CTE synergy

More Career and Technical Education opportunities coming to South County

South County school districts are moving closer to becoming a hub for collaborative Career and Technical Education opportunities intended to connect students with high-wage, high-demand jobs after graduation.

Partners and supporters of the South County CTE Collaborative gathered recently to celebrate progress the initative has made. Milestones have included the recent donation of 10.99 acres of land by the Douglas County Commissioners for a state-of-the-art Career and Technical Education center in South County. Additionally, the first-ever local collaborative CTE program for high school students within five South County school districts has been developed and will launch next fall.

“We couldn’t be more excited about where we are now. We have come a very, very long way,” said Michael Lasher, Douglas Education Service District superintendent, at the gathering last month at Seven Feathers Casino Resort in Canyonville.

South County CTE Collaborative supporters and partners gathered recently to celebrate the iniative’s progress.

The collaborative formed just over a year ago when the superintendents of the South Umpqua, Riddle, Days Creek, Glendale and Winston-Dillard school districts agreed that pooling their resources for Career and Technical Education would provide more efficient and economically stable CTE opportunities for students. The hope was to build on work already going on within individual districts in order to boost high school graduation rates and create career options in fields that meet local industry needs.

Since then, the collaborative has earned Oregon Solutions project status from Gov. Kate Brown, a designation that came with state funding and support to help move the project forward. The Ford Family Foundation and Oregon Community Foundation are also among the project’s many supporters.

Program curriculum has been developed and will be launched at South Umpqua High School next fall as efforts continue to build the CTE center.

“We are excited to get this program off the ground with a temporary site so that our work to guide students toward living-wage and high-demand careers continues its momentum,” said Tim Porter, South Umpqua School District superintendent.   

The initial CTE program next school year will offer a one-year curriculum that focuses on construction and architecture. Once the CTE center is constructed, students from the five school districts will be able to enroll in a two-year program intended to prepare them for high-wage, high-demand jobs directly out of high school. The goal is to eventually offer many CTE programs focusing on various trades.

The new CTE center will be located within the Douglas County industrial park off of Interstate 5 Exit 103 on 10.99 acres donated by the county commissioners. It will be centrally located among the five districts.

County Commissioner Chris Boice said it was an easy decision to support the collaborative. 

Economic and industrial development goals for the county have shifted over the years, he said, from an emphasis on bringing industry to the county to a focus on developing the local workforce in order to sustain industry that already exists here.

“I’d like to thank my fellow commissioners for sharing in this vision and being supportive of this project,” Boice said. “We’re very glad to be a part of it.” 

Valerie Johnson, president of D.R. Johnson Lumber in Riddle, said she believes this project will come to benefit future generations of Douglas County residents by creating a stronger local economy and community in which people are happy to work and live.  

“My hope is to see a reignited interest in the younger generation to be here, to know that they have a wonderful future here, to enjoy all of the wonderful, natural bounty that is here for them, and to see themselves stay here and grow a family here themselves,” she said.

Supporters at the event signed a Declaration of Cooperation to show their commitment to seeing the project through to completion.

Gwen Soderberg-Chase, director of Douglas County Partners for Student Success and the Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub, said the South County CTE Collaborative is just the kind of community-wide initiative Douglas County needs. The partnership aligns with the goals of Bright Futures Umpqua, the DCPSS initiative intended to provide career-connected learning opportunities for students that connects to plans for their future.

“Douglas County students need to be aware of the many great potential job opportunities that exist right here in our own backyard,” Soderberg-Chase said. “By providing youth with the chance to explore the trades and giving them real-world experiences, South County school districts are setting students on a path to success.”

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