The Prescott area needs a skilled workforce. We need doctors and lawyers and engineers, but we also need welders, fire fighters, nurses, mechanics and electricians.
Where do they come from?
We have a trifecta of issues: an essential and largely unmet need for skilled workers, a college education that is increasingly out of reach for many, and a cohort of young people who are dissatisfied with traditional schooling.
How does the Greater Prescott community address these issues?
There is a statewide program called Career and Technical Education that allows students to engage in a hands-on schooling program in one of several needed technologies ranging from the health science to manufacturing skills and construction or 61 other career/trade areas recognized by the Arizona Department of Education.
Here in western Yavapai County, there is a special district, Mountain Institute Career and Technical Education District (MICTED).
MICTED is a joint educational effort between our public school districts and Yavapai College so students in Ash Fork, Bagdad, Chino Valley, Mayer, Prescott, Prescott Valley/Humboldt, Seligman and all of western Yavapai County can get training/schooling and an industry certificate that will qualify them to enter a chosen field above entry level; thus, earning more and jump starting a career.
Many students, having had their interests whetted, will go on to higher education to earn advanced skills allowing them to climb the chosen career ladder more easily than an inexperienced counterpart because of their hands-on experience.
This initial training experience, for example in the medical field, may lead an individual to go on and earn a degree as a registered nurse or even enter medical school to become an M.D. All this while offsetting some of the costs of a degree by being able to work as a certified medical assistant.
Let’s look at four of the 22 programs offered by MICTED:
Health care programs: Cradle of Future Medical Professionals
MICTED offers high school students from around western Yavapai County two entry-level programs in the health care profession:
- Medical assisting: Qualifies an individual to work in a physician’s office or a health care clinic providing administrative and certain direct medical activities under the direction and supervision of a doctor or nurse. Medical assistants can draw blood, perform initial examinations, collect medical history and administer medications, including injections, as directed by the supervising physician. In addition, they can perform front office duties such as reception, medical records keeping, billing and insurance forms and related duties.
- Nursing assisting: Qualifies an individual to work in a longer-term health care setting such as a rehabilitation center, a nursing home, senior living center or similar clinical environment. Nurses’ assistants act as the eyes and ears of registered nurses in the day-to-day care of long-term patients.
Both programs enable graduating high school seniors to sit for a certification test and become certified medical assistants or certified nursing assistants, major first recognized qualifications in the vitally important field of health care.
Like all the programs offered to high school students by MICTED, instruction is provided in collaboration with Yavapai College. In fact, several students in these programs expressed an interest in continuing their professional education at Yavapai College.
Instruction is held at the Yavapai College Health Care Campus in Prescott Valley using YC classrooms and laboratories. In some cases, and some programs, the high school students are integrated with YC students and, even, adult learners.
The medical assisting program is led by two seasoned medical professionals, Steve Wimbrough, MSN, RRT and Kylie Letbridge, MA.
Steve has had a long and storied career in the medical field, starting his experience as an emergency department technician in a hospital in South Central Los Angeles where, daily, he provided initial medical care to trauma victims, drug overdoses and health care emergencies. Kylie spent her career working in doctors’ offices in a medical assisting role. So, MICTED students are being taught by seasoned professionals.
Similarly, the nursing assisting program is led by Jim Iwanek, a retired critical care registered nurse with a background in trauma nursing from Dignity Health and retired Air Force flight medic.
In addition to the training in both classroom and simulated clinical settings at Yavapai College, nursing assisting students get hands-on experience by working at Haven Healthcare’s Prescott facility. Haven provides long-term health services to the aging and to patients recovering from long-term medical conditions. Therefore, these high school students get actual hands on experience working with real patients.
Meet two of the students in the medical assisting program, Anita and Raymond.
Raymond is acting as the caregiver in this photograph while Anita is the “patient.” Anita is from Peach Springs and is an enrolled member of the Hualapai Nation. She travels to the Prescott Valley campus four times a week to participate in the MICTED program, a travel time of two hours one way.
