Northwest Career & Technical Center student

A student at Northwest Career & Technical Center works on some wiring.

ST. ALBANS — Students and faculty at the Northwest Career & Technical Center (NCTC) will join others across the nation during the month of February to celebrate national Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month. This year’s tagline is Celebrate Today, Own Tomorrow! CTE Month provides CTE programs across the country an opportunity to demonstrate how CTE makes students college- and career- ready and prepares them for high-wage, high-demand career fields. Regardless of the obstacles, NCTC has taken on the challenge to provide creative solutions to hands-on education to continue the learning and preparation.

The Northwest Career & Technical Center is a regional technical center located in St. Albans. They primarily serve high school students from Bellows Free Academy in St. Albans and Missisquoi Valley Union High School. Northwest Technical Center also offers career development and training courses for adults who are interested in advancing their career or starting a new one. For more information, please visit: or contact Leeann Wright, Director of the Northwest Technical Center at 802-527-0614.

CTE encompasses 94% of high school students and 13 million postsecondary students in the United States and includes high schools, career centers, community and technical colleges, four-year universities and more. CTE is a major part of the solution to myriad national economic and workforce problems, such as high school dropout rates, a weakened economy, global competitiveness and massive layoffs. At a time when opportunity for employment is so critical, CTE programs in every community are ensuring students are equipped with the skills to successfully enter the workforce.

Around the Center, you will hear about many success stories. Geometry in Construction has provided “learning in context” to students that before enrolling would have said math was “not their thing.” Culinary Arts, with the limitations on catering local events, the experience is somewhat replicated by selling exquisite meals for purchase by the staff. In Automotive Technologies where ‘wrench twisting’ is the first thought, the online virtual time has been used to not only provide industry learning but also as a time to work on academic skills such as technical reading.

In Human Services, the students continue their internships in our local schools providing both the students and children with irreplaceable learning and social interaction that is critical to healthy development. The internships include the onsite Curiosity Corners pre-school where you can hear the smallest of students laugh and talk even with the required mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing. NCTC and Medical Professions have worked closely with the National Guard to provide a large enough space for students to learn in-person four days a week.

The use of face shields and other personal protective equipment has allowed the Medical Professions students to practice basic skills with the same level of safety used currently in our healthcare facilities. Engineering Technologies and Digital Media have reconfigured their classrooms and adopted new software to allow for collaboration between students, all while maintaining safe distancing. Cosmetology students continue to develop professional skills while implementing the industry requirements currently in place. Public Safety and Fire Services has modified its structure to efficiently use space and provide students opportunities to practice their skills. A greenhouse in the classroom has allowed Outdoor Technology students to have a little slice of warm weather regardless of the cold outside.

To learn more about what is currently happening in each of the NCTC programs, the following are highlights from all 10 programs. Future program insights will be shared throughout the rest of the year.Automotive TechnologyStudents are currently taking their Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) tests to earn multiple certifications in areas such as Auto Maintenance and Light Repair. This certification covers engine systems, automatic transmission/transaxle, manual drive train and axles, suspension and steering, brakes, electrical, and heating and air conditioning. Other students have started their training to earn a certification in 4-stroke engines based on the knowledge of studying Briggs and Stratton engines that come with tool kits and diagnostic equipment. Students who earn automotive certifications are certainly more qualified and prepared to enter high-demand roles within the industry.Building TradesThe Geometry in Construction course is currently working understanding the area and volume as it relates to concrete, site work, and roofing. They’re also focusing on right triangle trigonometry and how it translates to parallel and perpendicular lines when constructing walls, floor systems and roof systems. The theory and pre-teaching is necessary as they will soon move on to applying their knowledge through construction projects. Additionally, all students are working on earning their National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) certifications.CosmetologyThe students continue to learn about science in this industry. This week they started to learn about the 5 elements of hair, along with the structure and composition. For example, the overall chemical composition of hair is 45% carbon, 28% oxygen, 15% nitrogen, 7% hydrogen and 5% sulphur. Students are amazed at how much biology and chemistry is involved in studying this field. They all have a much greater appreciation for hair stylists and they respect the amount of knowledge and time that is invested in order to enter this field.CulinaryThe students in the first year of the program are focusing on ServSafe certifications while the second year students are focusing on menu planning and execution. Every week a new theme is chosen, a menu is designed, and the students prepare at least 20-30 three course meals to be boxed up and sold to staff and faculty to cover the cost of ingredients. This exercise gives the students real world experience and shows what a lot of the foodservice industry looks like today while complying with COVID restrictions.Digital MediaThis past week the students studied components of audio through project-based learning. The series starts with the understanding and use of microphones and multitrack recordings and ends with the creation of podcasts and music videos. Students enjoy the creative freedom within the structure of each unit and are able to explain the various editing techniques required for the production of comedic sketches, music videos, podcasts, and short-length films. They are looking forward to working with the community on many projects, such as Spectrum Youth & Family Services and Mylan Technologies.Engineering TechnologyThe study of electrical engineering is quite broad, however, the students are learning the foundational knowledge for this career field through electrical circuits. The students are currently in the designing, developing and revising phase, and will transfer their circuit design to a blank circuit board where they will apply ferric chloride to eat the copper that is not covered by the board. They will then drill holes, mount components, then begin the repeated cycle of testing and troubleshooting of a single digit counter. The students are looking forward to adding more features to their design.Human ServicesThe students enrolled in the second year of the Human Services program have the flexibility to develop their own learning plan for their senior year. Out of the many activities happening in this program, lately students are attending paid and unpaid internships (which includes working closely in the adjacent pre-school classroom), being accepted to the Vermont Pre-Apprenticeship program, progressing in their college courses, and working to complete their para-professional certification course. Additionally all students, through the embedded English course, designed and presented behavior change projects to build upon their knowledge and experience with developmental theory and analyzing data.Medical ProfessionsThe students in the first year program are studying the integumentary system (skin) and medical ethics. The students will soon prepare for the much anticipated debates in a variety of medical topics. They are also continuing to work on their college course. While the second year students are working on two college courses, they are learning about the urinary and digestive systems within the nutrition unit. They are studying both systems to understand the direct effects of water and food usage by the body.Outdoor TechnologyThe 9th- and 10th-grade students continued to finalize their drawings to construct a green house on campus. This project requires the knowledge and application of algebra and geometry to calculate the measurements and materials. Students agree that the most difficult part is finding the amount of wood needed using various calculations. Everyone is looking forward to the spring when they can fill the greenhouse with plants, which will serve as an additional outdoor learning space.Public Safety and Fire ServicesRecently, students in the morning program started learning about proper knots required in this field. For example, emergency service personnel and fire fighters need to use the correct knots in specific circumstances. Knot tying is a skill that requires a great deal of practice in various environments. This past week the students learned about a figure 8 with a safety knot and a double figure 8 on a bight along with their proper use and application.

The transition to four days a week, as logistically challenging as it has been for both NCTC and its sending schools, has provided a remarkable opportunity for the students to continue their education in this ever-changing world. Hats off to all members of the school community at large that have come together and made this year the best experience possible.

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