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Education opens the door to career exploration
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Great Bend High School student Tristen Milligan, showed off the award winning electric car and shared other details about the Vocational Technology Club. Woodworking Teacher, Travis Straub, oversee the club as they compete with both their electric car and solar car across Kansas.

Wielding cameras, blueprints, measuring cups, and more, students at Great Bend High School shared their career aspirations and insight with eighth-grade students from Great Bend Middle School on January 22. As students prepare for high school enrollment in the coming weeks, the Career Adventures Fair allowed students to browse the career and technical education electives that comprise the over 20 career pathways offered at Great Bend High School. 

Organized by the GBHS Guidance Office, this fair is a valuable time for students to sample the coursework and content of Career & Technical Education (CTE) coursework, and maybe most importantly, hear first-hand accounts from students pursuing the various pathways. 

“I can point to the class names on a page all day, but when an actual student shares their experiences and excitement, the content comes to life,” said Rachel Thexton, high school guidance counselor. “Giving eighth-graders an opportunity to hear from all the pathways opens their eyes to subjects they might not have thought they would enjoy.” 

GBHS provides a diverse offering of career and technical education, from biomedical to welding and manufacturing, business finance to early childhood education. 

“Career pathways provide a valuable method for career exploration,” said Randy Wetzel, assistant principal at GBHS. “Our pathways at GBHS reflect workforce needs and give students a chance to gain fundamental knowledge and experience that prepares them to enter the workforce, a technical certificate program, or attend college.” 

Skilled trades, workforce development

National news headlines, as well as local job boards, tell the story of high demand for skilled labor in the workforce. In-line with the national average, seventy-percent of construction companies in the Midwest are having trouble finding qualified workers, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. Additional trade programs like carpentry, electrical, plumbing and welding continue to be in high demand for workers. While these career paths may require a certificate program in place of a four-year college degree, wages for skilled trades are competitive. In all, some 30 million jobs in the United States that pay an average of $55,000 per year don’t require bachelor’s degrees, according to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce.

“Career paths and plans might seem a distant thought for some eighth-grade students,” said Lacy Wolters, career & ACT coordinator at GBHS, “but statistics tell us that involvement in career and technical education makes a positive impact on students. Students who complete at least three CTE courses have a 10% higher high school graduation rate.”

“We also want students to understand that pursuing a skilled trade or certificate program after high school is a viable career option,” said Wolters. “I often share with students that in Kansas, 42% of ‘good jobs’ can be obtained without a 4-year college degree. A ‘good job’ is described with an average wage of $55,000 per year.”  

“In many of our Career and Technical Education programs, not only are students gaining valuable career exploration,” said Wolters, “but as juniors and seniors they can also earn free college credit through partnerships with areas schools like Barton Community College.”

More information about the Career and Technical Education Pathways can be found on the Great Bend High School website at, or by calling the guidance department at 620-793-1616.