How this School District Prepares Students for Careers by Connecting Them to Local Industries

Preparing students for careers with elite STEM and community-based programs

Puyallup School District in Washington isn’t a fancy STEM school; however, its STEM programs are state of the art.

Like many schools, the district offers its students career and technical education (CTE) pathways.

Kids can explore Business and Marketing, Health Sciences, Human Services, Science & Natural Resources, and Skilled and Technical Sciences — all before they earn their high school diploma. Plus, students can earn high school credits while simultaneously earning credit toward their postsecondary education. This initiative is called the Tech Prep Dual Credit Program.

Puyallup School District’s Rogers High School, in particular, has an extensive Skilled and Technical Sciences program. Students can take courses in everything from CAD & Drafting to Manufacturing, Robotics, and Architecture, Construction & Engineering.

This is by design.

Puyallup is a manufacturing mecca, but skilled workers are in short supply. So, the school, its students, and the town’s employers all have a vested interest in making sure students are ready for careers in engineering, construction, and manufacturing.

Washington’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has developed a program called Core Plus. Core Plus is industry-backed by Boeing, the Manufacturing Industrial Council, and AGC Education Foundation. Core Plus connects engineering, architecture, and manufacturing students with hands-on learning opportunities that boost career readiness.

Rogers High School, its students, and its teachers are a beneficiary of this program.

An industry professional makes the switch to teaching.

David Cerio is a Robotics, Advanced Manufacturing, and CAD Modeling teacher at Rogers High School. He’s been there for a decade, but prior to teaching, Cerio worked in industry.

As a former Rogers graduate himself, he was encouraged by his brother, who’s also a CTE teacher at the school, to volunteer in the engineering and manufacturing program.

After about a year of working with students, he knew he had to switch to teaching.

Challenged by needing students earn career-ready certification, an instructor searches for answers.

When Puyallup School District administrators became aware of how valuable earning industry-recognized certifications could be for high school students, they asked their CTE teachers to get students certified.

Cerio knew he wanted to prepare students for an industry-recognized certification exam. “I didn’t want my students to get some useless certification just so I could say they got one. I’m not in the business of checking a box — I want my students to earn a career-ready certification,” he explained.

Cerio determined that the Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate (CSWA) was his students’ best path to careers. However, he was apprehensive that the certification might be “too collegiate” for his high schoolers.

While searching for ways to better prepare students for the rigorous CSWA exam, Cerio found SolidProfessor, an online learning platform for teaching engineering, architecture, and manufacturing design. While a SolidProfessor for Schools membership gets educators and their students full access to the entire library of courses, Cerio was most excited about the SOLIDWORKS Beginner to Certification course. This online course is designed to take students from novice SOLIDWORKS users to CSWAs through video lessons, guided exercises, and practice exams.

He integrated the online learning platform into his classes for the second half of the school year.

He knew if he wanted to set his students up for success on test day, he’d need to find a way to help prepare students for the CSWA exam. Through his search, he discovered SolidProfessor.

Build success through blending certification prep and robust community-based programs

Once Cerio integrated SolidProfessor into his curriculum, he and his students began to reap its benefits in the following ways:

  • Cerio saves time in class for other activities by having SolidProfessor answer questions for him
  • He’s able to give his students project-based learning opportunities through SolidProfessor’s guided exercises and practice exercises built into each online course.
  • Using the reporting tool, Cerio can view students’ test scores, see which courses they’ve watched, and identify who’s falling behind or advancing ahead. And because of this, he can support students who are struggling with one-on-one support. Students developing more advanced skills can continue to explore the more than 400 courses, they have access to through SolidProfessor.

Cerio has a game plan to get his students certified. He starts by teaching them the fundamentals of AutoCAD through SolidProfessor, once students know linear and circular patterns, they ease into SOLIDWORKS. With their newfound confidence, they continue into more advanced SolidProfessor’s modules. Cerio’s plan is working – so far, he’s helped ten kids get certified in just six months.

“The kids love SolidProfessor. It’s not a struggle to get them the knowledge to earn their CSWA. It’s like having a second teacher in the room,” Cerio said.

SolidProfessor has strengthened Core Plus by providing students with an understanding of parametric modeling – a key component of how Boeing works with the students. SolidProfessor’s video courses have also minimized the learning curve because students speak Boeing’s language.

Cerio wants more professionals and businesses involved in his high school program. He does this by meeting with companies in the community and speaking about the value of partnering. Convincing them isn’t difficult once they hear that these partnerships create a job fulfillment pipeline for students and employers. For example, Patriot Fire in Washington hired one of Cerio’s students right out of high school. This student earned his CSWA in his classroom. Now, at 22 years old, he’s a project manager making a healthy salary.

Cerio encourages other school leaders not to be afraid to advocate for their students and their programs.

“Your students are an investment, and with SolidProfessor, your school and your community will get a return on that investment.”

Madie Norris Forcier
About the Author

SolidProfessor content writer and self-appointed World’s Greatest Dog Mom