WUSD puts on hardhat with help of tech education grants

Woodlake Union School District receives $37,000 from the Perkins V grant and $155,000 from the Career Technical Education Incentive Grant, strengthens technical career pathways

WOODLAKE – Woodlake’s school district received nearly $200,000 this year in grants for their technical education pathways, creating opportunities for students residing in a tech-career driven county.

Woodlake Union School District received over $192,000 from two grants, which will help to strengthen their career and technical education (CTE) programs. The grant funding will roll into Woodlake High School’s five technical education pathways, according to Carmita Pena, the coordinator of college & career programs. This is crucial to Woodlake, as it resides in a county whose strongest workforce is in technical related fields, primarily agricultural, according to the Tulare County Workforce Investment Board. 

“We definitely want to expand our pathways,” Pena said. “We also want to strengthen them so that our students complete the pathway and have more skills and certification.”

The district was awarded roughly $37,000 to fund improvements in their technical education programs with the Perkins V grant. Perkins V, also known as the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, is part of Congress’ $1.3 billion commitment to career and technical education (CTE) programs for the nation’s youth and adult programs. Not only that, but the district received an additional $155,000 from the Career Technical Education Incentive Grant (CTEIG), which will be awarded to the school next year.

The school has several pathways, and five of these pathways will be funded through these two grants. Those pathways are agriculture mechanics, agri-business, plant science, dance and information and communications technology pathways. The funding will not only provide new materials for the pathways, but also strengthen their existing structure. The district will be able to fund their newest ag teacher with the help of the grant funding as well.

Pena said that it can be difficult for schools to obtain grant funding for CTE programs due to the state’s strict application requirements. Enrollment and course completion of pathways largely affect the grant award, and for a high school with only 678 students total, it can be a concern. Not only that, but each pathway must have a teacher who has a CTE credential. 

“[CTE programs] have to be highly qualified, meaning that the teacher has to have a CTE credential. We have other pathways, but those teachers do not have a CTE credential. They have a single subject credential,” Pena said.

In order to get a CTE credential, a teacher must have roughly 6,000 hours of experience in the field they are teaching in the pathway. However, Pena said that this can make finding CTE credentialed teachers difficult, because many pathway fields, such as construction or engineering, pay more than a teachers salary. So, Pena said that schools statewide are faced with the dilemma of trying to bring on teachers that have hours of experience in these fields.

“Everybody has a problem with teachers that are CTE credentialed. It’s everywhere, it’s a statewide issue,” Pena said.

Though there are strict requirements for the funding, that hasn’t stopped Woodlake so far. Pena said that the district applied for the grant funding alongside eight other schools in the county through the Tulare County Office of Education. Altogether, the nine schools within Tulare County received roughly $2 million in state funding. Out of that, Woodlake received the $155,000.

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