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Publish Date: 10/17/2006

Frankie Alvarez works on a perspective drawing in his vocational technology class at the Career Development Center in Longmont on Wednesday. Alvarez, a junior at Longmont High School, is planning to pursue a career in architecture. He’s hoping his vo-tech experience helps his college career Times-Call/Jackie Endsley

Working advantage
College-bound students acquire vo-tech skills to gain an edge

 LONGMONT — Frankie Alvarez is a living example of a growing trend in education: college-bound high school students taking vocational technical courses.

Alvarez, 16, is a junior at Longmont High School, 1040 Sunset St. But he begins each schoolday at the Career Development Center, the St. Vrain Valley School District’s vocational school at 1200 S. Sunset St., taking an engineering technology course and learning computer-aided drawing.

This is the second engineering tech class that Alvarez, an aspiring architect, has taken at CDC.

“I thought it would give me help in doing what I want for the future because I know what I’m doing in college — and for the rest of my life,” he said.

CDC engineering tech teacher Stewart Jordison said career-minded high school students like Alvarez are taking vo-tech classes to give them an edge at post-secondary institutions, as well as internships and jobs along the way.

“As far as CDC programs, all of them here are directed at providing skills for students,” Jordison said. “However, with my students, many of them are university-bound, and a number of students are taking AP classes or enrolled at the IB programs at their schools, along with taking classes here.

“It takes a fairly intelligent student to do what is required here.”

Jordison said CDC introduces students to the latest computer-aided drawing software on powerful computers, which can ready them for mechanical or electrical engineering, as well as architecture, down the road.

Alvarez said he wants to pursue a career in architecture because he likes the imagination and creativity involved and he “wants to be proud of something I designed.”

Colleges and universities “are so competitive now that the more skills you have, the easier it is to get accepted,” he said. “If you have two people with the same education in school and I have my CDC class, it’s going to help me.”

His drafting skills enabled Alvarez to work for a short time at a local structural engineering office. The real-world experience introduced him to the deadlines and work ethic of practicing architects, he said.

Jordison said a former engineering tech student held an internship in California last summer with one of the largest architecture firms in the world.

Another student has applied for an internship with the firm’s Orlando branch for next summer.

“This is a good lead-in for students that do well in an internship; later, the company might want to hire them on,” Jordison said.

He said he was pleased to see more students interested in this merger of academic and vo-tech learning.

“And I think it’s a requirement in today’s society, especially with the communications and technology fields advancing as fast as they are,” Jordison said. “It takes a special person to be able to have that intellect yet also acquire a skill needed to fit that career.”

Melanie M. Sidwell can be reached at 303-684-5274, or by e-mail at

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