Students combine high school, college and internships in manufacturing
William Dakota Gershel and Timothy Ibarra, both seniors at Carson High School, have participated in Career and Technical Education programs since attending CHS as freshmen. Ibarra participated in two years of auto technician courses and two years in auto body courses. Gershel experimented in a variety of CTE courses including culinary, web design and welding.
“CTE is a different way to learn, a different approach to thinking about careers,” Gershel said. “CTE gives you a diverse skill set you may need in the future. The variety gives us so many choices we didn’t even know existed.”
The students are part of the Jump Start College program, a collaboration between Western Nevada College and area high schools, which allows high school students to earn college credits by taking courses at the college.
Gershel and Ibarra spend their mornings at WNC’s Donald W. Reynolds Center for Technology taking applied industrial technology courses for college credit, and the rest of their days at CHS.
“The classes at WNC and the CTE classes are very hands-on and different than learning theory from a textbook,” Ibarra said.
Georgia White, director of career and technical education for WNC said manufacturing jobs are STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) jobs, and while certain academic preparation is important, the key success factors fall under professionalism and college and career readiness.
“Students will apply their knowledge of math, science, engineering and technology in various aspects of manufacturing,” she said. “Seeing and participating in the application of these concepts often brings the theoretical into focus for students.”
Attending college while in high school has its challenges, according to the students. Both said they definitely enjoy the freedom to choose associated with college courses, but acknowledge college courses are a lot more work and require time management skills.
While certain academic preparation is important, White said key success factors for high school students in college mainly fall under professionalism and college and career readiness.
“The biggest shock I’ve witnessed is students not recognizing the importance of deadlines, reading and following directions,” she said. “A student ready to accept responsibility for his or her performance will likely succeed in a college program.”
Both Gershel and Ibarra graduate in June from CHS with up to 10 college credits from WNC and are testing for their Manufacturing Technician Level 1, a nationally recognized skills assessment prior to graduation. With the certification, they hope to continue their educations at WNC while working for Tesla.
Gershel said it’s hard for high school students to know what career path to choose at such a young age, and is uncertain whether he’s going to make a lifelong career in manufacturing.
“This isn’t necessarily a set in stone career path,” he said. “Getting our credential and getting that first job will be the job to stabilize us as we start to grow into finding ourselves. Having the credential is a step up over opportunities other students will have.”
Sven Klatt, general manager of Vineburg Machining located in Carson City, said it’s critical for young students to experience working in a variety of jobs at an early age.
“Students can see what we do and decide early on whether they want to continue,” he said. “A lot of people don’t understand what present day machining and manufacturing is like. Internships open up a whole new way of thinking for students.”
Vineburg is considered a job shop, contracting with manufacturers to create thousands of parts, for applications as diverse as aerospace to trucks to high security locking mechanisms. The company offers weekend internships to students and has hired at least six full time employees straight out of high school internships.
Klatt said the dearth of skilled, trained workers is a challenge for area manufacturers. Vineburg has doubled in size and capacity in the past five years, and finding experienced machinists is problematic. Vineburg developed the internship program based on the German model implemented by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development’s Learn and Earn Advance Pathway program, which is being implemented into Carson High School’s CTE program in the fall.
Jacob Kinkel, a senior at Virginia City High School, started his internship with Vineburg last month and said he already sees the world differently based on his experiences so far.
“I love it,” he said. “I’m expanding my ideas to see what’s out there. When I work on my dirt bike, I see all the different parts and think about how all those parts are machined and created.”
Kinkel graduates this June from VCHS. He has participated in WNC’s Jump Start College program and has taken five college classes per semester for the past two years, leaving him with just a few more classes to earn his associate’s degree in the fall.
The impact of manufacturing on the local economy is expected to continue to grow. According to a recent GOED report, Why Nevada: For the Manufacturing Industry, manufacturing represents a significant segment of Nevada’s economy; employing more than 56,000 workers in more than 1,800 companies. A Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation survey documented 293 manufacturers in Carson, Douglas and Lyon counties alone, leaving plenty of opportunity on the table.
“Our area is centrally located, which makes it ideal for manufacturing and distribution operations,” Michele Lewis, Carson City School District’s CTE program administrator, said. “In order to ensure that there will be enough qualified candidates for these and future positions, secondary programs are needed to provide a pipeline of future employees.”
The new CTE and WNC programs, Lewis said, can give families hope their kids are going to stick around to work in the increasingly high tech space the local manufacturing industry has to offer.
Carson City Mayor Bob Crowell said manufacturing jobs are not what they used to be and certainly not the dingy, dirty machine shops of old.
“Today, 21st century manufacturers are looking for not just skilled labor, but employees that are facile in the digital world,” he said. “I am happy to see our secondary schools are staying ahead of the power curve in this curriculum.”
Klatt, who also teaches CNC machining at WNC, said today’s machine shops offer sophisticated technology that requires extensive training and creativity to meet the demands of today’s customers.
“Students not only need hands-on training, math and skills like blueprint reading, they also need a creative, artistic and entrepreneurial mindset to solve problems,” he said. “Machining is really cool. We create things.”