A class is anywhere a teacher meets with students, and a manufacturing plant is as good a place as anywhere.
Better, in fact, if the subject is computer numerical control technology. Students can get practical experience along with the academic underpinnings, said Fred Stayrook, an employment training specialist for Lucas Western Gears, a Park City business that employs modern technology to produce airplane parts.For some time, the factory has worked with local school districts to create a vocational/technical program that brings high school students right to the plant for training, Stayrook said.
"So far, only Wasatch (district) has chosen to participate." He hopes by next year to bring students from North and South Summit districts and Park City to the plant. The -business/education partnerships are a way to contribute something to the community in which Lucas Western in located, he said.
Stayrook expects to be certified by the state as a teacher in his field so the credits students earn under his tutelage will be acceptable.
For the four students from Wasatch High who travel to Lucas Western for three hours a week of high-tech instruction, the bus drive from Heber City is well worth the trouble. In Stayrook's bright, airy classroom, they are working now on the book-learning that will prepare them eventually to go on the plant floor to practice the principles they have learned.
Both Brian Smart and Lynn Sweat see the training as a stepping stone to other educational goals.
"I want to be a doctor," Smart said. "This is going to give me something to fall back on and help get me through college."
Sweat also has tentative college plans, with becoming a veterinarian the end result, but doesn't discount the possibility of making high-tech manufacturing a career. "If I like it, I may just stick with it," he said.
The students who go through the Lucas Western program have no assurance of jobs, Stayrook said, "But we hope they'll talk to us first." The company had to do a considerable amount of training before it could open its plant when it settled in Park City. It works with local colleges, area technical centers and the state's Custom Fit program to keep its work force filled. The average age of workers is about 22, he said, an indication of the newness of the technology used at the plant.
Trained machinists at Lucas start out at $7.50 per hour and can work up rapidly, he said, to about twice that amount. The aerospace industry that hires such workers is among the fastest-growing businesses in Utah.
The four-phase course being presented to the high school students is "pretty rigorous," he said. Students who enroll for the classes have to give up some other extracurricular activities to accommodate the schedule.
They go through basic machine shop courses, lathe and machining and on into more complex computer-controlled milling and grinding and computer-aided drafting.
The school district is elated to have access to classes that have the potential to prepare students for the jobs that are most highly in demand in the state right now, said Cheryl Hardy, vocational director for Wasatch. The cost of starting a program at the high school in Heber City would be prohibitive, she said.
The district is pursuing more -business/education relationships that will give students practical training while still in high school. Later this month, a group of students and some adults will attend classes at the Homestead, a popular resort in the Heber area. They will be trained in all aspects of hospitality work, a field of employment that offers many opportunities to young people in the Summit/Wasatch area.
An instructor will be paid by Wasatch District through vocational education funds available through the state, said Hardy, and Homestead manager Britt Mathwich also will participate in the training.
Career preparation is something Wasatch emphasizes for all students, said Larry Huntington, a high school counselor. Beginning in junior high school, students are exposed to the variety of careers that are available to today's workers and are encouraged to think ahead about what they would like to do when they graduate.
Counselors work with students and their parents to create an occupational plan that will give the young people general guidance as they get closer to job years, Huntington said. Students are divided into small groups and assigned among high school faculty, who further encourage them to be cognizant of the many employment possibilities and to develop high school study plans that will lead them in the desired direction.
"We want to make them marketable," said Huntington. "We want them to be ready, whatever their choice."
High school students such as those taking the hospital classes at the Homestead or completing Stayrook's high-tech courses could be work-ready when they get a diploma in their clutches - whether they go to college or not.