Berkeley High School launches new Career Technical Education programs

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Berkeley High School has added three new Career Technical Education, or CTE, pathways to its curriculum this fall — electronic technology, carpentry and stagecraft.

The new pathways expand on CTE’s already existing law and social justice, Berkeley safety technical emergency, robotics, biotechnology and digital media programs. The CTE program’s goal is to educate, graduate and employ Berkeley High students upon graduation by teaching students core academic skills in contextualized spheres of learning, according to Stephanie Allan, CTE district adviser.

“It’s critically important for our students to have the skills and knowledge needed to pursue their career goals, whether it requires four-year college, the trades or other vocational training,” said Julie Sinai, a member of the CTE Advisory Committee who is also running for Berkeley Unified School District’s board. Having CTE offerings opens their eyes to opportunities they may have never imagined for themselves and can set them on education and career path.”

The electronic technology pathway, located at the Berkeley Adult School, is a one-year program for Berkeley High 12th graders. The lab teaches high-level math in the context of electronic technology. This pathway funnels directly into a two-year program at Los Medanos College in Pittsburg, California.

“There is a crisis in the amount of people that can do this work,” Allan said of electronic technicians.

The carpentry pathway was created in partnership with the Carpenters Training Committee for Northern California, or CTCNC. The graduates of this program have a direct pathway to an apprenticeship program with CTCNC Local 713.

Matthew Wolpe, a carpentry teacher at Berkeley High, said the program is starting with a smaller cohort and will expand next year. The program has 25 students, and about seven of these students are female, according to Wolpe.

“Our goal is to get it much more equitable,” Wolpe said.

The stagecraft pathway has four components — carpentry, sound, light and rigging. The program partners with the Oakland branch of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, or IATSE, Meyer Sound and Rooster Productions.

When students graduate from the program, they matriculate into a preapprenticeship program for one year with IATSE, where they receive pension benefits and are paid $25 an hour before entering a formal apprenticeship program.

“There was really no publicity for these classes because of no time, but we were overwhelmed with applicants,” Allan said.

Allan added that the applicant numbers almost doubled the number the program could accommodate and that 90 percent of the students in the robotics program are Black and Latino, and half are women.

Allan recounted that a Black female student told her the program made it possible for her to see that she could be an engineer.

As of now, more than 1,000 Berkeley High students are enrolled in the pathways, constituting one-third of Berkeley High’s student population. Next year, CTE will add more pathways and classes and potentially reach down into the middle school, according to Allan. Allan also wants to incorporate “family nights” in each pathway where parents can learn about the particular program, its economic opportunities and creative benefits.

“Sometime in the 1980s, education took this turn where everyone was going to college, which was never true and isn’t true today,” Allan said. “College is not the issue. Career or college is the issue.”

The carpentry and stagecraft pathways will be opening at Berkeley High’s open house Sept. 27 at 4:00 p.m.

Contact Alexandra Casey at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @acasey_dc.