Both Raymond and Anita and every student in this program stated their intent to obtain certification as medical assistants and then go on to become registered nurses or doctors.
Paola from Ash Fork and Olivia from Seligman also travel long distances to participate and similarly, they view medical assisting as a steppingstone to higher medical education and a first step to additional medical schooling.
Meet the students in the nursing assistant program. These are a few of the students who have gotten hands on experience at Haven Healthcare in Prescott. All expressed an interest in working as nursing assistants and then possibly going on to higher education in the medical field.
The health care programs offered at MICTED provide future health care professionals with the best of academics and hands-on clinical experience in a professional setting. All the students expressed impressive enthusiasm and showed maturity beyond their teenage years.
Fire Science: A New Generation of Firefighters Is Born!
“Granite Mountain Hotshots” three words that explain every Yavapai County resident’s respect and understanding of the commitment of our firefighters. And yet, some communities still do not have a full complement of these important public servants. MICTED has developed a program to address this need.
Fire Science is a two-year, intensive program to introduce future firefighters to wildland and structure firefighting.
The program includes basic skills development, hazmat first responder training and fire protection systems. It allows students to become certified by the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC), an internationally recognized standard of professional qualification.
The program was developed and is being conducted by Michael Dougherty, the chief instructor and a retiree from the Pontiac, Michigan, fire department. It is both academic, studying the science behind ignition and maintenance of a fire, and practical, hands-on learning, for example, on how to properly hold and aim a fire hose.
Holding an active fire hose for even moderate periods is exhausting work. Students are taught to work as a team as they use the hose with one firefighter aiming and controlling the direction of the stream and the other with his/her shoulder in the director’s back.
These high school students showed enormous enthusiasm for the training they are given. A recent graduate from the program recently submitted a letter of gratitude to Dougherty, saying: “This education…. enabled me…. to be qualified to be hired by the U.S. Forest Service as a wildland firefighter once I turn 18.”
There is no doubt that this program is a tribute to our 19.
Welding Technologies: Holding the World Together
Welding may seem a simple task to many of us. Not so; success demands care, skill and much practice.
Think about the welding on your next drive over a steel bridge — thousands of welds, each one critical to your safety. On these and many other projects, there are special welding inspectors whose responsibility is the safety of all of us.
Early in this writer’s career, I was tasked to develop a quality control and inspection program for the manufacture of DC generators to be used in diesel electric locomotives. Welding was a critical skill, and the inspection and testing of weld quality was an essential step in the quality assurance program.
This critical skill is supported by the MICTED welding program. The two-year program in welding covers arc welding, oxy-acetylene and MIG welding.
This includes an intensive, hands-on experience in structural welding to enable graduates to work on major steel fabrication projects such as buildings and bridges. Graduates from the program can apply to test for American Welding Society Certification, an internationally recognized qualification that certifies an individual as a welding professional.
The program is taught by Mr. Arron Rotteger, a professional welder who left Haulmark Industries to develop and teach the program at MICTED and Yavapai College. Rotteger’s program emphasizes the importance of weld quality to his students.
In one exercise, students are taught to weld two, ¾-inch thick plates together, then the joint is bent into a U shape and examined for cracks and voids that might weaken the connection.
Rotteger is a stickler for operator safety; students are equipped with all of the latest personal protective equipment. Its use is part of the discipline of welding at MICTED.
Students are also taught overhead welding, one of the more challenging welding operations.
A professional welder can encounter a shower of sparks descending from overhead that presents both a distraction and a genuine safety concern. Moreover, the visibility is often limited when working from below and the weld subject is backlit.
One of the students in the MICTED welding technologies program is a student in the Yavapai County Accommodation School, a special school within the county that works with students with challenges who need a specialized and focused educational environment in which to graduate from high school. This student was eager to talk about his experiences and explained that when he was not sure what he wanted to do and needed an elective, he chose welding. Now he wants to become certified and be a professional welder.
This program is essential to keep our community prospering. MICTED and these students are making major contributions to our world. For more information, visit www.micted.net.