Students get collaborative, real-world work experiences at Career and Technical Center
A highly skilled and available workforce is a cornerstone of Rowlett’s economic development efforts. To ensure a steady pipeline of talent continues flowing to the city’s labor pool, the Garland Independent School District established the Gilbreath-Reed Career and Technical Center (GRCTC) to introduce students to a wide range of local career options and prepare them to successfully transition to college or directly to the workforce.
The GRCTC serves juniors and seniors from all seven high schools within the Garland Independent School District. Students attend three-hour sessions every other day at the GRCTC but stay enrolled at their home high school campus and can participate in home high school activities, clubs, organizations, athletics and fine arts programs. The GRCTC offers more than 90 advanced-level career and technical education courses from which students may choose, including culinary arts, agriculture, health science, marketing and manufacturing.
Dual-credit courses allow students to earn not only high school credit but college credit as well. With practicum courses, students gain industry experience through labs that simulate real work environments.
“In one day, we may have a sheep being groomed in Vet Tech, our firefighting students training in an SCBA Confidence Maze, culinary students baking cookies for a local business meeting, printing and imaging students designing a title company logo, finance students evaluating insurance coverage, metal fabrication students producing a directional sign for a real estate agent, fashion design students creating their own collection for a fashion show, engineering students webcasting with a small village in Africa to design a hydroponic pool to help feed a family – the students gain insight into what it means to work at true projects that impact lives,â€ says Erika B. Crump, Ed.D., principal, Gilbreath-Reed Career and Technical Center.
“The cross-collaborative projects teach students how to work with others and to meet deadlines. Certifications and licenses give students the opportunity to start a career after graduation or to work their way through post-secondary education with higher-paying positions.â€
Ready for Work
Crump says the GRCTC also works closely with area businesses to determine their workforce needs and tailor programming to help meet those needs.
“Local businesses have been invited for tours and to come experience what we offer students and to share curriculum,â€ Crump says. “We ask businesses for suggestions of projects and to identify areas of need and trends they see in their businesses. We also host industry experts for guest lectures and panels. Local business leaders serve on the advisory board and also hire students to design websites, print materials, cater events, groom pets, work on small motors, the list goes on from there.â€
For example, the GRCTC architecture classes worked with Baylor, Scott, and White Medical Center to help design respite spaces and uplifting treatment environments for cancer patients. Students also worked with Mark Hall, owner of Fit Body Boot Camp and member of the Rowlett Chamber of Commerce, to design and print marketing materials for the chamber’s membership drive.
“What impressed me about the Center is the real-world experience students are getting,â€ Hall says. “We needed web design and print design and printing services, and all three groups had to work together on the project, so they learned to collaborate just like any business owner would do if they were going out in the market to get printing.â€
Hall says preparing students earlier to enter the workforce improves the economy and quality of life of the entire community.
“We’re growing the future right here in Rowlett at that school. All of those kids are going to be ready for the workforce here in town and ready to rock and roll and go. College degrees are not needed for everything, especially trades, and that’s what the school is getting people ready for, is to go right straight into the workforce,â€ Hall says. “We’re grooming them earlier now instead of waiting until after they’ve gone away, and we’re keeping them here in town, in the area where they can make an impact.â€
Public Districts Serving Local Students
Garland ISD encompasses most of Rowlett and the surrounding communities of Garland and Sachse. The district operates two pre-kindergarten schools, 47 elementary schools,12 middle schools and seven high schools. Of the district’s many innovative programs, its farm-to-school Harvest of the Month program has garnered statewide attention. School lunches prepared with fresh, locally sourced fruits and vegetables teach children healthy nutrition habits and give them a chance to learn about agriculture and where their food comes from.
Rowlett is also served by the growing Rockwall Independent School District, which operates 13 pre-kindergarten and elementary schools, three middle schools and three high schools. In 2017, the district celebrated the opening of the Linda Lyon Elementary School and broke ground on the Dr. Gene Burton College & Career Academy, which will focus on STEM courses and allow students to explore careers within the science and technology fields. Rockwall ISD also broke ground on the Dobbs Elementary School, scheduled to open in fall 2018.