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ELO takes pride in career tech program

Morning Journal/Stephanie Ujhelyi Treasure Reynolds (right) assists Hannah Riley put on clothing, as Riley portrays a patient in Reynolds’ care in East Liverpool High School’s career tech program.

EAST LIVERPOOL — For more than 50 years, East Liverpool has offered vocational education opportunities within its walls rather than just pushing post-secondary education.

According to Ryan Willis, associate principal at the high school, 70 percent of all graduating seniors participate in the district’s career tech program that is offered cost free to its juniors and seniors.

Other districts within Columbiana County send their students to the county’s Career and Technical Center in Lisbon, where they can study unique offerings such as culinary careers, precision machining and veterinary science.

However, East Liverpool has its own niche offerings including criminal justice, which is taught by a former police detective and canine officer with the St. Clair Police Department. This program is for students interested in careers in law enforcement, security, law, social work or counseling.

In addition to criminal justice, three periods daily a student may choose to study allied health and nursing, automotive technology, visual design and imaging, building construction, cosmetology, early childhood, family and consumer science, landscaping and horticulture, interactive multimedia, information technology, and job training.

Students gain hands-on knowledge into what they encounter in books.

For example, students in Josh Ludwig’s landscaping and horticulture program might find themselves working on the infield of the Potter baseball field or doing a project outside the school district’s Clock Tower, while building construction students might be building benches and picnic tables for Thompson Park.

While most career and technical education programs require students to travel off campus for job training, East Liverpool has classrooms and labs located on their campus to assist students in beginning career ready, allowing them to remain fully engaged in the high school experience.

While classes are offered only to junior and senior level students, every sophomore is given the opportunity to visit the programs that interest them. By law, enrollment for each program is limited to 25 students.

The focus is on making sure that students are job ready when they leave their district’s career tech program, explained Willis. “Our career tech teachers’ success revolves not only their constant contract with (exiting students) but also their relationships with industry professionals,” the associate principal added — especially in regards to learning what soft skills their students need to work on to become exceptional employees.

Longtime automotive technology instructor John Torma agrees that participation can be a real confidence builder for students who learn problem solving skills, teamwork and a good work ethic. His program, which focuses mostly on the mechanics and a touch of welding, with 13 juniors and 12 seniors registered in the program.

In the case of the allied health and nursing program run by instructor Nicole Dozier, 90 percent of her students either get a STNA job or enter into health care study. Students leave with certification to be a state tested nursing assistant (STNA), a phlebotomy or electrocardiogram (EKG) technician, she added.

Despite being in midst of a pandemic part of the year, most career techs had success finding jobs in a struggling market.

Educating students in the career tech fields pushed instructors to new levels of creativity especially since so much of the program is hands-on. For example, Willis said construction class students found themselves perhaps assembling a birdhouse kit at home virtually, photographing the finished project and uploading the pictures to their teacher for grading.

Families who like the more personal touch experience may choose to open enroll their youth through East Liverpool to participate in the career tech program with their home school.

“Our goal is to break the stigma that used to accompany vocational students,” he continued. “Skilled labor is needed,” citing that there are nearly six and a half a million blue collar jobs that are good paying that need filled. “Career tech gives students the job as well as workplace skills needed. For example, showing up on time and looking like a professional are a few important things we stress. They learn skills that they will use the rest of their lives.

Participating in career tech also doesn’t disqualify a student from being eligible to participate in extracurricular activities, college prep classes or school-to-work opportunities.

For more information on the ELHS career tech program, call 330-386-8750.

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