Shelby County Schools offers career and technical education for students

Erin Browne

For students in the seven Shelby County high schools, the Career Technical Education Center in Columbiana provides opportunities for them to learn skills and get hands-on experience in a variety of programs.

CTEC works to equip and develop students with tools that prepare them for opportunities in post-secondary school and in the workforce.

Students can choose from 11 programs: automotive technology; biomedical science; building construction; collision repair; cosmetology; culinary arts; healthcare science; plumbing and pipefitting; public service academy; robotics and automated manufacturing; and welding.

The program is primarily for juniors and seniors, but sophomores can apply if they have completed all their core credits. In order to take CTEC classes, students give up two electives at their high school.

All of CTEC’s programs are two-year programs, and students will have completed four courses by the time they graduate. They complete a class per semester and have the opportunity to gain industry recognized credentials. Some will continue on to college, while some get the rest of their credentials to go into the workforce.

“We have at least one signature program at all of our high schools, but the programs [at CTEC] are not duplicates for what we already have. They are all different,” said Julie Godfrey, supervisor of career tech education for Shelby County Schools. “All of the high schools in Shelby County have business and marketing, and other classes at individual schools include engineering, surgical tech, carpentry, JROTC, broadcasting and cosmetology.”

Under New Leadership

Principal Daniel Richards is nearing completion of his first year as principal at CTEC. He has more than 17 years of experience in public education and spent the past six years as the assistant principal at Shelby County High School. He said when the CTEC opportunity arose, he had to jump at it.

“I had an interest in these types of programs,” he said. “My dad was a welder, my uncle was a carpenter, my older brother is a physical therapist and my father-in-law works on classic cars as a hobby, so a lot of things we have here really hit home to me.”

He describes his new role as a learning process. Because the faculty and staff came from industry into teaching, he wants to help them grow as teachers and educators at the same time.

“They’re experts in their field, and they’re helping me with what the industry wants and needs,” he said. “One thing I’ve had to learn being here at CTEC is all the things my teachers have to do. It’s been a big chance for me and a learning curve. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and it’s been a blessing.”

Recruiting Students

CTEC began the 2021-22 school year with around 350 students, and Richards hopes to see those numbers continue to grow.

“Not all students know about our campus and the things we offer, so we get them out there and tell them what we do and show them what we do,” he said.

He said his counselor and career coaches do a wonderful job visiting schools and recruiting students.

Richards said the number of slots in each program varies. When students apply for courses, they list their first-, second- and third-choice programs. They also have to write a submission about why they want to attend CTEC.

For many of the programs, students can continue on to community college to further their education, but some also immediately go into the workforce after graduation and CTEC can provide assistance connecting them with employers.

“For example, the plumbing instructor is connected to other plumbers and gets students a job opportunity right out of the gate,” Richards said. “About every other week we get calls looking to hire kids who are graduating.

Program Overview

Here is a look at each of CTEC’s 11 programs:

Automotive technology: Robert Irwin, who has 27 years experience in this industry, teaches this program, offering a simulated work experience for students interested in the auto tech industry. Students learn maintenance and light repair, tires, brakes, steering, electrical suspension and engine performance. They also have work-based learning opportunities at local repair shops, dealerships and parts stores and participate in state and national leadership conferences through SkillsUSA.

Irwin said when students come visit this program and see it’s set up as a real shop, they get excited. The students even wear uniforms from Ernest McCarty Ford thanks to a donation from the dealership, along with one from NAPA Auto Parts.

Irwin teaches his students not only how to work on cars, but motorcycles, lawn mowers and weed eaters as well.

“My number 1 goal every year is to get a student hired in the industry. But I also teach them a good work ethic, how to sell parts, write a resume and handle finances — basically anything I’d do for my own child except I teach them a trade as well,” he said.

The program is competitive and only accepts 12 students per class for each of the three daily classes. It utilizes a nine-week evaluation form to determine which students will return for the following year.

Some of the students go on to Lawson State Community College for their Ford ASSET program, some stay in the industry and work at a shop, and some go on to other careers but have the benefit of the knowledge to work on their own cars.

Earlier this year, the auto tech program received a 2022 Mercedes that students use as a learning tool, with all of its advanced technology. “This car is far more advanced than anything we have, and we will use it for years to come,” Irwin said.

The CTEC auto tech program recently presented at the inaugural Governor’s Work-Based Learning Seal of Excellence Awards after being named as one of the top programs in the state.

Irwin’s program has also won awards for having the highest job placements in the state. He won in 2017-18 and 2018-19, but the awards have been on hold since the pandemic.

Biomedical science: Students in this program have the opportunity to further their knowledge and skills by participating in state and national leadership conferences through HOSA – Future Health Professionals. They are eligible to obtain nationally recognized industry credentials by completing standardized tests successfully. Classes in this program include forensic science and crime scene investigations; human body structures and functions; introduction to biotechnology; and bio-med senior career pathway. They can also earn a Certified Medical Assistant credential.

Building construction: Taught by Blake Ray, this program is designed to introduce students to each stage of the construction process, including site layout, foundations, flooring, wall systems, roofing, electrical and plumbing. Courses offered include NCCER architecture; construction and manufacturing; construction and framing; construction site preparation and foundations; and construction finishing and interior systems. Credentials offered include NCCER Core, NCCER Carpentry Level One, Carpentry Level Two, Construction Technology and OSHA 10.

