Since I began my role as Superintendent of Western Maricopa Education Center (West-MEC) in July 2022, I have realized many people in the business and education fields know of West-MEC but may not know the full scope of what career and technical education (CTE) offers, especially its post-secondary education partnerships.
CTE is an excellent launching pad for students, but what gets lost in the shuffle is that the launching pad is for more than direct entry into the workforce. West-MEC, a public school district serving the north-central and western portions of Maricopa County, is focused on increasing the number of strategic industry partnerships it has, to ensure students are able to take full advantage of West-MEC’s 20 career pathways. The same can be said for post-secondary partnerships.
CTE is an excellent path for students to take to pursue post-secondary education. All students can benefit from CTE programs, whether they are planning a career that requires further education through college or not.
In 2022, there were 3,575 college credits earned by West-MEC students, and 70% of program completers went on to further their education last year. Half the program completers who furthered their education did so while working in a related industry job.
However, many in the community don’t realize West-MEC has partnerships with Maricopa Community Colleges, Northern Arizona University (NAU), and Arizona State University (ASU). Through a dual enrollment program, West-MEC students can begin their associate degrees in high school.
One unique partnership with NAU, called the 90/30 pathway, helps students earn their bachelor’s degree with only one year of required attendance at NAU. Any student who completes an associate degree and 90 credits at a Maricopa Community College can transfer all 90 credits to NAU. Using this path, a student can earn a bachelor’s degree for less than $15,000, lowering the chance of graduating with high debt.
A similar dual enrollment program can be used at ASU, where they accept 60-75 transfer credits from Maricopa toward a bachelor’s degree, thus requiring 60 credits to be taken at ASU. Once again, this process can begin at West-MEC.
As West-MEC continues the process of obtaining post-secondary partnerships, we have also secured partnerships with Yavapai College, Universal Technical Institute, Eastern New Mexico University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Pima Medical Institute, and the University of Advancing Technology. West-MEC is continuously looking to add more.
Since February is Career and Technical Education month, it is time to change the misnomer that CTE is only for students seeking to work straight after program completion. While that makes CTE compelling to some and is one of our program’s central focuses, any CTE experience will give students a faster way forward in continuing education.
West-MEC encourages all CTE school districts to create unique pathways for students, no matter what career they want to pursue. Whether entering the workforce immediately or pursuing further education, our commitment is to ensure every student is set up for a path to economic independence.
Dr. Scott Spurgeon is the superintendent of West-MEC.