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New Career-Tech School Set To Open For Fresno County Students

Fresno Office of Education

The Fresno County Office of Education has broken ground on a new shop for a Career Technical Education Charter School in central Fresno. The school will serve students from around the county who are interested in exploring technical careers as well as college. FCOE Superintendent Jim Yovino spoke with Valley Public Radio's Jeffrey Hess about what the agency wants to achieve.

Why did the Fresno Office of Education want to start a Career and Technical Education Charter School?

Our office puts on several events during the year for students from around this valley. One that we put on is Fresno Area College night, we have put it on for almost 3 decades. So we have about 100 colleges that come, where parents can talk and see where their student or child would want to go to school. Well, about 5 years ago it dawned on me, ‘what about the parent who wants to know about construction, manufacturing or engineering? Where would they send their child?’ Well, I quickly realized at that point that there is a tremendous need in this valley. This valley is really looking for a comprehensive high school that has a career-tech focus. Well, we have a beautiful school over by (San Joaquin) Memorial that my expelled youth were in. Used to have around 200 kids we are down to about 50. So we are in the middle of building a $6.5 million shop with nearly $1 million worth of equipment that will be put into that shop. We will be enrolling our first group of 125 freshmen. Any student who lives in Fresno County can come to this school. So Fresno County is a big geographical area, as we know. That is from Firebaugh to Coalinga to Reedley to Sierra and the Mountains and all of the school districts in between. Your child can come to this school. It is a free public charter.

The valley is largely seen as an agricultural hotbed, why lean into manufacturing or construction?

We have a lot of business industry in our valley. There are many manufacturing companies. Commercial engineering companies that are in need of great skilled labor. But I want folks to understand that I am not wanting every child to graduate and go into one industry. I want them to be exposed to many different pathways in the arena of commercial manufacturing and commercial building. So they can decide what they want to do with their future after they finish our school. So a kid gets through our program and let’s say they are exposed to 40 different careers. 40 careers they have probably never heard of before. Let’s say they wanted to go into engineering. We have a great engineering program right here at Fresno State. So here is a kid who can come through our program. Conceivably, finish two years of college at the same time. And go on to Fresno State as a junior and enter into that engineering pathway.

Is this to prepare Fresno to grow or are these in-demand jobs right now?

We need both. What I am hearing from our industry partners is that they cannot find a skilled workforce. They cannot find labor and students who are prepared to enter. Even when you talk to trade unions around this valley. When students want to become part of apprenticeship programs are they qualified? And when I mean ‘qualified’, I mean are they prepared for higher level math skills. This high school is about making that connection to a career. This is what makes it unique. This is what our business partners are asking for. There needs to be something connected between the works kids are doing at school and our businesses.

However, robots are a continuing threat to some manual labor jobs. Are we training students to only be replaced by machines?

Part of this school is about robotics. So robotics will be one of our pathways in both our commercial manufacturing and commercial building sectors. What I believe is humans will never be replaced. Yes, does technology change? Does the work force look differently? Yes, the will. But that is not to say what our ids will be prepared for. Maybe they will be that designer of that robotic arm that industry needs. We still have a tremendous need for skilled labor. I always use this example: The guy who came to our house and fixed our refrigerator? It’s not going to be a computer showing up to fix our refrigerator, work on our air condition units, or build our homes. It is going to be people. It’s always about people. So our job is to show our kids an opportunity about what they can do in the future.

Jeffrey Hess is a reporter and Morning Edition news host for Valley Public Radio. Jeffrey was born and raised in a small town in rural southeast Ohio. After graduating from Otterbein University in Columbus, Ohio with a communications degree, Jeffrey embarked on a radio career. After brief stops at stations in Ohio and Texas, and not so brief stops in Florida and Mississippi, Jeffrey and his new wife Shivon are happy to be part Valley Public Radio.