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July 22, 2010

Industry takes a leading role in new skills center

  • Students at the Northwest Career and Technical Academy in Anacortes and Mount Vernon can learn their trade from the pros.
    Hutteball & Oremus Architecture


    This September, students from across Skagit County will pack the halls of the state’s newest skills center, the Northwest Career and Technical Academy.

    High school students from six school districts will be able to experience classes focused on technical training for careers in high demand. The academy will offer eight “student choice programs,” with classes focused on fields such as finance, culinary arts, veterinary technology, marine technology and computer science.

    This will be a win-win partnership between local industries and their respective local school districts. Industry leaders need young employees with specialized technical skills, and the market is ripe with graduating students who are eager to enter the workforce in a field they enjoy.

    The academy is making its mark around the region as the state’s first fully funded skills center. Open to high school juniors and seniors as well as students attending Skagit Valley College, they will receive training for three hours a day in the career field of their choice. Each program offers high school and college credit, along with the licensing or certification program that accompanies each professional career field.

    Image courtesy of Hutteball & Oremus Architecture [enlarge]
    Work on Northwest Career and Technical Academy’s $5.6 million Marine Technology Center, shown here, is under way at its satellite campus in Anacortes. An $8.9 million building is being built in Mount Vernon. Both projects will be finished in September, in time for the new school year.

    Jessica Bauer, a junior at Concrete High School, said she’s ready to sign up. She’s interested in culinary arts.

    “The academy offers programs that help you in careers,” she said. “It’s something that helps you in the future instead of classes you have to take all the time.”

    Bauer wants to learn the intricacies of the culinary arts trade and said she eventually sees herself as the head chef of a restaurant.

    Students will be prepared to join the workforce right after high school, or continue on to postsecondary education. The academy will offer students on either path a jump-start through participation in real-world experiences, field studies, clinical environments and internships.

    Programs will afford students valuable credentials such as industry certifications, licenses and college-articulated credits. Licensing and certifications received represent valuable employment skills — many are designations that meet national industry standards and increase potential earning power and post-secondary training/educational placement.

    Industry partnerships

    Northwest Career and
    Technical Academy

    The skills center has a main campus in Mount Vernon and a satellite campus in Anacortes. The firms listed here worked on both projects, except where noted.

    Owner: A consortium of six school districts — Anacortes, Burlington-Edison, Concrete, Mount Vernon, La Conner and Sedro-Woolley — and Skagit Valley College

    Project manager: Bryan Young Associates

    Architect: Hutteball & Oremus Architecture

    General contractors: Ebenal General (Mount Vernon) and Sierra Construction (Anacortes)

    Civil engineer: Northwest Datum & Design

    Structural engineers: PCS Structural Solutions (Mount Vernon) and Watson Structural Engineering (Anacortes)

    Mechanical consultant: Hargis Engineers

    Electrical consultant: Travis, Fitzmaurice & Associates

    Landscape architect: Cascade Design Collaborative

    Acoustic engineer: SSA coustics

    Kitchen design: George E. Bundy and Associates

    The academy’s main campus is located adjacent to the Skagit Valley College in Mount Vernon, and will offer classes in seven of the academy’s eight new programs. A satellite campus is located in the heart of the marine industry at the Cap Sante marina in Anacortes.

    This campus, known as the Marine Technology Center, has state-of-the-art lab spaces devoted to professional marine industry training. The marine technology program is already drawing national attention for its innovative design, blended curriculum delivery model and progressive business partnerships.

    Throughout the planning of the academy, a strong emphasis has been placed on infusing a “blended delivery” instructional model. This allows co-enrollment of high school as well as college students, elevating the educational expectations by implementing best practices in professional training and responsible use of building resources.

    Greater emphasis is given to the unique ties to business and industry. When you walk into the academy, you immediately experience the direct connection with the various business partners through the infusion of the hands-on, professional-level training students experience every day.

    Each of the programs is run like an independent business, focusing on student employability training. Examples of this include the academy’s partnership with the Northwest Plus Credit Union, which will have a fully functioning branch located on the main campus. After students’ initial instruction from the Academy of Finance program, they will transition into an internship within the branch, experiencing every aspect of what a job in that field would present.

    Another partnership is with the Sodexo Corp. As part of the culinary arts program, students will be trained by a master chef from Sodexo in all aspects of the culinary field. They will then transition into placements at the Bytes Delicatessen, also located on the main campus.

    Each business partnership is designed to promote interaction with the public. This allows students to get as much real-world employment training as possible, all while allowing the public to see the students engaged in relevant, meaningful, professional preparation.

    Other partnerships include the Steamboat Island Animal Hospital, industry partner for the veterinary technology program, and DigiPen Institute of Technology, industry partner for both the computer science and sustainable technology programs.

    Numerous other business and industry partners have collaborated extensively on all aspects of the academy project, and will continue to play a vital role in the ongoing implementation and development of the curriculum. This involvement ensures the academy will continue to produce highly trained students with employable skills.

    Green Weave

    A final feature of both academy campuses is the focus on “Green Weave” curriculum, and the use of stainable/renewable project materials and technology.

    Both sites use photovoltaic panels, with the marine technology site incorporating geothermal technology. Each site will also have an interactive touch screen panel located for easy student and community access. The panels will display current energy conservation/use for both sites with just a touch of an icon.

    Green Weave is the academy’s way of integrating sustainable and renewable practices directly into the everyday curriculum. Students will be able to see the buildings’ inner workings, from composting to basic recycling. They will be challenged to rethink current professional practices and to reduce waste in every area, making each program function as sustainably as possible.

    After years of planning, the academy has now become a built reality. The consortium of six Skagit County school districts, Skagit Valley College, the Port of Anacortes and regional industry partners from across the Puget Sound has made these buildings possible.

    This September, students will be the first class to experience this evolutionary departure from the traditional instruction model. Together, they have created an academy that will unite students from different corners of the county into a central location for one common goal: to prepare academically and professionally for the careers that lie ahead.

    Kevin Oremus, a principal at Hutteball & Oremus Architecture in Kirkland, has planned and designed educational facilities across the Pacific Northwest for nearly 25 years.

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