There are multiple paths that may be taken that culminate in a successful career. Having the opportunity to explore potential career fields, while earning college credit, advanced certifications, and new friendships is the norm for 62 Grain Valley students who attend the Fort Osage Career and Technology Center in Independence, Missouri. The CTC blends classroom instruction with hands-on learning experiences.
Construction Trades Technology, Marketing, Welding, Culinary Arts, Automotive Technology, and CSI/Law Enforcement are among just some of the programs offered to the 526 students enrolled at CTC. The foyer to the main entrance of the CTC is adorned with the motto, “Explore. Create. Excite. Pursue.” A further walk around the building reveals a bright blue bulletin board that has been coined the “50 for 50” board, highlighting the career success of 50 alumni from CTC over the past 50 years.
These examples of getting students to think in a professional mindset is by the design of CTC Director Susie Gouldsmith and Recruitment and Placement Specialist Rebecca Brown. Both Gouldsmith and Brown have been with CTC for 23 and 5 years, respectively. The idea of students working along side professionals and learning by doing is at the heart of what Gouldsmith and Brown want for their students.
Creativity for CTC leadership has become an important part of continuing to attract students during the current pandemic. Spring Open House and sophomore tours have been suspended for the 2020-2021 school year. However, YouTube and social media have become forums for displaying the 9th Grade information video- https://bit.ly/CTC9thGradeVideo, and for providing links for the application process- https://bit.ly/CTCApp2021-2022.
Arraya Ross is a Grain Valley High School student involved in the CSI/Law Enforcement program at CTC. Her time is split between calisthenics, classroom work, and field shadowing at the Fort Osage campus. Having time commitments or pull between two campuses is something Ross would not have any other way.
“Honestly, this is a great program to go into. We do everything from simulating traffic stops, doing physical fitness, to book work. I am getting to explore if this is indeed what I want to do when I grow up. I would recommend this for anyone,” Ross said.
“You learn teamwork and the value of having multiple eyes on a task. Those multiple eyes present different options for us to consider before negotiating the best solution. This program has made me want to continue in this field.”
“Simulating a traffic stop has made me understand the balance between maintaining calm and being nervous or scared at the same time. You have no idea what it is like until you have to actually do it and putting the skills into application that I have learned has made a huge impact on me.”
Ross concluded, “My first time hearing about CTC was when Ms. Brown visited my classroom during my freshman and sophomore years. I have always been fascinated by law enforcement. My parents were initially skeptical about what my experience would be like here. That has turned into them being excited like me about I am doing.”
Another popular career pathway training offered at CTC is automotive technology. CNBC cited in 2019 that auto mechanics are and will for the foreseeable future be in high demand. The United States continues to put more and more drivers on the road. Congruently, more Americans are holding onto their vehicles longer due to the continuing escalating cost of new vehicle prices.
ZipRecruiter reveals that the average annual salary for an automotive mechanic in Missouri is $35,959. Local car dealerships such as Blue Springs Ford, Bob Sight Ford, and Lee’s Summit Volkswagen work with area career schools to find partnerships for intern placements at their dealerships. To graduate high school with the skills needed to become a certified mechanic with an internship and possible employment on the horizon without a large pile of student loan debt is appealing for students with mechanical aptitude.
Grain Valley High School students Nick Julien, Jaden Mason, Ethan Haile, and Neil Schmidt currently take automotive technology classes at CTC. Each has their own reason why they were drawn to the program. The group collectively enjoys the hands on experience they gain and the confidence that comes along with it for their future endeavors.
“I learn things here that are not available at my home high school. Everything we do is engaging and hands on. Even If I do not choose this profession, I will have a lot of good experience for later in life,” Julien said.
Schmidt continued, “Being at CTC does not feel like school. I feel like I am at a job. The type of learning we do here is fun for me. This has created a passion for me. It started out with me being into dirt bikes and has grown into a possible career. Getting to be around my friends and have fun has been a plus also.”
Mason added, “I am learning good things in large quantities for what I want to do in my career later on.”
Haile finished, “I estimate that none of us are going to be doing anything with calculus after graduation. Here, I learn applicable skills that fascinate me and set me up for success. I can by sight or feel find a 3 /8 inch wrench in a tool drawer as opposed to solving a three-step equation.”
Being in an environment where a car can be put on a lift and things being removed and put back holds the attention of the quartet. The consequences from doing something right or wrong in a shop setting is real and something the group claims sticks in their memory. Among examples cited were the differences between old and newer ignition systems, with the old being mechanically centered and the new being diagnostic or electronically driven.
The spark of interest and route taken to the Fort Osage Career Technical Center has been different for each automotive student.
“I was visited in 8th grade by CTC instructors. That interaction made the three hours we spend a day here sound fun. That is what pushed me here. I never wanted to go to college. I wanted to get an entry level automotive job. Instead, I am planning on going to college based to pursue something automotive based on my experiences here,” Julien said.
“My parents were happy with me choice to come here and that I am doing something with my hands. They have been pleased to see me doing something that makes me this happy.”
Schmidt explained his motivations were not as complex as some of his classmates.
“I saw the truck on the Dyno when I visited here and loved the sound the engine made. I was hooked,” Schmidt said.
“My parents have been relieved that I am on a path instead of trying to find something for a career. Also, I have made friends here at CTC that I never would of thought that I had. We have a bond due to us working on the same things with the same interests continually.”