CTE offers variety of pathways

Tom Murray, left, shows Daniel Tarango under the hood of a 1946 Chevrolet Fleetmaster Coup during the fourth annual Career and Technical Education Car Show Saturday, March 5, 2022, at the Frost Technical Center. (Odessa American/Eli Hartman)

The Career and Technical Education program at Ector County ISD not only gives students a glimpse of the field they’re interested in, but helps them on their way to a career.

There are 27 career pathways available.

“I would say based on student enrollment, some of the most popular ones are health science. We have eight health science teachers and their classrooms are full of students. Welding is also popular. We have seven full-time welding teachers now. We hired our seventh teacher this year. We’re expanding our capacity in welding. Students also have the opportunity to go straight to Odessa College and take welding as well. That’s where the C-Tech students go for their welding classes. Then we have welding at (the) Frost (building). The other students travel there for welding,” Executive Director of Career and Technical Education Ryan Merritt said.

“In terms of area of interest, Automotive Technology is also a very popular one. The students traveled to Sewell Auto Tech for automotive. We have three ECISD teachers that teach full time there and then OC kind of supplement the instructors where we have an overflow of students. They teach the students that we don’t have the staff to teach,” Merritt added.

In years past, it has been difficult to find teachers who have experience in the different CTE fields who want to teach because they can make more money if they stay in their careers. But that seems to have eased.

Ryan Merritt

“We’ve been very fortunate to find industry professionals that want to make that transition. That’s, again, I think an area where our district is doing really well is identifying those industry professionals that can bring their experience to the classroom and have students learn and be able to be connected to industry,” Merritt said.

They have been able to find a construction teacher who is a certified plumber.

“As we move forward and hopefully the bond passes for the CTE center. That’s where we plan to really specialize in the construction trades area, building the facilities that’s designed to be able to teach those areas,” Merritt said.

The ECISD Board of Trustees unanimously voted Aug. 15 to place 3 school bond propositions on the ballot for Nov. 7. The total price of the 3 propositions is $436,109,000 and will not require an increase in the district’s total tax rate, a news release said.

Odessa High School offers animation, graphic design and illustration, accounting and financial services, business management, engineering, biomedical science (PHS), robotics and computer science.

George H.W. New Tech Odessa offers audio visual production, culinary arts, early learning, fashion design, Future Teachers of Odessa and health science.

Frost Technical Center offers auto collision and refinishing, construction and welding.

Ag farm provides animal and plant science.

Ector County Independent School District Career & Technical Education students from left, Heleyna Gonzales, 16, Brittney Reyes, 18, and Arlynn Pando, 18, transfer plants from one greenhouse to another as they prepare for the ECISD Career & Technical Education annual spring plant sale Tuesday, April 19, 2022, at the ECISD Agriculture Department. (Odessa American/Eli Hartman)

Odessa College’s Sewell Auto Tech has automotive.

Odessa College dual credit programs for CTE include cosmetology, firefighter, information support and services, law enforcement, criminal justice, paralegal and licensed vocational nurse.

In fall 2022, 1,683 students took part in CTE dual credit enrollment. A total of 617 industry-based certifications were earned by 2023 ECISD graduates and 107 Level 1 certificates from Odessa College were earned by the ECISD class of 2023.

Thirty-two percent of students are CTE completers, meaning they have completed three or more CTE courses for four or more credits within a program of study. Thirty percent of these students were 2022 ECISD graduates.

Thirty-nine percent are CTE concentrators who have completed two or more CTE courses for at least two credits within a program of study. The same percentage were 2022 graduates.

Twenty percent are CTE explorers, have completed two or more CTE courses for at least two credits, but not within the same program of study. Twenty-two percent of these students made up the 2022 graduating class.

Eight percent are CTE participants who have completed one CTE course and 7 percent made up the class of 2022 graduates.

“The idea of the CTE center is to move some of the specialized programs that require heavy lab space in there to be more efficient, but also see opportunities to house innovative programs that will help staffing be more efficient. Sometimes it’s harder to staff three different campuses than it is having one solid program at one location … and then taking the students from the campus to the central location,” Merritt said.

“Like energy for that program of study, instead of placing at the two comprehensive high schools, we build it at one place so that we, whenever we’re looking for someone from the oil and gas industry to teach it, we’re more likely to be able to find one person than trying to staff multiple locations,” he added.

ECISD is going to pilot the energy program of study in January.

“We had two teachers that went to the training that was organized by the Education Partnership of the Permian Basin back in July. They went through a design training for a week to look a little bit at the curriculum, and talk through that, and then they’re going to have more trainings coming up in the fall for that spring pilot,” Merritt said.

Right now, the plan is to have welding at the Frost building.

“We have a welding teacher that’s very enthusiastic about that program and he has some oil and gas experience so he volunteered to be the teacher of the first level course. We’re excited. We think he’s passionate about starting this new program and we’re excited,” Merritt said.

The Permian Strategic Partnership funded the program’s development and there are some strong partners working with them on developing it, he added.

Merritt said it’s a great opportunity for parents to get involved.

He added that some PSP members have been proactively involved in the work to develop the energy pathway.

“The idea would be to bring in industry experts to speak on and to teach certain concepts that the teacher may not feel as comfortable with,” Merritt said. “We want to provide industry support to the classroom to bring those relevant experiences to the table. During that training, there was a business panel, and they talked about where they saw the industry moving and what the students needed to learn to be a good candidate for a job after high school. That’s my goal, is to make sure that we have an industry that sponsors certain modules within the course so they can kind of serve not only just a classroom speaker, but maybe even as a support or a mentor through those modules for the teacher.”

The overall goal, Merritt said, is for students interested in oil and gas to understand all aspects of the industry, all the different jobs that are available and understanding the pathway to get there.

There are multiple ways to get to the industry. Merritt said that could be through a certification or through Odessa College.

“I think the point is that we want them to know the different opportunities that are out there. Right now I don’t know as a region if we have that message out there for students. I think that’s what we want to do with this,” Merritt said.

Merritt mentioned two students at Odessa Regional Medical Center who are working and going to school. But there is a welding student who signed on with a company who didn’t think she wanted to go back to school at night, but she is now and the company is paying for it, Merritt said.

“Because she sees the value in the additional certification. That kind of shows you can get off the education pipeline, but you can re-enter it, too, whether it’s two months later, or six months or two years. You can always get back on to get more education,” Merritt said.