From creating product prototypes for budding businesses to learning how to care for patients in hospitals, Orange County students like Dev Vasu are gaining on-the-job experience to utilize once they enroll in college and enter the workforce.
In his freshman year at Segerstrom High School in Santa Ana, Dev Vasu joined the Engineering and Architecture Pathway in order to narrow down his potential interests. Now, as a senior, Dev plans to study engineering in college after completing three years of coursework and multiple hands-on projects using aerospace engineering principles and computer-aided design modeling.
After hosting its past three career education showcases in a virtual format, the OCDE program staff welcomed a record 326 attendees to connect face-to-face with its career education partners and hear directly from students about the skills they have gained from career pathways programs.
With more than 50 career pathways offered countywide, OC Pathways provides a network to support collaboration between local school districts, colleges, universities, businesses and regional occupational programs. In its 10th year, the program’s goal is to increase work-based learning experiences for Orange County students from kindergarten to college.
Forging their own career paths
Representing programs that serve prekindergarteners to 12th graders, students from 17 local school districts demonstrated the theme “Your Workforce is Here” as they showcased their in-demand skills and connected over their experiences in career education with workforce professionals and educators.
More than 20 student ambassadors from OC Pathways’ recently launched program helped introduce attendees to career courses they are currently enrolled in. As part of the broadcast portion of the event, they highlighted offerings from local organizations and conducted on-stage interviews with high schoolers to share what they have learned in the classroom and on work sites.
In a segment spotlighting career and technical student organizations, Buena Park High School student Emily Talavera detailed how she learned to be a leader and work in a team while raising livestock and showcasing them at the Orange County Fair for the Future Farmers of America program.
“The addition of student ambassadors was instrumental,” said Kathy Boyd, OCDE’s director of career education. “Their passion and knowledge brought our career technical education pathways to life for attendees.”
The showcase was supported by OCDE Deputy Superintendent Dr. Ramon Miramontes and Dr. Sonia Llamas, associate superintendent of Educational Services, who expressed their gratitude for the educators, CTE programs and local organizations that help set the foundation for students’ success in the workforce.
Creating workforce connections
From agriculture and natural resources to business and finance, students and educators learned about work-based learning options in a variety of career sectors from 11 of OC Pathways’ industry partners.
Students from the Health Education Pathway at Anaheim Union High School District and Medical Sciences Academy at Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District joined staff from Cypress College, Cal State Fullerton and the Orange County Health Care Agency to demonstrate how their programs guide students’ on their paths through college and career into the healthcare and behavioral health fields.
In addition to networking with workforce professionals, some businesses offered free headshot photos for students and custom OC Pathways Showcase T-shirts screen-printed by students in OCDE’s ACCESS, or alternative education program.
Among those in attendance were representatives from the Regional K-16 Education Grant Program who spoke with CTE instructors to learn how OC Pathways is utilizing funding to expand students’ work-based learning experiences. Research data specialist Alexandra Nottbohm said the OC Pathways team’s dedication to these opportunities was evident through the launch of its Getting To and Through College and Career program.
“What I love about the OC pathways is really their commitment to students,” Nottbohm said. “You can tell just by how they’ve structured this event, they really want their students first and foremost at the front of the activities.”
While presenting a foil and wind tunnel he constructed with classmates, Segerstrom High student Dev shared that he encourages every student to at least try out a career pathways course like engineering because of the universal skills they can gain from communicating with their peers and problem-solving innovations.
“Events like the showcase will continue creating awareness of the diverse opportunities students can participate in throughout their pathway journey,” Boyd said. “We are excited to continue building the talent pipeline for OC jobs, and making a positive impact on student futures.”