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Thursday, June 8, 2023

Community And Technical Colleges Can Help Students Start To Build Successful Careers


By Tabitha Anderson

Before I saw a huge 3D printer using a robotic arm at a college fair during my sophomore year of high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do after high school. After learning from the man standing next to the printer about how a career in mechatronics could lead to me using robots like this, I was hooked. That day at the college fair introduced me to mechatronics, but a community and technical college set me on the path I chose that day.

After that day at the college fair, I did all the research I could about a mechatronics career pathway. My research would lead me to the mechatronics program at Green River College to learn how to operate, maintain and repair modern industrial machinery like the robot I saw at the career fair. I’m currently a Running Start student at Green River College. Running Start is a program that allows 11th and 12th grade students to take college courses and earn both high school and college credits for these courses. Through my mechatronics program at Green River College, I’m getting the opportunity to dive deep into how things operate and work with different types of mechanical and electrical systems. I also really enjoy the diversity of the work and life experiences of the people in my classes.

Green River College is a Boeing-partnered manufacturing program, so its instructors had connections to work experiences like the Core Plus Aerospace summer internship, which I participated in last summer. Thanks to my instructors letting me know about the internship and encouraging me to apply, I gained insights into what it takes to succeed in the manufacturing industry, built hands-on manufacturing skills with the help of Boeing trainers, learned how to create a winning resume and participated in mock job interviews. Along with manufacturing skills, I also learned how to advocate for myself. This was a new concept for me. I now can showcase my skills and what I know. This is a valuable skill to have when I’m interviewing for jobs and will help me move forward in my career.

While a community and technical college helped me find my manufacturing career path, many high school students in Washington have the opportunity to take Core Plus Aerospace at their local high school or skill center. Core Plus Aerospace is a two-year high school advanced manufacturing curriculum that prepares students for high-demand jobs through hands-on learning. Students gain real-world skills that can open their eyes to the possibilities in manufacturing. I like that Core Plus Aerospace can help students explore manufacturing careers while still in high school and learn about opportunities like the Boeing internship that helped me gain skills to launch my career.

Two years after that college fair, I’m now a senior at Kent Meridian High School and on track to graduate in June 2022 and complete my associate degree in mechatronics from Green River College in December 2022. I’m on a pathway that could lead me to a career building and maintaining robots. Robots that could launch spaceships. I could even build or maintain airplanes that help people travel across the country to see their families. My ultimate career goal is to become an aircraft mechanic and work in the aerospace industry. I’m also exploring continuing my education and pursuing an engineering degree at a four-year college. Some companies like Boeing will pay for tuition and any related expenses — including application fees, entrance exams and books — for employees who attend colleges, universities or community and technical colleges.

My career path was launched thanks to a community and technical college. With so many different careers in manufacturing available, now is the time for students to explore careers and how a community and technical college can help them achieve their goals. I want more students to have the opportunity to explore manufacturing careers while still in high school – whether that’s at a mechatronics program at a college or at their local high school by taking Core Plus Aerospace. Every high school student should have opportunities to build a career with options and find what they really love to do.

Tabitha Anderson is a senior at Kent Meridian High School and a Running Start student studying Mechatronics at Green River College.

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