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  • Youth Career Connect students to be honored

    Sep 22, 2015 | Read More News
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    Students who attended a bioscience academy this summer at Pima County’s Regional Wastewater Reclamation facility will be honored at the Sunnyside Unified School Board meeting Sept. 23. 

    The academy was part of the One-Stop Career Center’s administration of a $5.4 million Youth Career Connect grant.

    The program fills the need for employers in the growing fields of biotechnology, aviation, health information technology and industrial technology who need more well-trained employees.

    That need prompted the One-Stop to reach out to area partners to develop comprehensive curriculum and training programs to fill that science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) pipeline. The One-Stop administers the program for more than 150 high school juniors across several school districts and is currently seeking a new crop of high school juniors to sign up with teachers and counselors to join the program. By the end of the four-year grant, approximately 900 students will have gone through the program. 

    Bioscience studentsThe grant is supported by the U.S. Department of Labor, Pima County Joint Technical Education District (JTED), the Sunnyside and Tucson Unified School Districts, Pima Community College, and nonprofit partner, Tucson Youth Development. One-Stop is the grant awardee on behalf of Innovation Frontier Arizona, which includes also Santa Cruz, Pinal and Yuma counties. 

    “This is about Pima County and the Board of Supervisors being committed to the economic development of this region by responding to a critical need in the business community.

    Through some unique collaborative efforts involving multiple schools, businesses and agencies, we’re making real strides toward developing a well-trained work force,” said Nils Urman, who manages the Youth Career Connect (YCC) program.

    Students come into the program in their junior year of high school with the recommendation of teachers and parents. Desert View High School and Tucson Magnet High School feed students into the industrial technology program. Bioscience students come from Sunnyside High School, Tucson High and Pueblo High School. The health technology and aviation programs draw students from Pima JTED.

    Once students enter the program, they are in for the next four years – through their first two years at Pima Community College, explained Gerri Brunson, a workforce development specialist for One-Stop and the program coordinator for the YCC grant.

    The first crop of students came into the program in fall 2014, with support from teachers, counselors and parents. “They work toward STEM career pathways and along the way, we provide support, field trips, work experience and mentorships,” Brunson said.

    “The key is parent engagement and support and having our YCC collaborators encourage students to take advantage of a terrific opportunity where they’re going to learn a lot, have some fun and pick up the skills to make them job-ready,” Brunson said. 

    Bioscience students study wastewater

    Bioscience students – in a unique Pima County partnership – spent two weeks at the Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department (RWRD). During the first week students participated in daily field tours, attend presentations from a variety of professionals in the wastewater industry, received classroom instruction and conducted laboratory analysis on wastewater. 

    During the second week students worked closely with technicians and other professionals within the wastewater field to learn first-hand the process for treating wastewater and returning it back to the environment. Students earned six credits through Pima Community College at the end of the “Bioscience Academy.”

    RWRD’s Duane Vild developed the curriculum and lab experience for the Bioscience Academy. His colleague James Doyle led the field trips. Their goal was to keep the classroom work and off-site trips lively, especially since – of the nearly 28 percent of high school freshmen who declare an interest in a STEM-related field -- 57 percent will lose interest by the time they graduate from high school.

    Christian Castro isn’t one of them. The 16-year-old incoming senior at Pueblo High School called his two weeks with the Bioscience Academy this summer “an awesome experience.” 
    Students shadowed lab technicians and visited wastewater plants around the county. “It was interesting to see the way they use chemistry to treat the water. It’s a lot of working on the computer but doing hands-on work too,” said Castro, who hopes to become a biochemist. “It’s a great program.”

    Industrial Technology students to work with manufacturing partners

    Industrial technology students took Machine Shop Math and College Study Skills courses at Pima this summer and will intern next summer with area manufacturers. Students couldn’t start internships this summer since they weren’t 18 yet and employers couldn’t allow them on their shop floors. 

    The entire YCC grant submission was modeled after the efforts One-Stop put together in 2012 with the Southern Arizona Manufacturing Partners, a consortium of area manufacturers who came to the One-Stop for help in filling the critical shortage of skilled young machinists. 

    One-Stop worked with area high schools and Pima Community College to revamp their machining curriculum and establish a pipeline of students ready to enter the field. Students pair their classroom training with internships at SAMP companies, many of which go on to hire the students full time.

    Future nurses, EMTs trained in Health Information Technology

    Students studying Health Information Technology through Pima County’s JTED program may go on to careers in nursing, as EMTs or paramedics, but they are learning more than patient care. “Infomatics is part of all of these pathways,” said Beth Francis, nursing program manager for Pima County JTED. 

    JTED students at TMCIntegrating infomatics can be as simple as learning how to use an electronic blood-pressure cuff to updating computerized patient records. This summer, Francis said students paired up with health care professionals who served as mentors and did rotations in departments such as vascular medicine, cardiology and orthopedics. 

    After their senior year, many students go on to work per diem as caregivers or certified nursing assistants, jobs that pay $10-$13 an hour, Francis said. But 97 percent go on for additional education so they can become office managers, registered nurses, respiratory therapists, even physicians.

    The traditional JTED health program is two years – the student’s junior and senior years of high school. The YCC grant expands that to four years, so that students can pick up additional health information technology skills at Pima College.

    Sky’s the limit for aviation grads

    In the aviation sector, students entering their senior year of high school came to Pima College this summer for a fundamentals course that “got them excited about aerospace,” said Derek Bakehouse, who teaches the aviation courses at Pima with support from Tim Murphy with Pima JTED.

    Traditionally, the curriculum involves courses on blueprints and regulations, stuff that “doesn’t really turn on the teen-agers,” Bakehouse said. “So, we also have an aircraft they can look at, a little single-engine job, so they can see how the controls work.”

    Once students complete their course of study through JTED, they attend Pima for another 14 months to earn their degrees in an extremely promising job market.

    Aviation technicians might start off earning $15 to $18 an hour, said Bakehouse, but many jobs pay $20 to $30 an hour. It’s not unheard of, he said, for a second- or third-year graduate to make $100,000 annually.

    Tom Hinman, who runs the aviation program at Pima College, agreed the job market is bright. He noted that one industry publication predicted that exploding job growth coupled with retirements will mean half a million aviation technicians will be needed in coming years.

    “The only graduates of ours,” Bakehouse observed, “who don’t end up working in aviation are the ones who don’t want a job.”