Vocational renaissance - Albuquerque Journal

Vocational renaissance

Rio Rancho High School is seen in an aerial shot. The school system will soon increase its offerings in vocational training, which will qualify students for jobs that are in demand. (Courtesy of Rio Rancho Public Schools)

Rio Rancho Public Schools is headed “back to the future.”

Remember, many of you parents and baby boomers out there, when you were in school, you had an opportunity to take metal shop, wood shop, auto mechanics and the like, designated as vocational?

Catherine Cullen

Then came the latter years of the 20th century and the start of the 21st century. Computers, robotics and other high-tech avenues to a career were in vogue.

Now, thanks to Rio Rancho Public Schools board members Ryan Parra and Catherine Cullen, among a few others close to RRPS, there will soon be a return to providing more vocational opportunities to students.

Ryan Parra

After all, they agree, not every high school graduate is aiming at college or the military. People still need to swing hammers, turn wrenches, cut hair, treat injuries, fight fires, cook and so on.

“There are a lot of students who are not going to be college-bound,” Cullen said.

There’s still a need for computer-aided design and robotics, the District CTE (career-technical education) Committee heard at its meeting last month, occupations with “solid demand, (with) solid pay.”

Carl Leppelman

The CTE Committee’s mission is “to develop strong partnerships between our high schools, institutions of higher education, local business and workforce leaders to engage and prepare students for great careers in high-demand industries.”

In the culinary arts – you may know this designation better as home economics – chefs and head cooks are in demand, but “we need to get more kids involved in them,” Benton Spradlin informed the gathering in an RRPS meeting room. Spradlin is a teacher in Albuquerque Public Schools, with a master’s degree in management information systems from the University of New Mexico.

“We’re getting smarter,” said Carl Leppelman, RRPS chief of academics, urging finding more partnerships with area businesses. “There’s a huge interest in the trades.”

With Presbyterian Rust Medical Center and Sandoval Regional Medical Center in the City of Vision, maybe nobody should be surprised, as Leppelman said, that “35 percent of students are looking to a career in health care.”

But, Leppelman said, “We’re literally at a crisis point for teachers,” thus the need to get partners and develop apprenticeship programs.

Among the goals of the CTE committee is increasing the percentage of students completing three or more sequenced CTE courses that lead to certifications, industry credentials and two- and four-year degrees in high-demand occupations.

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