COQUILLE — One of the big focuses of Winter Lakes High School is training students for futures in construction or technical fields.
That was on display on a recent evening when the school invited leaders in those industries on the South Coast to see what the school is teaching the students through the Career and Technical Education program.
Brian Bergstedt, the CTE Construction instructor for Winter Lakes, told the guests the school’s goal is to provide those companies workers while giving the students a chance to be successful after high school.
“The thing that is really neat about this program — everyone knows how hard it is to find people to work,” he told the industry leaders. “We get the kids when they are younger. They can dabble at things.”
Winter Lakes offers 20 different construction trade skills the students can learn.
The guests had a chance to tour the three rooms in the school where the students get practical experience.
In some ways, the most impressive is the simulator room, which has simulators of four different construction vehicles — a front loader, an excavator, a bulldozer and a grader — completely with steering wheels, foot pedals, hand levers, screens that show the views the driver would have and seats that vibrate like real tractors would.
In addition to giving experience, the simulators grade the operators on how they do, keeping track of what they do right and wrong.
A fifth simulator is on the way, scheduled to arrive later this month, that might prove most popular of all — a truck driving simulator that includes several different types of trucks and can show driving in city or rural areas, all kinds of weather and various terrain including steep uphills or downhills.
The truck simulator normally would cost $350,000, but Winter Lakes got it for $67,000, said Tim Sweeney the superintendent for the Coquille School District, which includes the Winter Lakes schools.
Tony Jones, who oversees the technical training for the school district, said he hopes local industries will take advantage of the simulator room.
“We want to allow local businesses to come in — to allow new hires to come in and do training and safety training,” he said. “We’re happy to have them do it.”
The second room is the shop area, which includes learning spaces for a variety of skills, but also comes with practical experience.
When the new school was built, officials asked the contractors to leave everything below eight feet on the walls incomplete.
The students are putting in the insulation and plywood and will do the painting. They also will build the bathroom for that part of the building.
“They are getting that feeling of ownership,” Sweeney said.
The third room is the Winter Lakes cosmetology classroom, which includes training for haircare, nails and other portions of the cosmetics industry.
“You go anywhere in the state of Oregon, people would be jealous of the simulator program, CTE and salon we have,” Sweeney said.
During the tour, Jones showed off the simulators, Bergstedt described what was going on in the shop area and Sweeney told people about the salon classroom.
Eight different local businesses took up the invitation to tour the school and learn about the program, Jones said.
Another presenter during the evening was Don Swenson, Coquille High School’s CTE instructor.
Coquille High doesn’t have the same types of programs, such as the simulators, as Winter Lakes, but offers a lot for students, including welding, machine shop — “the good old fashioned industrial arts we grew up with,” Swenson said — as well as drafting.
He noted that 13 of his students over the past decade and a half have gone on to become engineers.
“We provide a lot of choices for the kids to do,” he said. “Getting them from there to the next step is where you all come in.”
Annabel Taylor of South Coast Business, a nonprofit corporation serving the area for nearly 40 years, told the group her agency is working with Winter Lakes on developing a work experience program and adding partnerships with businesses.
“(We want to) work on training our youth into the trades in the local town,” she said. “It gives students an opportunity to try things out.”
Students will also learn about necessary job skills and how to prepare for interviews.
The other presenter during the evening was Frosty Adams, the educational outreach director for Associated General Contractors.
She said the group has an educator externship program that gives teachers a chance to learn all the aspects of work including time on jobsites, as well as learning about bookkeeping all while earning professional development credits through Western Oregon University.
Associated General Contractors also partners member companies with schools, Adams said.
“AGC puts a lot of importance on members working in classrooms,” she said.
Winter Lakes also plans to hold a similar evening specifically for businesses in the cosmetology industry, Sweeney said.