Wilson: Career, technical education available at East Valley Institute of Technology

Over the years, much has been made of the old either/or college-bound vs. vocational education mentality.

Chad Wilson

For too long, educators and communities have pushed students into one lane or the other instead of recognizing the road to success for every student has multiple lanes.

But as vocational education has transformed itself into today’s career and technical education — schools, families and communities are discovering that CTE is not only for students who want to work after high school, but also for college-bound students. 

At the East Valley Institute of Technology, we serve a range of students. Some struggle to have enough credits to graduate, while others juggle honors classes at their high school with attending EVIT for career training. 

Some students have enrolled here as an alternative to going to college. They want to learn skills, earn an industry certification and go straight into the workforce after they graduate from high school. For many of these students the wages earned and career advancement opportunities available produce a much greater standard of living than many four-year college degrees.

We also have students who are here because they learn by doing and CTE is hands-on, application-based learning.  Students in our health sciences programs get a much deeper understanding of anatomy and biology. Students in construction understand in real-world terms why algebra and geometry matter.

There are also students who are planning to go to college and come to EVIT so they can earn an industry license, such as Certified Nursing Assistant, and then work as a CNA while going to college to become a registered nurse. There are even opportunities for students to earn college credit while they attend EVIT. The same is true in many CTE classes offered by East Valley school districts. 

But there is even more value for all students, regardless of their education and career goals, to enroll in a CTE program: They learn to collaborate, problem-solve, and work as a team with students who are not from their neighborhood or their community.

Neighborhood schools reflect the local demographics, but at EVIT central campuses, learning occurs in an environment that embraces all demographics because students come from neighborhoods and communities across the East Valley.

Students are developing a work ethic, collegial relationships and friendships alongside students who might be more or less affluent, speak a different language, be a different race, and practice a different religion. They are learning to balance their high school classes, homework and activities with career training at EVIT, internships and other work experiences – a time-management skill that will serve them well as college students and as adults in our workforce. 

My son is in his second year of traveling every day from his home high school to the EVIT Main Campus in Mesa to receive training in automotive technologies. I don’t know if this experience will lead to a career for him in the automotive industry, but when he leaves EVIT next spring, he will have learned how to work together with students from diverse backgrounds and be better able to achieve success in the true America – the melting pot that makes us as a country, exceptional.  

The benefits that CTE offers all kids are too great to be pigeonholed into stereotypes and old stigmas about which students should go to college and which ones should get a job. That’s why at EVIT we focus every day on loving our students and serving our community. Because when you do that, you change lives – and all kids deserve the opportunity. 

Chad Wilson
East Valley Institute of Technology

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