Education Matters: Getting Hands on Career Training at Regional Occupational Center

KERN COUNTY, California - As more and more school districts embrace Career Technical Education, they're looking at successful programs to see what's working.

Students attending this school come from the 23 different high schools that make up the Kern High School District in Bakersfield. Some will tell you, attending classes at the Kern Regional Occupational Center is the best part of their day.

"This is the highlight of my day every day when I'm at school I'm like oh my God I can't wait to to to ROC", said student Joanne Barnes. 

And this is why students can't wait to get there. The Kern Regional Occupational Center is a career training high school in Bakersfield.

"Any student that's a junior or senior is eligible to come here for a three hour training program. When students are on this campus we treat them like professionals we don't have bells here because we treat this like a place of work," stated Supervising Administrator of Kern ROC Brian Miller.
  
The ROC is set up much like CART, the Center for Advanced Research and Technology, in Fresno; where students are bused her from their home school and spend 3 hours each day immersed in serious career tech education.

"I think it's a unique place to get a comprehensive training experience where they really can come here with limited knowledge in the career that they are interested in and they can leave here with the career readiness skills, with the technical skills," stated Miller.

And they leave knowing what they want to do and how to get there.

"I want to be an engineer in the military and the stuff that we go over in this class we cover in basic training in the military," said one student.

Just think about the skills she's learning programing these robots in this robotics engineering class. Teacher, Stephen Mears says the focus is on industrial robotics.

"Industrial robotics is a type of robotics system that is collaborative in nature there using them in large scale facilities like Frito-Lay, Pom Wonderful, places like this and it's really robots that you would see in and on an assembly line or warehouse," said Stephen Mears, a robotics teacher at Kern ROC. 

The 27 different programs offered are based on students wants.

"I'm hoping I can get into the army or air force as a mechanic," said student Hannah Gulbranson.

More importantly, these classes are based on what the industry says it needs.

"Our Business Partners want somebody who's ready to go to work have all the soft skills they need and a good understanding of the industry in my case Diesel," mentioned teacher Ron Faubus. 

Ron Faubus says the demand for mechanics to work on these big engines is so huge that business partners like Honda Motors and Diesel not only provide the engines for these kids to take a part and put back together, but also offer college scholarships.

Yea, if the demand wasn't huge people wouldn't be spending this kind of money on students, to raise their own."

What you see at the ROC is the growing demand for career tech education. Just three years ago the school had 800 students and offered 16 programs. Today it offers 27 programs and more than 16-hundred students attend. Despite the popularity, educators say Career Tech ED is still fighting the perception that it's less than..not a place for college bound students. Miller says that couldn't be further from the truth

"Because really career technical education in my opinion is for every student because we're all trying to get prepared for careers," stated Miller. 


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