without any college debt —earning more than $70,000 per year.

He is now an electrical inspector for the city and instructs electrical trade teachers on how to offer current, high-quality CTE courses, coming full circle from his LHS days.

For Eric, his electrical technology courses helped him realize the career he wanted to pursue. But just as importantly, CTE courses also allow students to “try on” different fields to determine what they do not want to do, without the hefty price tag that comes with college courses.

CTE courses are designed to provide an authentic learning experience through academically rigorous and technology-rich curriculum and real-world applications. Prior to their freshman year of high school, students are encouraged to create balanced four-year plans that include the best of both academic and career-focused classes.

Leander ISD offers close to 150 different CTE courses, many of which mirror the same courses we find in higher education settings, including: medical microbiology; advanced animal science; principles of agriculture; graphic design and illustration; restaurant management; civil engineering and architecture; principles of business, marketing and finance; and aerospace engineering.

After completing certain advanced-level courses, students can earn one of 30 certifications, which qualifies them for direct job placement like Eric’s experience, or bolsters a college application with an Adobe Illustrator certification, or helps them work through college as a Certified Nursing Assistant.

Our CTE programs are supported by national student organizations, such as DECA, FFA, FIRST Robotics Competition and FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America). These organizations provide so many of our students an opportunity to apply classroom skills, serve in leadership capacities and earn scholarships.

CTE also helps strengthen our district’s partnerships with area businesses. It supports a mutually beneficial flow of qualified mentors and work-based learning opportunities for our students, and better-qualified, informed and trained students for our local workforce.

Additionally, healthy relationships with our area businesses benefit programs outside of CTE, including COOL (Career Opportunities on Location) Week, during which qualified high school students complete a weeklong internship with a local business matched to their prospective career path.

COOL Week will take place Feb. 5-9 this school year. If your company is interested in hosting our student-interns — particularly companies in the engineering, law, finance, marketing, medicine, gaming or graphic design industries — please contact our coordinator, Pat Lopez, at pat.lopez@leanderisd.org.

Leander ISD students continue to exceed our expectations. I am excited to see our CTE programs grow and evolve, to see our students go on to succeed in their future endeavors and then to reciprocate support for the rising generation of LISD students following in their footsteps. It is this important work that truly makes us #1LISD.

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