April 29, 2022

Pierce County Skills Center Offers Career Pathways Exploration

At the Pierce County Skills Center students are given the opportunity to explore more than a dozen career fields from Aerospace Composites and Machining to Culinary Arts and Video Game Development.

Opened in 2010, the Skills Center brings career options to students that can lead to real jobs that align with workplace demands.

The Skills Center serves juniors and seniors from 10 school districts in Pierce County: Bethel, Eatonville, Fife, Franklin Pierce, Orting, Steilacoom, Sumner, Tacoma, University Place and White River. The 30,000 square foot facility, located on Canyon Road in Puyallup, belongs to those school districts that choose to participate in the consortium agreement.

The Skills Center offers programs that a lot of school districts wouldn’t be able to afford or support on their own, says Director Michelle Ledbetter.

There is no cost to participate, however in some courses there are program fees. But the Skills Center offers financial assistance in cases of need.

“We make sure all kids have the opportunity to participate,” Ledbetter says. “Finances would never be a barrier to attend.”

There are 13 programs onsite and one cosmetology program contracts with Clover Park Technical to administer. Programs offered are Aerospace Composites, Aerospace Machining, Automotive Technology, Construction Trades, Cosmetology, Criminal Justice, Culinary Arts, Fire Science & Emergency Services, IT & Cybersecurity, Medical Careers, Pre-Pharmacy Technology, Pre-Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine, Pre-Veterinary Technology, and Video Game Development.

While in the program, students spend half a day at their regular high school and a half day at the Skills Center. They earn college credit along with their regular high school credits and in some programs walk away with a certification.

The Automotive Technology program is designed to train students for a variety of jobs within the automotive industry. Students will focus on maintenance and light repair in an environment set up just like an automotive service department. Students will service and diagnose vehicles, complete tune-ups, conduct brake and suspension repairs, and perform wheel alignments.

Programs run the full school year and often have two program years for completion; however students can opt to switch to a different program the second year.

“There’s a million more careers than they can imagine,” Ledbetter says “It’s an opportunity to learn about those careers and the many entry and exit points. It’s just as important for students to learn what they don’t want to do as what they want to do.”

While at the Skills Center, students get to apply hands-on experience in the classroom. In the culinary program there’s a food concession called Glacier Grill that is fully student run. Students research regions of the world and cultivate a menu based on that research. The Grill is open to students, staff, and the public. The culinary program also offers catering services.

And while much of the public facing interactions within the programs had been on hold due to the pandemic, they are slowly returning. In the Construction Trades program, students have taken orders on custom built sheds and the Vet Tech Program will be resuming grooming services soon, Ledbetter says.
To learn more about the Pierce County Skills Center, go to www.bethelsd.org/pcsc

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