- Associated Press - Friday, November 13, 2015

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Terry Culp knows manufacturing. Before he moved to Las Vegas, he was the owner of Friend Manufacturing in New York, which produced big pesticide sprayers for a number of companies as well as the federal government.

So you can trust him when he says that the students at Southwest Career and Technical Academy know what they’re doing.

“If I saw a kid that had the skills that these kids gain going through this school, I would hire them in a heartbeat,” he said.

The school, one of seven career and technical academies operated by the Clark County School District, played host to Culp and a handful of other business and industry leaders.

It was the first installment in a series of “FutureReady” tours organized by the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance with the intention of connecting local industry with CCSD’s best and brightest students.

Representatives from high-profile companies like NV Energy, Roseman University and Cox Communications tiptoed in awe around SWCTA’s gigantic indoor garage, where students behind safety goggles fussed over engines and cars suspended on industrial car jacks. The event also attracted Nevada State Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, and Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson.

In addition to the usual English and math classes, students here learn in-depth skills in such fields as web design, fashion design, culinary arts, nursing and mechanical engineering.

“They’re doing a fabulous job of training these kids,” Culp said. “These kids are so motivated that learning fundamental skills is almost like second nature.”

And those “fundamental skills” are exactly why the LVGEA is organizing the tours, CEO Jonas Peterson said. Now more than ever, companies are picking and choosing where to set up shop based on the quality of the workforce.

“High value companies say that’s the single most important factor,” he said.

CCSD’s magnet schools and career and technical academies are the school district’s best kept secret, though as the word gets out more and more parents are scrambling to get their kids enrolled. SWCTA has around 400 openings each year and receives thousands of applications.

Academically, the district’s career and technical academies outperform nearly all other schools in the state. Graduation rates regularly exceed 90 percent.

But while the schools are a bright spot in a state where academic achievement is frustratingly low, not enough industry leaders are privy to their existence, said Peterson.

“They’re usually focused on running their businesses, so sometimes it takes that little extra push,” he said.

Culp now works as a deputy director for Nevada Industry Excellence, an extension of the Nevada System of Higher Education. According to its website, the group helps businesses around Nevada grow, boost productivity and become more efficient.

He was at the event with a number of people from the state’s manufacturing industry.

“The manufacturers I talked to today were really excited,” he said. “It was the first time those folks had been to the school, and it’s exactly what they wanted to see.”

CCSD and the LVGEA plans to hold three more tours of SWCTA through March.

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Information from: Las Vegas Sun, http://www.lasvegassun.com

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