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News / Northwest

Longview to add nutrition, advertising courses to expand trades choices

By Sydney Brown, The Daily News
Published: March 30, 2023, 7:48am

LONGVIEW — The Longview School Board Monday unanimously approved a four-year plan to get students career-ready for jobs that fall outside of college degrees and traditional trades like welding, and into fields like health, marketing and education.

Bill Ofstun, Longview School District’s career and technical education director, told school board members about a four-year career and technical education plan that would focus on certifying more district teachers and adding more classes to help students graduate through these career-focused programs.

Data shows 61.3% of Longview’s 2022 high school graduates finished a full career and technical education program, according to school board documents. Of those students, 48.6% earned their diploma solely through this pathway, meaning they graduated just from completing at least one of these programs in the Longview School District.

Updated state requirements now include a career and technical path as well as more historically traditional options that send graduates to college, according to the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Times have changed: students do not necessarily have to take standardized ACT/SAT tests to succeed after high school.

“What this shows us is that career and technical education classes are important. … Our goal is to advertise all the options that are available and try to help kids make some of those decisions,” Ofstun said.

Completed projects and career readiness

The Longview School District recently finished its $472,000 summer remodel of the Mark Morris STEM lab and got a renewed recognition status from the Washington State Apprenticeship and Training Council. Ofstun said they also have more staff getting certified and participating in CTE trainings.

Ofstun said they also hope to develop diverse programs over the next four years, since not all CTE classes focus only on trade skills like welding, woodworking and STEM.

For example, an early childhood education course could begin by 2024 depending on whether enough students enroll, Ofstun said.

Under the umbrella of CTE are program areas like health science, agriculture and business, Ofstun said.

Within those program areas, students take specific classes usually related to their chosen field like a biomedical science class, plant science and marketing.

Changes listed in the four-year plan include adding a health and nutrition course plan, photography in advertising, agribusiness and health science informatics.

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If students take enough of the two-credit course plans during their high school career, they can pursue a career-based graduation path.

“I want more options on the list,” Ofstun said.

Job, trade experience

Jobs in Cowlitz County and the larger Southwest Washington region that do not require college degrees are steadily growing and can sometimes offer young adults enticingly high wages.

Many companies want fresh faces to enter apprenticeships, earn trade-specific certifications and get hands-on experience, the regional Educational Service District told The Daily News in December.

In a county economy dominated largely by trades like construction and manufacturing, local schools have made efforts to broaden career and technical education.

Longview currently offers about 60 CTE courses. The Kelso School District has about 70 classes with seven in-field options at places like local fire stations, the Southwest Washington Regional Airport and Lower Columbia College. School districts across Cowlitz County like Kalama consistently get state funds to bolster CTE projects.

The regional Educational Service District also recently kickstarted “Flipped” internships that see high school students work under local industry leaders.

Sydney Brown is a news reporter for The Daily News covering education and environmental issues in Cowlitz County.