Wake County's new technical high school to teach job skills

khui@newsobserver.comOctober 31, 2013 

  • Learning about the new Wake County CTE high school

    Students and parents can learn about the new Wake County career and technical education high school at the school system’s magnet fair, which will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at Southeast Raleigh High School, 2600 Rock Quarry Road in Raleigh.

    Information sessions will be held Wednesday and Nov. 13 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Crossroads II Building, 1400 Corning Road in Cary.

    Pre-applications for the school are now available online, listed under early college high schools, at www.wcpss.net/what-we-teach/programs/magnet/magnet-application.html. They are due Dec. 6.

    People who want to attend must also submit a second application during the magnet application period that opens Jan. 28.

— Wake County’s newest high school is already attracting a lot of student attention, by offering a diploma and a chance for free college credit in such in-demand areas as cosmetology, plumbing and video-game development.

More than 450 students attended tours in October to learn about the 10 career areas that will be offered at the new Wake County Career and Technical Education High School, scheduled to open in August. The new CTE high school is expected to draw even more interest at Saturday’s Wake County magnet school fair at Southeast Raleigh High School and at information sessions in November.

“I want to take advantage of all the opportunities that are available to me,” said Alex Mayhew, 16, a sophomore at Green Hope High School in Cary. Mayhew was one of more than 100 students who toured Wake Tech Community College’s main campus on Thursday.

Wake Tech will provide the instructors for the technical courses in a partnership with the Wake County school system and Wake County government, which is renovating a former Coca-Cola bottling plant to house the new school.

The $24.5 million school will open next year with 10th and 11th grades, but eventually as many as 700 high school sophomores, juniors and seniors will attend the campus at 2200 S. Wilmington St. in Raleigh. On nights and weekends, Wake Tech’s adult students will use the campus.

The high school offerings include air conditioning and heating repair, cosmetology, automobile collision repair, electronic systems, plumbing, welding, nursing assistant, bio-pharmaceuticals, geographic information systems (GIS) and simulation and game development.

“I like the idea of being able to study a specialized subject,” said Ben Finnamore, 16, a sophomore at Green Hope High. “The game development and air-conditioning and heating repair really sound interesting. The new high school seems like a good way to get individualized attention.”

Hands-on training

Traditional Wake County high schools already offer some career and technical education courses but not at the numbers that will be offered at the new high school. This will be the first high school in the county focused on career and technical education, previously called vocational education.

Traditional high schools also don’t have all the new equipment that will be installed, such as a paint booth for the collision repair students and a full work area for cosmetology students. Students would take the technical courses in their junior and senior years.

“It’s hands-on,” said Alexis Parrish, 15, a sophomore at Fuquay-Varina High School. “I don’t like just sitting in a classroom.”

Students will have a little more than a month to meet the Dec. 6 pre-application deadline. They’ll also have to submit a second application when the magnet application period starts Jan. 28.

Wake Tech staff on Thursday’s tour stressed the challenges and opportunities that the new school will provide.

“You’re talking college-level courses for college-level credit,” said Richard Moore, an electrical systems instructor at Wake Tech. “There are college-level expectations.”

Graduates will get a high school diploma, college credit and a certificate in their area of study.

Head start at Wake Tech

Lisa Bulls, coordinator of collaborative programs at Wake Tech, said students in most of the 10 areas will need to continue their education to get a job in that field. She said graduates can continue on to Wake Tech to get an associate’s degree in that area, using their credit to give them an advantage over people who are starting from scratch.

Cliff Hinton, head of Wake Tech’s bio-pharmaceuticals technology program, told students it’s in their best interests to go the full route to get a two-year associate’s degree after high school.

“This is a good opportunity for you, the technical high school and the industry,” he said. “You should take advantage of this.”

Attractive payoff

Hinton told students that his college students can get entry-level bio-pharmaceutical jobs at $40,000 per year.

Students were more impressed when Adam Harward, a Wake Tech plumbing instructor, told them that self-employed plumbers can eventually charge $85 to $100 per hour. Even if they don’t go into that trade, Harward said, students who take the classes will know enough so that they can at least do their own plumbing work and not have to pay that $85 per hour.

“That sounds like good money to me,” said Mayhew, the Green Hope sophomore.

Harward stressed that it takes hard work to make that much money. With the average age of licensed plumbers being 55, he said, there’s plenty of demand out there.

“Plumbing can be nasty, but if you are self-motivated, it can be rewarding,” he said.

At one point the school’s opening was in danger of being delayed until 2016, but county construction officials put it back on schedule for a summer 2014 opening. Unlike most schools used by the Wake County school system, the new high school is owned by the county.

“There’s been a lot of effort on all sides to get this space ready,” said Mark Forestieri, Wake County’s director of facilities design and construction.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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