As you drive up to the large, gray and red building on Portland Road, you see a bunch of kids hammering away at pieces of wood propped up on hobby horses. It’s raining, but they’re still working. You walk up to the building and a kid with orange earplugs looped around his neck holds open the door for you.
Welcome to the Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC).
CTEC, Salem-Keizer’s newest school, is dedicated to helping kids build technical skills that they can use in the real world.
“That’s the plan here: to explore a little bit,” said John Honey, CTEC’s principal, who has been an educator for over 30 years.
Exploration is a theme at CTEC. All teachers emphasize the importance of hands-on education.
The center currently offers two technical programs—manufacturing and construction. CTEC also requires students to take technical math, English and computer aided design (CAD) courses, all of which build up the students’ knowledge they can apply to manufacturing or construction.
“English, math, CAD and [technical education] are all connected,” said Mark Atkinson, the center’s one-man math department. Atkinson has taught for 28 years. He enjoys CTEC because it allows kids to apply what they learn in the classroom to real world challenges.
Miranda Cryns, the center’s English teacher, shares that ideology. “I want [my students] to see English as a tool they can use,” said Cryns, a fifth year teacher. Her students are currently working on research presentations about projects they will actually build.
Honey said that regardless of whether kids plan on attending college to become an engineer, or receive on-the-job training as a welder, CTEC’s mission is to give students the skills to make that journey.
The students, 30 of whom are from West Salem High, are aware of how CTEC is preparing them for their futures.
Ian Borden, a junior at West, said CTEC will “put a foot in the door for you,” in regards to getting a job post-high school.
On the bouncy bus ride from CTEC back to West, the Titans who ride the bus on B days (three juniors: Borden, Robin Sampson and Beau Shirey, and three seniors: Eddy Casian, Johnathan Harpster and Alex Olson) emphasized the sense of community CTEC has. All six students chimed in on how being in a work environment makes them more responsible.
Harpster said just the other day he had been working with machinery and neglected to put his safety glasses on. Casian noticed, grabbed a pair and put them on for him. And this isn’t unusual. Working with dangerous machines makes CTEC’s students more conscientious, the group said.
Looking forward, the staff at CTEC have plans to grow. CTEC’s current population is mostly male, but the center’s goal is to expand their female population.
One way they aim to attract girls to the center is by adding more diverse programs. The center’s plan is to add two programs each year for the next five years. Future programs will range from cosmetology to agriscience to business.
“One of our challenges is to get people to understand that going into the trades is rewarding,” said Honey. After all, Honey noted, getting a four-year degree doesn’t guarantee a job, and jobs in fields that require technical skills are high-demand.