From Old School Voc-Tech to Community Hub: How a Model School Transformed CTE


Today’s cutting-edge, rigorous and relevant career and technical education (CTE) prepares youth and adults for high-wage, high-skill, high-demand careers in established and emerging industries. At Huntington North High School, our transition from vocational programming to CTE curriculum has ignited engagement, participation, and relevance in the school as well as in the broader Huntington community.

Origins in Vocational Education

Our journey started years ago with a pretty typical vocational education track, offering the traditional shop and trades classes that used to be found in most high schools. In 1994, our school district purchased a car dealership across the street from the high school and we gradually developed automotive and precision machining courses as well as a partnership with a local cosmetology school.

Providing Options for Multiple Career Investigations and Pathways

Over time, we saw how much students wanted and needed programs in other fields. Today we’re proud to offer 10 half-day CTE programs. All programs offer college dual credit and industry certifications embedded in the course, where applicable. Among the accredited pathways we offer for high schoolers are:

  • A two-year automotive program with classes in electrical, breaks, steering and suspension, and engine performance
  • A Certified Nurse Aide (C.N.A.) program that’s very similar to the first semester of nursing school; students sit for their state licensing exam as part of the course
  • A two-year cosmetology program that allows students to earn the 1500 hours needed to take the state licensing exam; this program has also evolved to include an externship component for second-year students
  • An Early Childhood Education program for students interested in working at a daycare or preschool
  • An Education Professions program for students wanting to explore the teaching profession
  • A one-semester Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) program that allows students to prepare for the National Registry exam
  • Coursework in Human and Social Services in which students spend 45 minutes in a classroom and then two class periods going to our local United Way, Boys & Girls Club, and other social services agencies to explore careers
  • An Internship program that this year had over 50 students interning at nearly 50 different local businesses, organizations, and healthcare facilities
  • An Interdisciplinary Cooperative Education program that allows students to earn high school credit while also working a job; many of these students come from the Automotive, Precision Machining, and C.N.A. programs and use the skills they’ve already learned in high school to earn above minimum wage
  • A two-year Precision Machining program that regularly sends students to state and national SkillsUSA competitions; students who graduate from this program can earn upwards of $15 an hour

All of the programs take a hands-on, practical approach to encouraging students to go on to higher education. Students are encouraged to get jobs and work their way through college and advanced education, potentially taking advantage of tuition reimbursement through employers. Building a work history and expanding their skill set are valued as well as earning advanced degrees.

A Facility That Meets Our Needs

An integral part of our success comes from our facility and what we’ve transformed it into. In 2011, a group of individuals from the community came together to launch a capitol campaign to add 7,500 square feet onto the former car dealership. This $1.4 million dollar project took five years of fundraising and led to contributions from city and county government, the local business and manufacturing communities, as well as donations from individuals. The expansion allowed for office space for the local branch of the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) as well as offices for both a two-year community college and four-year academic institution. A 10-bed Health Services lab, with two adjacent classrooms, was also added. Just after the opening of the expanded part of the facility in 2016, the state’s provider for adult basic education also co-located to the facility. The high school Robotics Team, which produced the 7th ranked robot in the world in 2016, also now calls the facility home. The vision of the Huntington County Community Learning Center, or LC, is to break down barriers and provide access to education.

Responsive to Our Broader Community

Just after the center opened, the largest local employer, United Technologies, sent 400 jobs to Mexico. Because the facility is home to the local DWD office, many of these employees were naturally directed to utilize the services of the LC. With the presence of the local community college, short-term trainings that resulted in industry certifications, in fields such as industrial maintenance, CNC machining, and welding were available. College academic courses are offered both during the day and at night for individuals wishing to start on the path to a college degree.

The Results Are In!

Typically, students involved in CTE have a higher graduation rate, around 94% nationally. Enrollment numbers also tell a positive story: the numbers in our programs are steady and even increasing despite the fact that our overall high school enrollment has gone down by about a hundred students per year for the last 15 years.

Because of our student-driven, interactive learning model, our students are motivated and engaged—they are also excelling and getting recognition for their achievements in their careers. We’re proud to be one high school that’s having an incredible impact on the future careers and life achievements of our students as well as providing a positive and deep service to the Huntington community.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.


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