As high schools across the state become more aware of the need to provide additional vocational options to students through career and technology programs, officials at Tomball and Magnolia ISDs are making an effort to stay at the forefront of innovative opportunities.
"Our goal is to offer not just elective courses," said Matt Clark, director of career and technology with Magnolia ISD. "We want to offer courses that students can get something out of, that can get them somewhere."
Both Tomball and Magnolia ISDs offer pathways designed for students interested in fields such as agriculture and business, as do many schools around the state, but there are also many programs available that students may not find elsewhere.
Programs, ranging from cosmetology to welding to health sciences, focus on getting students certified in their trade of choice by the end of the course, according to district officials.
"The district is focused on providing courses that include state or national certifications that allow students an opportunity to earn a higher salary upon graduation," said Gary Moss, director of career and technology with TISD. "These courses also prepare them to transition to a two-year college or four-year university where they can continue their chosen career path."
Both Magnolia high schools offer technology courses in subjects such as Video Game Design—where students design and create their own games throughout the course of the semester—and Virtual Business—where students experience what it's like to run a business from legal, managerial and financial perspectives.
"With House Bill 5 and other education bills getting approved by the state Legislature, it's become clear that career and technology courses are going to play a more prominent role in kids' education," Clark said. "We're working with the math department to do a hybrid course that includes geometry and agriculture. We're reaching across the board and working with other departments to provide a full education."
Tomball ISD offers entire programs tailored to students who are interested in architecture and construction, with classes in interior design and building maintenance. An environmental science program gives students the chance to study aquatic ecosystems and forensic science in a laboratory environment.
The scope of many of these programs is not limited to the typical high school classroom.
"Part of the marketing program involves working in a business 15 hours a week minimum," Clark said. "Health science students have to do a practicum where they work with a physician in the field. They spend 24 hours on an ambulance and in an emergency room."
The Tomball health sciences program involves working in clinical rotations where students can earn certification as an emergency medical technician, registered dental assistant, pharmacy technician or nurse assistant, Moss said.
The career and technology program is not just an alternative for kids who are not planning to go to college, Clark said.
"Career and Technology is for everybody," he said. "We've seen students get certified in cosmetology and cut hair to help pay their way through college. These are skills that can be useful to people whether or not they are college bound."
With a vast array of potential programs to implement, officials try to select the ones that will be most beneficial to students based on input from parents, local business leaders and the students' interests.
"We work very closely with business leaders in our community," Clark said. "We meet with an advisory council of business leaders and ask for input on if we're training our kids in the right fields. It's all based on community needs."