Skip to main content

Sugar House Journal

Technical, vocational training becomes high-tech

Nov 26, 2018 12h31 ● By Julie Slama

Herriman High senior Braxton Fabert created a toolbox at the Utah Sheet Metal Education and Training booth at the Pathways to Professions showcase. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Jordan High students Rhiannon Adderley and Jordan Barrus tried out Utah Valley University’s airplane that was on display. Adderley, who is a junior, said they had learned about topics from engineering to aviation services.

Barrus, a sophomore, said, “I’m looking around, getting an idea of what I want to do.”

Learning about career opportunities is one reason Career and Technical Education (CTE) leaders in Murray, Granite, Jordan, Canyons, Salt Lake and Tooele school districts as well as area charter schools wanted to hold a showcase where high school students could explore and ask questions to college and industry leaders.

“We want to open the students’ eyes,” said Janet Goble, Canyons CTE director. “They may not know what exists or how the ones they’re familiar with have changed. This gives them a chance to interact and be exposed to these careers and talk to those in the fields. Many industries are offering part-time jobs, internships, education reimbursement and one-on-one conversations about opportunities.”

Goble said it’s an effort to support “One, two, four or more,” meaning post–high school education and training such as earning a certificate to a doctorate program.

“It used to be pushed that job opportunities came with a four-year degree and that’s not true anymore. There’s a severe shortage in all the skilled, technical areas as the current workforce is retiring. Some starting careers can reach six figures and tuition reimbursement,” she said.

Such is the case with Komatsu Equipment, said Matthew Pruss, Komatsu Equipment director of human resources. 

Komatsu, which supports the Utah Diesel Technician Pathways through educational opportunities at Jordan and Canyon technical education centers, was just one of more than 100 businesses and college and university departments at the Oct. 16–17 Pathways to Professions’ Career & Technical Education Showcase.

Pruss said workers earning “six figures” rings true in the diesel tech careers, where they also offer apprenticeships and help pay for education.

“Careers are becoming much more high-tech,” he said. “These careers aren’t the grease monkey positions that we used to know. Now, our technicians are on the laptop, understanding electronics, coding and programming.”

For example, a drone’s photography may be used to measure elevation, which then can be used in developing models of roads or where to place piles of dirt when building a future school site. From there, technicians build and create models with 3D printers, which may be used when excavating with computer-programmed autonomous hauling machinery and trucks.

“There are prototypes where there are no drivers in the cab; they’re already be tested,” Pruss said. “We’re needing technicians right now and students can work right into the program where we’re experiencing shortages.”

Stephen Hemmersmeier, marketing department data coordinator at Jerry Seiner Dealerships, said they too are experiencing a technician shortage in the automobile industry, and incentives such as tuition reimbursement for two-year technician certification programs are possible with Jerry Seiner Dealerships.

“Many students think it’s working with your hands and tinkering with engines, but now it’s being able to upload and run diagnostic equipment on the computer,” he said.

Hemmersmeier, and other company representatives, interested students through hands-on activities at the Pathways expo. At Jerry Seiner, students participated in a “Minute to Win It” scavenger hunt to identify 25 parts of a Kia Stinger.

“It’s a fun, interactive way to get students involved, and then they feel more at ease to ask questions,” he said.

Drayke Gray, a cadet with Salt Lake City Fire, answered students about what he does and why he chose to enter a program for students from age 14 to 18 to learn about the fire service.

“Even if they end up not wanting this career, it helps them learn leadership, accountability, knowledge, working with people and opportunities that will help them in their careers or with scholarships with colleges,” he said.

Hillcrest High’s Work-Based Learning Facilitator Cher Burbank said not only is it a great opportunity for students to talk to industry leaders, but it also gives industry a chance to share with students so “kids will stay in Utah” with their careers.

Priscilla Banbury, an adult volunteer with Americon, agreed.

“We’re looking to find adults and kids who are wanting to pursue a job as we have openings and great benefits,” she said. “We want to integrate into the community and support our local students.”

Jordan School District CTE Director Jason Skidmore said booths featured agriculture, business and marketing, family consumer science, skilled and technical areas, technology and engineering, information technology and health sciences.

“We invited education and industry from all those sectors with a goal to provide students variety and have them look and learn what options are there,” he said about the 8,000 students in attendance. “Harmons has been here all three years we’ve held the Pathways Showcase. They tie into agriculture, culinary, business and marketing — so many more opportunities than students realize.”

Skidmore said he also hopes students are intrigued to pursue their own passion to make it their career. As part of the expo, Salt Lake Community College hosted Jamie Hyneman, co-host of the television show “MythBusters,” who shared how he did that.

Jordan High’s Work-Based Learning Facilitator Lisa Willis said it started with “solid advice about following through with what you start” in terms of jobs and education.

“He learned through survival, starting to make his own way when he was 14 and did a variety of jobs to survive,” she said, adding that he also earned a master’s degree. “He wanted students to know they could be more than the students who took a test. They could be the students who could find the new method, not just answer a question right, but to think outside the box — to do hard things and make things better. He said they needed to learn things and see things through to the end, not just be passive or give up.”

Goble added that she hopes students took note of his reply when asked how he figured out what career he wanted to do.

“He said he’s still in the process of exploring and that he’s always learning,” she said. “Lifelong learning is an important part in careers.”