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Build a Bright Future through Career & Technical Education

Build a Bright Future through Career & Technical Education

by Mary Clymer on September 25, 2020

How Renton Schools are shaping young minds.

There are two seventh graders at Dimmit Middle School. On the outside, they appear to be cut from the same thread. Both females, both long brown hair, each has an incredible physical ability, and they grew up in the same neighborhood. 

But this isn’t what the staff in the CTE (Career & Technical Education)department at the Renton School District sees. They see one young lady whose head is in the clouds. Dreaming of one day pursuing a career in the aviation industry. Who looks in awe at those tiny planes as they fly over her home on their dissent to the Renton Municipal Airport.

The other student takes no notice of the planes as they wiz by her window. Too busy cooking dinner for her family to pay any attention to such things. She eats up all the cooking shows her parents can stand while cutting out coupons for the items she wants from the Safeway and Fred Meyer mailers.

Two young ladies forming into future leaders of their industries. The CTE department has the awesome opportunity to help students, starting in seventh grade, begin developing a career path towards their goals. 

 These programs are designed to help students

  • Identify their strengths

  • Explore a variety of career options

  • Connect instructional activities to areas of interest

  • Interact with the business community at large

  • Prepare for education beyond high school


Renton School District CTE program connects students with industry leaders. Giving them insight into the demands and standards of the industry. Utilizing models within the school that mirror these jobs. 

These courses challenge students to develop their personal skills through relevant experiences while integrating workplace activity. 

The curriculum is designed to help students experience the industry from the safety of the classroom. 

Using their Career Pathways Program, students are handed the framework of broad career exploration. This helps the students focus on areas of study that interest them. We all know we learn more when we are interested in the subject at hand. 

Once in High School students will have a focused pathway towards their desired profession. Setting them up for success in how they decide to look at post-high school education and training. 

I know what your thinking…

What if that seventh-grader who enjoys cooking decides her Junior year of high school that she’s not interested in working the long odd hours usually held by kitchen staff? She still enjoys being the family cook, but her career interests have developed. I mean she was only 12 when she committed to her career pathway and she has enjoyed the cooking classes, but really sees herself more as a science nerd these days. Deciding perhaps a career in architecture to be more appealing. 

That's totally fine.

Changing your mind is okay

And even healthy. 

Better to realize these industry insights now while still in school. 

How many of us are paying off student debt for fancy degrees that we have never used? 


Kevin Smith is the Director of the CTE department. It’s clear after a short conversation with him that he is a prime example of someone living his chosen career path. 

Kevin feels lucky that he’s always known he’d work in education. He thrives off helping connect students to fields of interest. 

His job is to help students test out different environments during their education so they are prepared for their first next step when they graduate. 

He expressed to me how important it is for parents to be involved with schools. It gives them a glimpse into how the whole system moves. Seeing young students develop the foundation, to the older students engaging with their developed interests. 

“Figure it out before College,” Says Smith.

“At the end of the day, what do they (the student) enjoy, and how can we connect them to a career where they can do that?”


The CTE department is tasked with finding that out. They provide a host of opportunities to connect students with professionals in the field. 

  • Guest Speakers

  • Service Learning

  • Worksite Learning

  • Internships

  • Career fairs

  • Youth Apprenticeship

  • Worksite tours

  • Job shadows

  • Industry Certification


A lot of trade work like construction, or food service requires a basic certification. CTE offers the opportunity to learn the information and get those certifications before their high school career has ended. 

Networking events

So how is the CTE adapting to the online school year? 

The CTE department has successful relationships with local businesses and industry connections. The Renton Chamber of Commerce has a working relationship with Kevin to keep students and professionals connected. 

Strong partnerships and collaboration are so important during this time. Business leaders know this. They continued to show up for virtual presentations, tutoring, and online training. 

If you are looking for an opportunity to work with students please contact the CTE department. 

If you are a student looking for your next move, please contact your school's career center to find out more about developing your interests.

With pride, Kevin told me countless success stories about students. How Boeing Core Plus students are certified for employment by the time they graduate and are often hired right away.


He beamed about the state of the art labs and workstations at our high schools. Like a proud parent, he spoke of the students in the DECA and FBLA programs who compete and qualify at the regional, state, and national levels.

Renton Technical College has many opportunities for students to earn college credit while in high school through the CTE. 

“The career target is always moving,” Kevin reminds me, “Let them experiment. Kids are amazing!”

Starting this year both those Dimmit Middle School girls have the opportunity to start developing their interests. Cooking classes are held virtually. Preparation for our high school aviation courses can be completed online.

Wherever these students go from here is their choice. But they will begin to move forward gaining knowledge that will determine the direction of their lives. It begins in our school system and has the potential to change our economy forever. 

Something we can all get behind.

In the wise words of Kevin Smith,

 If you love what you do, you never go to work.


Share with us your CTE success story! What interest did you start pursuing in school that made all the difference for you moving forward?

Are you a local business or industry leader looking to connect with young minds? Let us connect you. 

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