As Bakersfield gears up for a new school year, the Kern High School District’s Regional Occupational Center is pulling out all the stops to provide amazing opportunities to local high school students. Whether they want to learn a trade or gain valuable skills and training in preparation for college, there is something for everyone.
They currently have five projects underway, including a cosmetology training center, the first of its kind locally, as well as auto shop and construction courses and a veterinary teaching hospital.
“The vet hospital is a fully functioning hospital with a surgery center and an X-ray room,” said Brian Miller, the school’s principal. “It’s unlike anything else in the state; we’re excited to show it off to the community. There is a full-time veterinarian who teaches the courses, as well as a registered vet tech.”
There is also a new culinary arts program, which will include a student-run cafe. The “Hard Rock” will be open to the public a few days a week for breakfast and lunch, giving students the chance to put their skills to use in a tangible way.
Another reason for the expansion is to accommodate more students. Four years ago, they only had openings for 800 students. This year, they will have 2,000 spots available. By 2020, they will be able to offer classes to a total of 2,600 students on both campuses. They will also be adding night classes for students who don’t have room in their schedule during school hours. Some of the courses are also available to the public, but high school students receive preference.
Another exciting addition to the program will be training students for careers in logistics and distribution.
“This area is driven by the industry,” said Miller. “Look at all the distribution companies that are popping up here like FedEx and Amazon – there are a lot of high-wage careers. If a student has a little bit of training in high school, they can enter the job market with experience.”
ROC also works closely with both Bakersfield College and CSU Bakersfield to help students continue their education along the pathways they’ve started during high school.
The second part of their expansion is the Career and Technical Education Center, set to open in August 2020. CTECH is a whole new campus featuring technology training. It will be located adjacent to Independence High School.
The new programs are a culmination of four years of planning.
“It has been quite a process,” said Miller. “(We wanted to) make sure we did it the right way and (offered) resources that students would take advantage of.”
They did their research, including visiting sites in other states to see what kinds of programs they offered and what facilities they had. They also surveyed 20,000 Kern High students to determine what types of courses they were interested in seeing offered.
“Over the past five years, it’s been a national movement,” said Miller of the recent renewed focus on occupational training. “The state has really been supporting career and technical education the past few years.”
Half of the program’s funding came from state grants, according to Miller.
“Developing an education (system) that gets kids thinking more about their careers, not just entry-level employment options, (is the goal),” he said. “It’s really cool to see the students each year and how much they grow out here. We get some students every year that maybe haven’t done that great academically, but then they get into a class here and they just have such an interest in what they’re learning. They just take off because it’s something they want to do. (These students have) never been this excited to come to school before. It happens every year.” ￼