Graduating seniors, looking out over a sea of royal blue caps, seemingly feel a sense of expectation. Their futures lie ahead of them, vast and shining like the expanse of smiling faces stretched out in all directions, here to celebrate their achievements. Whole educational preparations leading up to this day, this diploma. But there is almost a tangible awkward pause: what to do now?
Last year alone, Washington state raised the cost of its 34 community and technical colleges by 13 percent for full-time students. These college costs are increasing nationwide. As the cost of post-high school education increases, many students are left to weigh their options. For some, the institutional pressure of the “university dream” is not applicable, affordable or an aspiration. Occupational achievements are sometimes closer to home for many; however, the preparations for these ambitions can be unavailable or unfamiliar.
Statewide, a proposed solution to this ignorance: regional skills centers that prepare students entering the workforce with job-ready and job-necessary skills in a variety of trades.
Walla Walla has staked its claim in the statewide push for technical training facilities, receiving $11,519,000 from the state legislature for the project. The Walla Walla Skills Center is a part of this program, serving students ages 16-20, who have not currently received their high school diploma. The main focus is to offer Washington State-certified and approved career and technical preparatory programs to provide “successful job placement” for students entering the workforce.
A branch of the Tri- Tech Center in Kennewick, the 36,000 square-foot center will be available to students attending Walla Walla, Dayton, Waitsburg, Prescott, Touchet and some local private high schools. With time, the center eventually plans to serve Milton-Freewater school district as well.
Students interested in the skills center will apply for their junior and senior years, as the program works in two-year commitments.
Classes will be taken in three-period blocks in the morning or afternoon, with students attending their primary school for their other education at the corresponding opposite time.
For students whose post-high school education does not include college, the skills center provides a great opportunity. It is currently planning to train students for jobs and careers in the fields of construction, welding, health and renewable resources with the future possibility of expanding its course offerings.
Students may receive an advantage when applying for jobs, as they will have specialized training in a particular vocation.
The center will occupy a space of land off Isaacs avenue at the Walla Walla Community College, which is being leased to Walla Walla Public Schools for $1 per year. One of the largest factors in the securing of the regional skills center in Walla Walla was the cost, the building and equipment total plan amounted to an estimated $11 million.
Plans for the center predict an unveiling in time for the 2013-2014 school year according to the Walla Walla Public School’s website. With a pioneer class of only 60 students, the center hopes eventually to increase its numbers to 160 enrolled students.