The Acutronic Apprenticeship Alliance will offer students mentorship and hands-on experience opportunities in the fields of engineering and robotics next year. The alliance is part of the district's Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH, a dual-enrollment program in which high school students can earn college credit hours and certifications for free.

Acutronic is a technology company based in Pittsburgh. One of the only micro turbine manufacturing facilities in the country, plans exist for an Acutronic facility to be built as part of the Bastrop Business and Industrial Park.

The details

P-TECH partners with Austin Community College and local industry partners like Acutronic to provide students with access to higher level and hands-on education opportunities. An aspect of work-based learning is embedded in every grade level of the P-TECH program. The program focuses on manufacturing work-based learning at Cedar Creek High School while health science is the program's focus at Bastrop High School. The program aims to provide students with site visits or panels with industry experts.

A total of 11 career clusters are offered across the district ranging from construction, health science, automotive, business and audio-video expertise.

"Whatever a student wants to do in their future career, we've likely got something that is closely aligned to it," Brantley said.

Bastrop ISD students are capable of earning 18 to 21 hours of college credit, graduating high school with half of an associate's degree completed. Students will also receive an industry-based certification allowing them to go directly into the workforce.

"A really great part of the P-TECH blueprint, the part that draws me most to it is that it offers students the opportunity to have high school and college dual-credit work, but also gives them a layer of work-based learning," Brantley said.

How it started

The Bastrop ISD school board signed a memorandum of understanding with Acutronic in September, establishing the partnership.

"Acutronic had an interest in meeting with the [Economic Development Corporation] in the city, and we were invited to come just talk about the educational space and what Bastrop ISD has to offer," said Amanda Brantley, director of college, career and military readiness. "[Acutronic] saw value in what it was that we were already trying to offer our students and thought that we would be able to partner well."

The Bastrop robotics team made a visit to the Acutronic site in Austin. Further mentoring sessions between Acutronic employees and the robotics teams are planned, P-TECH and work-based learning coordinator Steven Henn said.

"We were particularly impressed by the Bastrop Independent School District's willingness to embark on a partnership and their approach to vocational education," Acutronic CEO Florian Aigrain said.

What you need to know

The Acutronic program will be based at Cedar Creek High School as part of the school’s Advanced Manufacturing Academy through P-TECH with hopes to expand to the Bastrop High School robotics and engineering program in the future.

"If a student has an interest that's outside of their zone high school, they can apply for a transfer to that program," Brantley said.

Also of note

Bastrop ISD offers summer internship opportunities with the help of a grant through the Texas Education Agency and business partnerships. This summer marked the program’s third year.

“They're not going to sweep the shop floor or file papers, " Brantley said. “[Students are] going to really shadow someone. They're going to get some actual hands-on experience with what it is they would do in industry.”