Industry leaders sought for Waxahachie ISD program

Chris Roark
Waxahachie Daily Light

Waxahachie ISD wants to take its Career and Technical Education (CTE) program to the next level, and it’s looking to some of the area’s top business leaders to help.

WISD is creating an Industry Leadership Council, which will include leaders from a variety of professions in Waxahachie and the surrounding area.

WISD students Alaylah Wendler, left, and Leilani Calderon, right, finish Paige Hudson's hair as part of the district's Career and Technical Education (CTE) program. CTE students get hands-on, real-world training in a variety of fields.

Ashley Treat, the district’s director of CTE, said the goal of the council would be to provide students with advice and hands-on, real-world experience from local industry leaders.

“We’re looking for true industry leaders,” Treat said. “Influential leaders in the community who can guide us and be a voice in their own industry.”

Treat said while the district already has partnerships with local business leaders with  CTE, the council would help solidify the program.

“Each of our programs has partners,” Treat said. “But there’s nothing that’s really bringing us all together for the greater goals and future of CTE.”

The council would include Treat, two coordinators and, ideally, 30-40 industry leaders.

The industry leaders would help in a variety of ways – offer advice on the newest certifications needed in their field, help students build professional skills, etc.

“How are we building the future of Waxahachie as an organized group?” said Treat, who recently led a similar program in Dallas ISD. “That’s what we’re trying to achieve. We really have a beautiful ecosystem here for education because people who grew up in this education system still live here. And they’re leaders in this community. Now they have children in the school system. So they’re very willing to give back, and we’re trying to give them the outlet to do that.”

Once the council is established, Treat said she and the program’s two coordinators would meet with the leaders to discuss the goals. She said the hope is to have the council in place for an initial meeting in November.

“This is what CTE is doing right now. Do you think you can step in as that committee not necessarily grows in size but develops into a group of people that can help sustain growth within CTE?” Treat said. “I think that’s when we can start breaking out into subcommittees. We need to start identifying internship opportunities for students in the area. We need to start identifying businesses that can help with mock interviews, things like that.”

Treat said the council would also benefit classroom instructors who have been away from the job site for a while. She said business leaders can teach the instructors new skills, update them on new trends in the industry or simply offer a refresher.

Treat said the district already has a history of successful community partner relationships. She pointed to recently retired construction instructor Curtis Green, who would partner with multiple organizations, such as the Texas Masonry Council, which would send representatives to spend the day working with the students on masonry. Students would also work with professional homebuilders and go to construction sites for hands-on experience.

She said students would take donations from the community and built children’s beds for a local nonprofit.

“Not only were our students getting practical experience in building, they were also going above that and giving back,” Treat said. “There have just been some really cool things the industry partners have the opportunity to do, in terms of coming into the classroom and offering different experiences or getting the students out of the classroom and showing them what a real job site or workplace looks like. So that relationship with industry leaders is crucial for our students to be successful.”

The leadership council comes as the district’s CTE program continues to grow.

According to WISD, 89 percent of the district’s 3,224 students from Waxahachie High School and Global High School are in a CTE course. Students in CTE have the opportunity to earn one or more out of 35-plus certifications in WISD.

The number of high school certifications students have earned has grown quickly. In 2018 there were eight certifications earned, but that number grew to 188 in 2019, 199 in 2020 and 406 in 2021.

Treat said the largest CTE program in the district is health services, which has 661 students. She said that’s important since Waxahachie is home to Baylor Scott & White Medical Center, as well as many other medical practices.

Other heavily involved programs are agricultural, food and natural resources; business, marketing and finance; engineering and culinary arts.

Students can shadow industry professionals in banks, salons and more.

In addition to being on the council, Treat encourages professionals to get involved in CTE by volunteering their time. Opportunities include participating in mock interviews, resume writing, student internships, teacher externships, guest speaking and program evaluation.

For more information volunteer opportunities or on becoming part of the Industry Leadership Council, contact Treat at atreat@wisd.org.

“It’s such a big opportunity to mold their future and their professional growth,” Treat said. “In my opinion it starts here.”