New opportunities and partnership with local businesses and colleges mean that new STEM career pathways for high school students are opening up. High school students learn to design products, and have access to pre engineering programs previously only available in college, not ninth grade.
In Jesus Garcia Galvez’ classroom, students are quietly at work in pairs, designing skateboards using a software program called SolidWorks.
The high school freshmen are working independently on laptops and helping one another. Not one cellphone rings during the entire 90 minute period.
The level of concentration is typical of a college classroom, not a ninth-grade science class.
But this is not your typical high school class. It’s a pre-engineering course taught by a doctoral engineering student and developed by a professor of engineering at the University of Rhode Island.
The Providence Career and Technical Academy (PCTA), a block of glass and burnished steel off Fricker Street, is offering the first pre-engineering course in high school.
The goal is to prepare high school students for college-level work. For those students who want to enter the work force upon graduation, the goal is to give students industry-ready skills for jobs at Raytheon or Electric Boat.
“We’re giving kids a four-year head start,” said Luke Driver, the school district’s director of career and technical education. “This is exactly what German apprenticeship programs do.”
The pre-engineering program is part of a much broader career pathways initiative that the Providence school district is poised to roll out.
Starting with three elementary schools this fall, students will become aware of career options using a state-sponsored web-based tool called Way to Go Rhode Island.
In middle school, the Providence After School Alliance (PASA) has already partnered with nonprofits to offer dozens of after-school classes that tap into students’ burgeoning interests, from art to studying marine ecosystems at Save The Bay.
Middle school students will have the opportunity to earn credit for out-of-school work. Those credits are recorded on digital badges, which document the skills online. The badges will be introduced to 600 middle school students this spring and summer.
“This is about student engagement,” Driver said. “It’s about finding the unique buttons that turn students on. …Why are kids bored in school? Because it’s not relevant.”