public information intern, Cache Country School District

What would it be like if your child could graduate from college with a four-year degree in half the time? Sky View High School graduate, Johnny Robinson, turned that dream into a reality. While still in high school, Johnny participated in and completed a two-year STEM program. After combining that with other AP credits, he went on to earn a four-year college degree in just two years. Johnny is currently an engineering assistant at Autoliv, a top company in the automotive industry.

The path that Johnny chose is one that many Cache County School District (CCSD) students are pursuing by utilizing the Career and Technical Education (CTE) course options available at each high school. CTE Pathways are rigorous programs of study that focus on strong academic and technical preparation to provide students with critical learning and hands-on skills. Students who focus on a Pathway can choose to extend this training to higher education, or they can pursue well-paid careers following graduation. These careers have the potential for rapid financial growth, increased levels of responsibility, and a high degree of personal satisfaction. Pathway programs focus on eight areas of study: agriculture, business, family and consumer science, health science and technology, information technology, marketing, skilled and technical science, and technology and engineering.

To match the rising popularity of CTE programs, unique and exciting opportunities have grown in our community. One such opportunity is the Bear River Region Automated Manufacturing (AM) STEM Program. The AM STEM program started as an initiative from the local manufacturing industry, where employers struggle to recruit and retain qualified employees. Industry partners worked with education partners from Bridgerland Technical College, Utah State University, and Box Elder, Cache County, Logan City, and Rich School Districts to develop a curriculum that includes career-specific coursework and work-based learning experiences.

The AM STEM program, which each of CCSD’s high schools offers as an early morning class, starts in secondary schools and then continues through higher education. If completed, students enrolled in the program can earn an Automated Manufacturing certificate through Bridgerland Technical College and receive 30 credit hours toward higher education. Once students have finished, they graduate not only with the necessary skills and experience, but also with the distinct advantage of having completed an educational training program designed by the very companies with whom they may seek employment.

Jared Storrs, STEM Program advisor and technology teacher at Green Canyon High School, has been teaching shop and technology classes for 20 years. He believes that courses such as the AM STEM Program are appealing to students because they offer an alternative to more traditional high school classes. “Students take [STEM] classes because they get to work with their hands and not just sit at a desk all day,” Jared said. “Out in the shop, students are able to use their creativity. This program also provides students with the ability to work toward a certificate that opens up potential job opportunities. The students who go through this program can get their foot in the door.”

The Bear River Region AM STEM Program was recently awarded the prestigious CTE Excellence in Action Award. According to a CTE news release announcing the award, the AM STEM program “represents the best CTE program in the state of Utah. Career and Technical Education in the Bear River Region provides all learners with a world-class education. While the program is unique, it offers a rigorous sequence of courses beginning with foundational skills to subject-matter, real-world hands-on experiences in the classroom led by dedicated educators and meaningful work-based experiences facilitated by industry partners.”

If you are interested in learning more about CTE offerings, please visit ccsdut.org/cte or contact a guidance counselor at your child’s school.