State-of-the-art Career & Technical Education Complex will prepare high school students for in-demand, high-wage careers
As the Bryan Career & Technical Education Complex (CTEC) is readied for students, this new facility is buzzing. Buzzing with excitement from the new staff that will open this state-of-the-art complex later this month; and literally buzzing as the staff works on the new robotic arm, milling machines, lathes, welders, construction tools, and automotive equipment.
One of those staff members is John Gerzik, who is the first person in the Brazos Valley to teach Industrial Robotics and Engineering at the high school level.
“I am excited about [the Bryan CTEC] because it gives the students an opportunity to see the outside world with a fresh, hands-on experience,” Gerzik said.
Gerzik is in a very unique position in Texas education. There are only a small handful of Career & Technical Education programs in Texas teaching this course, and even fewer with a FANUC Robotic Arm for students to learn with.
“Industrial Robotics and Engineering is a new program. It’s innovative,” said Bryan ISD Career & Technical Education (CTE) Director David Reynolds. “We’re unique for seeing the future and looking at the workforce and trying to answer that call.”
Industrial Robotics and Engineering is just one of four pathways with practicum-level courses that will be taught at CTEC. Students will also be able to earn professional certifications and dual college credit in Automotive Technology, Construction Technology, and Welding.
All courses were chosen because they represent in-demand, local jobs that pay a high wage.
Bryan ISD Career & Technical Education (CTE) Director David Reynolds said, “We’re looking at the workforce needs in the Brazos Valley, and we’re answering the call to graduate students who have the technical skills to fill those jobs.”
As the first stand-alone CTE center in the Brazos Valley, CTEC represents an exciting new future for local career-focused education, but it didn’t happen overnight.
More than a year ago, working with the City of Bryan and Brazos County, Bryan ISD purchased the former defense contractor’s site located on Mumford Road. With an office and manufacturing building with over 50,000 square feet and property with around 119 acres, the site was exactly what the district was looking for. The office building has been converted into a classroom building, and the manufacturing building is where hands-on learning will take place. With 119 acres there is room to grow as demand increases for more programs.
“[CTEC] doesn’t look anything like a school,” Reynolds said. “It looks and feels like a job site, and that’s important. These students will be in a work-like setting, so when they graduate and are on the job, they possess the critical soft skills along with the technical knowledge.”
CTEC is also bigger than just Bryan ISD. It is the base for the Brazos Valley Manufacturing and Construction Regional Pathways Network, one of 10 inaugural members of the Texas Regional Pathways Network (TRPN). Run by the Texas Workforce Commission, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Education Agency, the group chose 10 regional sites across the state with programs that have the most potential to impact the workforce by preparing Texas students to fill high-wage, in-demand jobs.
“The Bryan CTEC Partnership has done an excellent job developing hands-on courses with the guidance of area businesses which guarantees students are learning skills that the workforce is needing,” said Snook ISD Director of Curriculum, Jerod Neff. “Our partnership represents a collective desire to ensure that area high school graduates don’t just have a diploma in their hand, but are work-ready.”
Also in the partnership is Blinn College, who helped develop the curriculum and will provide dual college credit to CTEC students. For being selected as an inaugural member of the TRPN, CTEC will receive a $700,000 grant to be used to continue to develop and build programs at the complex.
“It makes sense to spend money regionally and get kids to those regional centers,” Reynolds said. “It will provide more opportunities for students across Texas, not just in specific school districts.”
Those aren’t the only partnerships that have made CTEC possible. The City of Bryan, Brazos County, Bryan Business Council, and Bryan Economic Development Fund all donated $50,000 each towards the purchase of equipment. These donations are crucial because along with around $1 million in funding approved by Bryan ISD voters in the 2019 Bond, it has allowed Bryan ISD to purchase the state-of-the-art machines students will learn on.
“The head start, the jump into industry, will really give these students an advantage,” said incoming welding teacher John Krueger. “We use [the National Center for Construction Education and Research training and credentialing program] which is accredited and developed by industry leaders. So when they get to industry and have that opportunity they can jump into it.”
Another unique aspect about CTEC is students will attend classes at the complex for half a day. That will allow them to still be a student at their home high school and take core courses there along with participating in extra-curricular activities like fine arts or athletics.
Krueger said, “From what I’ve seen, students who are passionate about CTE always perform better in their core subjects.”
And, fueling the student’s passion for CTE will be their instructors, bringing a passion of their own for how this Career and Technical Education Complex could impact the overall job market across the Brazos Valley.
“I had a vision years ago that students would be able to learn and grow as engineers inside of the high school setting,” said Gerzik. “I’m glad that I get to be a part of something so cutting-edge and needed in our current global climate.”