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West-MEC: Skilled Trades Education for the Next Generation

In Phoenix, West-MEC’s high profile, unapologetic campuses are changing the way students view skilled trades education.  Is this the future of CTE?

Western Maricopa Education Center, or West-MEC, is a unique concept – a public school district specifically dedicated to Career and Technical Education (CTE) training.  Enrolled students can gain both college credit and industry certifications by completing their hands-on training programs. The district sits on top of a majority of metropolitan Phoenix and is accessible to students who also attend Phoenix Public Schools within its boundaries. In addition to its four state-of-the-art campuses where than 1,500 students are enrolled, West-MEC covers an area of more than 3,000 square kilometers and partners with 12 area public school districts to offer satellite programs to more than 56,000 students.  

The notion behind West-MEC is to provide transformative, practical experience and opportunities for students interested in the many areas of career and technical education.  Although CTE might still be seen as less prestigious in come circles, West-MEC is not trying to hide what they do. Quite the contrary, in fact – they place their big, beautiful, bright yellow glass buildings purposefully in the public eye, drawing attention to their campuses and the innovative work happening within. Given their focus on real world experiences and forward-thinking approach to skilled trades education, the opportunity for collaboration between West-MEC and RWS has been very exciting!

In September, the first three West-MEC EdCorps were launched as part of the RWS partnership with Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. Two educators, Randy Golding and David Melian, lead the first automotive services EdCorps, while Eric Phye heads a new welding and fabrication business.  All three operate out of stunning facilities where students gain hands-on experience putting their new skills into action. They’re still in the early stages of development, but stay tuned for more developments as these new West-MEC classes (and others soon to follow) continue on their EdCorps journey!