At Paso Robles High School, students can get hands-on experience in food service at the school’s Culinary Arts Academy.
At the other end of San Luis Obispo County, students at Arroyo Grande, New Tech and Nipomo high schools choose from a variety of courses such as animal science, early childhood development, mechanics, performing arts, and information and communications technology.
The idea behind such courses — called career pathways or career technical education — is to give students a chance to explore potential future careers. Now, thanks to state grants, even more students in San Luis Obispo County will be able to participate.
The county was recently awarded two grants through the California Career Pathways Trust program: the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education will receive $5.9 million; the Templeton Unified School District received $5.7 million.
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Statewide, $244 million in grants were awarded to 40 programs, according to the state education department.
Funds from the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education’s grant will be distributed to school districts throughout the county. Most of the money in the four-year grant will be handed out the first two years, with the goal of having self-sustaining programs by the fourth year, county schools Superintendent Jim Brescia said.
“When I was in school they called it vocational education, and this is not just that,” Brescia said. “It’s moving forward. It’s to say, once you leave K-12, where are you going? Your high school diploma is not your last stop.”
The goal, he said, is to prepare students for their next step — heading to a community college, a university or entering the workforce — and to move them on a path toward getting training and certificates while they’re still in the K-12 system.
“I would say that most people need some sort of certificate or advanced training even if they don’t go on to university,” Brescia said.
Some of the grant will go toward expanding a duel-enrollment program where students take specific courses at their high schools and receive credit toward an associate degree at a community college.
Last year, Cuesta College received $600,000 to launch the program, said Sabrina Robertson, who supervisors grants and career technical education projects. Cuesta College professors evaluate the curriculum to ensure it meets the college’s minimum qualifications, she said.
“This will allow us to expand at a quicker rate and to buy textbooks at the high school levels,” Robertson said.
Meanwhile, the Templeton district will oversee its grant for the South Coast Region Agricultural Education Consortium, which represents 29 high school agricultural education programs in 21 school districts across several counties, according to a news release from the district.
The consortium’s goal is to strengthen agricultural mechanics and agriscience curriculum in high school programs.
Templeton Unified Superintendent Joe Koski said some funds will help purchase equipment to support existing programs.
“So what we’ll see across the region — and Templeton high School is certainly a part of that — is replacement and addition of the high-end equipment that it takes to train and prepare students for certifications in these certain fields,” he said.