Whatcom Community College’s Partnership with Northwest Career & Technical Academy Helps High School Students Explore Careers



Submitted by Whatcom Community College

Thanks to a partnership between Whatcom Community College (WCC) and the Northwest Career & Technical Academy (NCTA), local high school students no longer have to wait for graduation to explore careers in medical assisting, computer security and support, and early childhood education. These and other exciting career-focused programs are too expensive and specialized for school districts in Whatcom and Skagit counties to support on their own. To meet the need, through NCTA, the districts joined forces with WCC and Skagit Valley College. The Mount Vernon-based Academy coordinates the instruction, making it possible for students interested in alternative educational pathways to explore careers while still earning their high school degrees.

When the Whatcom programs begin this fall, enrolled high school juniors and seniors will attend morning classes,equivalent to three consecutive high school periods daily, in the medical assisting careers program, computer security and support program, or early childhood education program. Those earning a “B” or better grade may earn college credits in addition to high school credits, thus furthering their education.

Medical assisting careers students will attend classes in the College’s state-of-the-art Health Professions Education Center and may qualify to earn 17 college credits and industry certifications. Computer security and support program students are eligible to earn 13 college credits in courses related to technical support, networking, or information security. They will also participate in a cyber-skills competition against regional high schools. Early childhood education students are eligible to earn 12 college credits that align with the state’s initial early childhood education certificate and prepare students to work in entry-level positions in preschool programs and licensed child care centers.

To learn more, parents and students are invited to a 7:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25 open house at Whatcom’s Health Professions Education Center on the corner of Cordata Parkway and Stuart Road, just north of the main campus. An open house at NCTA’s Meridian High School campus is also taking place from 6:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m. Feb. 25. Construction, sustainable engineering and welding programs are offered at the Meridian High School location. Enrollment information for all programs is available by calling the Northwest Career & Technical Academy at 360-848-0706.

The Academy is tuition-free. However, some programs may have industry-related costs or lab fees. Each year, the NCTA estimates students enrolled in their programs earn thousands of college credits at a total savings of approximately $300,000 in tuition. Currently, 21 high schools in Skagit, Whatcom and Snohomish counties send students to Academy programs.

Opened in 2010, the NCTA is one of 14 Washington state skill centers.  In addition to the medical assisting, computer security and support, and early childhood education options at WCC, programs on NCTA’s main campus in Mount Vernon and satellite campuses in Anacortes and at Meridian High School include culinary arts, tourism and hospitality, dental assisting, medical technology, criminal justice, finance, veterinary assistant, fire science, automotive services, aerospace manufacturing, sustainable engineering, welding and marine technology. All NCTA programs focus on high-demand, high-pay or regionally important industries, and instructors ensure the curriculum reflects industry standards. There’s also a focus on skills needed in today’s workplace such as innovation, communication and leadership.

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