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02/22/08 In down economy, catapult lifts students’ interest in technical careers

 

02/22/08 In down economy, catapult lifts students’ interest in technical careers

   
Alder Grove Academy students get their hands on CACT Tech-Explorer

ROCKLIN – On Wednesday, February 27, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., students enrolled in the Alder Grove Academy, a paramilitary community school in Auburn, will be introduced to technical careers unlikely to be affected by recession. Students will fabricate parts and build catapults through the hands-on Tech-Explorer project developed by the Sierra College Center for Applied Competitive Technologies (CACT) (sierracollegetraining.com). According to Steve Hunter, CACT Tech-Explorer project manager, the program introduces skills that local employers are seeking and encourages students to consider careers designing, fabricating and repairing technical systems.

“Manufacturers, utilities, ski lift operators, managers of building control systems, and companies that operate ATMs and other similar systems are recruiting employees,” said Hunter. “Young people, who can work with tools, use problem solving skills and apply a combination of experience in mechanical, electrical, electronic, hydraulic and computer control systems, are likely to find highly paid local employment even during a recession. Our society depends on these technical systems.” The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics indicates that jobs requiring science, engineering or technical training will increase by more than 24 percent to 6.3 million by 2014.

Alder Grove Academy students are turning their lives around after being referred to the school by the Probation Department, expelled from their school district or referred by the School Attendance Review Board (SARB), explained Joan Berry, Director of Alternative Education for Placer County Office of Education. “These are bright students, many of whom excel when they can learn by doing and see how the academic theory is applied,” said Berry. “The CACT Tech-Explorer catapult project is perfect for our students because they’ll learn how to operate mills, lathes and other tools, interact with Sierra College CACT trainers and be introduced to careers that they may not have considered.”

The goal of the Tech-Explorer project is to provide relevant learning experiences according to Sandra Scott, Director of Workforce Development and Continuing Education for Sierra College.

“CACT Tech-Explorer makes abstract academic theory interesting by teaching students how to use fabrication tools and apply what they are learning to build a catapult,” said Scott. “With baby-boomers retiring, business are recruiting skilled workers and offering highly paid careers. Students inspired by Tech-Explorer can apply for industry apprenticeships, and earn technical certificates and degrees at Sierra College. They can go on to earn four year degrees in design, engineering and manufacturing.”

According to Joan Berry, the Alder Grove Academy also works in partnership with the U.S. Army. “The U.S. Army provides military structure to the school with drills, ceremonies, student counseling, and reinforcing the code of conduct,” said Berry. “The students also dress in military uniforms. Many of the positions in the military develop and require technical skills introduced by CACT Tech-Explorer.”

The ultimate goal of the Tech-Explorer project is to inspire students to consider technical careers and fill California businesses’ need for skilled workers. The Sierra College CACT secured a grant of $121,000 per year for two years from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, Economic Development and Workforce Preparation Division (www.cccco.edu) to establish this demonstration project.

This short-term, turn-key project makes it easy for teachers to engage students, introduce technology and suggest careers while meeting State of California secondary education standards. Tech-Explorer can be offered in English, history, math and science classes. Sierra College CACT provides trainers, shop tools, materials, safety gear and curriculum standards, making it attractive to teachers without technical backgrounds. The manual catapult can also be modified with electrical, solar and electronic modules.

Once the pilot is completed, Tech-Explorer will be available to schools through California’s twelve Centers for Applied Competitive Technologies (CACT.org). The pilot program has already been offered at Colfax, Iowa Hill, Oakmont and Mammoth high schools. Demand is so high for the new program that Sierra College CACT is seeking additional industry sponsors so it can be offered in more schools locally. For more information, contact Sandra Scott, Sierra College Workforce Development and Continuing Education at (916) 660-7801.

The mission of the Center for Applied Competitive Technologies is to support companies with employee training, technology deployment and industry development. Since 1997, the Sierra College CACT has supported manufacturers and technology companies in Northern California from Sacramento to the Oregon border. For more information, go to www.sierracollegetraining.com or call 916-660-7801.

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