Collision repair: Mark McCary teaches this course and has 15 years in industry in both an independent shop and a dealership. Students learn paint and refinishing and damage repair, and several I-CAR credentials are offered. Both the auto tech and collision programs were recently recognized and presented for the Governor’s Seal of Excellence for Apprenticeship Programs. CTEC was the only secondary school featured in the region.

Cosmetology: In this program, taught by Stacy Garrett, students are able to work in a salon environment that provides real-world experiences to gain knowledge while providing customer service including technical skills and consultations. They develop business and management skills to become successful salon and spa professionals. They earn hours that will transfer to cosmetology school, putting them a step forward in their careers.

Construction technology: Blake Ray teaches students in this program about each stage of the construction process: site layout, foundations, flooring, wall systems, roofing, electrical and plumbing. They learn to read blueprints, use power tools and are exposed to many areas of construction. They participate in state and national leadership conferences through SkillsUSA. Some will work as laborers while others may go on to study building and architecture. Their courses will transfer to Jefferson State Community College and Wallace State Community College, putting them several classes ahead. Courses include NCCER architecture; construction and manufacturing; construction and framing; construction site preparation and foundations; and construction finishing and interior systems. Offered credentials include NCCER Core, NCCER Carpentry Levels 1 and 2, Construction Technology and OSHA 10.

Culinary arts: Taught by Brandi Eades Tyrrell, students learn and work as a separate chef, sous chef, hostess and in sanitation. It begins with fundamentals and principles of the art of cooking; management and production skills; and techniques. In this course, students can pursue a national sanitation certification, industry certification, articulation credit and scholarships. Courses offered involve a commercial laboratory-based instructional setting, internship hours and include hospitality and tourism; culinary arts 1 and 2; and baking and pastry arts. Students may be able to receive articulated credits to Jefferson State Community College. Only 12 students are accepted into the class. After completing this course, they will obtain ServSafe credentials.

Health care science: This course is taught by Marcy Campbell, a registered nurse with 10 years experience at Shelby Baptist Medical Center, Women’s Center and PACU. In this program, students discover what they want to do in healthcare  while earning industry credentials. Offered courses include foundations of health science; human body structures and functions; and therapeutic services. Health science internship credentials that are offered include Certified EKG Technician, Certified Patient Care Technician, First Aid and CPR.

“It has been a tradition for our second year students to do rotations at the Shelby Medical Center during their last semester,” Godfrey said. “This has served as an invaluable experience for our students.”

Plumbing and pipefitting: Taught by Rex Horton, this program is one of only three in the state. It utilizes NCCER’s four-level curriculum that covers topics such as plumbing tools, types of valves, and potable water treatment. Courses include NCCER architecture, construction and manufacturing.

Students have the opportunity to further their knowledge and skills by participating in state and national leadership conferences through SkillsUSA. Courses include plumbing 1, 2 and 3; NCCER architecture; construction; and manufacturing. Credentials offered are NCCER Core, NCCER Plumbing Level One, OSHA 10 and Apprentice Card. Students can do apprenticeships in the first year and become journeymen. Graduating with a journeyman card is advantageous to prospective employers.

Public safety academy: Gary Griffith brings 30 years of law enforcement experience to this class in which students rotate between firefighting and law enforcement. The program features a force simulator that gives students training for real life incidents.They also participate in crime scene investigation and fire drills. Students have the opportunity to further their education by attending the Alabama Fire College or become a police officer by attending the Police Academy. Some also seek an opportunity to serve in the military branches. Classes include: introduction to public safety; firefighting 1, advanced law enforcement; and CTE lab in law, public safety, corrections and security. Credentials offered are first aid, AED and CPR.

Robotics and automated manufacturing: These courses are taught by James Hill, who has 22 years of experience in industrial maintenance and engineering. Their learning environment utilizes a variety of physical spaces to stimulate development of effective cognitive and psychomotor skills and includes five 3-D printers. Students experience a wide range of hands-on activities based on authentic representations of expectations found in the workplace. Courses include: introduction to robotics, robotic applications, robotics automation and computer integrated automation. Credentials offered include MSSC Safety; Quality, Maintenance and Manufacturing; Processes and Production; and OSHA 10. Students compete in the SkillsUSA competition and were state champions in 2018 and 2019. The competitions were not held the following two years due to the pandemic but will take place this year.

Welding: Taught by Lynn Miller, who has 30 years welding and fabricating experience, this course gives students the opportunity for hands-on experience. This program utilizes NCCER’s four-level curriculum covering topics such as oxy fuel cutting, welding symbols and stainless-steel groove welds. NCCER’s curriculum also correlates to the AWS standards and guidelines for an entry welder. Many will attend a junior college to complete a welding program, while utilizing the classes that they have already taken. Credentials offered include ​​NCCER Core, NCCER Core Welding 1, AWS Certifications and OSHA 10.

Richards said the top three programs are auto tech, cosmetology and health science, and it’s hard to be able to get kids into those programs because they have so many applications.

Godfrey said that no matter what a student is planning to do career-wise, they will need training to do it, and CTEC can help with that component.

“I do think it helps to prepare you, and it still gives you an introduction into something, and you can decide what serves you best,” she said. “There are a lot of options, but CTEC gives training and certifications to help with future opportunities whatever your career goals are or however far you want to take it.”


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