Career and Technical Education, known as CTE programs, were cut in 2012. Now, nine years later, the state legislature will decide if they fund $8.5 million to help bring back a crucial part of secondary education that is proving to build a career for thousands of Arizona high schoolers.
At the North Phoenix campus of West-MEC, there are roughly 500 students attending in 10 different career paths such as veterinary services, HVAC, and auto and body collision repair, to name a few.
“I’ve always been into cars and interested in cars but I never considered it a career until I had an opportunity to get into it at West-MEC,” says senior Jordan Smith.
Smith spends her mornings at the auto body and paint shop at West-MEC learning all that she can in this one-year program to be able to get a job in just three months.
"Instead of just sitting in class with a pencil, I’m over here with grinders and paint. I like coming home dirty and that’s my favorite part of the day,” adds Smith.
Smith says she’s already had a job offer at a paint and body shop in the West Valley.
“And then I got into this and I had a natural knack for it and I loved it,” she adds.
Across the school, at the veterinary services section of West-MEC, another high school senior is also proving to be a success.
Leslie Grossman tells ABC15 she will graduate with her Veterinary Assistant certificate. She has added that credential to the numerous college applications she has submitted and it has helped in getting accepted to her school of choice.
“I'm going to Colorado State University. The staff and the teachers here are amazing, they helped me prep for my application for college they helped write our resume and they helped us apply for jobs,” says Grossman.
Veterinary Assistant teacher Lisa Donimari, a veterinary tech by trade, has been teaching at West-MEC for six years.
“A lot of these students don’t know they have a passion until these programs are brought forth,” says Donimari.
Donimari says 90% of the students who take her two-year course will get their credentials to be hired even before they graduate. The training they receive at West-MEC can save these students anywhere from $9,000 to $15,000.
“I have several of my students already employed. I have a few that are on the line of being employed. I have employers waiting for them to turn 18 to employ them because they come out of this program,” adds Donimari.
Senate Bill 1179, which is currently in the House of Representatives after passing the Senate, is crucial for West-MEC and other schools similar to it.
“It really increases access to those opportunities and allows for funding all 4 years of a high school career,” says Principal CJ Williams.
The $8.5 million in funding could mean bringing students like Jordan or Leslie into this hands-on work experience sooner than their senior year, allowing for more competitive wages once they graduate. The program could also expand at the West-MECs satellite campuses which are programs at the students' home high schools. The passion teacher Donimari referred to could also be explored and found earlier, like in 9th and 10th grades.
“To be able to make money in something that I enjoy, seemed like an easy choice,” adds Smith.