Linked Learning: Preparing high school students for careers and college

e-Connections Post
Hammitt at workSchool of Engineering and Science's vessel at SMUD's Solar Regatta

John F. Kennedy High School graduate Charlie Hammitt (class of 2013) started Sacramento State this week confident that when he graduates he will land a high-paying job in a field he loves.

In fact, he already has a job he loves — as an apprentice machinist at Tecma Industries, where he is learning to make parts for the aerospace industry. Hammitt credits the opportunity to earn while he learns to JFK’s Manufacturing and Design Linked Learning Academy.

“I have connections now,” says Hammitt, 18, who will pursue a degree in mechanical engineering at Sac State. “I have job experience. If I didn’t have these things, I would be scared about the future because jobs are so hard to come by.”

With rising college costs and an uncertain job market, interest is increasing in K-12 programs that put kids on a proven pathway to post-high school success. Linked Learning – programs that link education to careers – provide those pathways to such growing job sectors as health care, engineering and design. In addition, research shows that Linked Learning programs can improve attendance rates, student test scores and graduation rates.

At Sacramento City Unified, classes in such subjects as culinary arts, robotics, law and social justice, computer graphics, digital media, engineering and television production are making school more relevant, interesting and personal for high school students, says Joseph Stymeist, Career Technical Education Coordinator.

“I know for a fact that these offerings have a life-long effect on our students,” says Stymeist. “Recently, I reunited with three former students I hadn’t seen in more than 25 years. One is a software engineer for Intel, another runs an international software development business and the third just recently sold his software company for millions of dollars and is now managing a development team for a very large computer gaming company.”

Stymeist continues: “These students would have been successful in anything they put their heart and soul into, but they told me that they found their passion in my computer programming class a quarter-century ago.”

Hammitt says he has always enjoying “taking things apart and putting them back together” but didn’t consider a career in engineering until he took Robert Greene’s Auto CAD (Computer Aided Design) class at Kennedy.

“I totally stumbled in there not knowing what anything was,” says Hammitt. The class inspired a passion for design and engineering, which was further fueled when he joined JFK’s award-winning robotics team.

“With robotics, you’re part of something big,” he says.

Greene is equally passionate about the need to combine academics with the kind of highly technical career skills that employers want. “You’re never again going to see an increase in jobs hanging doors on Chryslers,” says Greene, who formerly worked in the automotive industry designing and producing auto parts. He is also an adjunct professor at American River College. “Those low-skill set production jobs are no longer available.”