DINUBA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Several students at Valley high schools are getting job offers before they even graduate. They get hands-on training.
Our Children First sponsor, the Tulare County Office of Education, facilitates what's known as the "Tulare Kings College and Career Collaborative."
And as Action News anchor Liz Harrison shows us, it's paying off in the South Valley!
This isn't your ordinary work site. Students are building futures at Dinuba High's Engineering and Construction Management Academy.
Senior Jose Perez is getting ready for life after high school.
"I want to be working for a firm, making bridges, houses, skyscrapers, anything you can imagine!"
He won the school's design competition and his dream home is now a 1,200 square foot reality on campus.
"Just seeing my house, seeing I placed this room here, and that I put this room here, from paper to house, it's a great feeling. I love it."
Engineering and construction management is one of 45 linked learning academies in the region. Thirteen school districts are in the Tulare Kings College and Career Collaborative. High school students learn what it takes to make it in college and the workforce.
"When industry partners can come into education and help mentor and coach students, it's another voice, it's the voice of reality," said TCOE College & Career Director Joy Soares. "It's the voice of the real world."
The Collaborative also offers 150 career technical education pathways. Connecting schools to the workforce are key. According to the National Skills Coalition, middle-skill jobs account for 50% of California's labor market, but only 39% of the state's workers are trained to the middle-skill level.
"Some of these entry-level, middle-skill jobs that can be gained with a certification, we're losing at students to really make $20 an hour or more," said Soares.
Ramon Sanchez worked in the field of architecture, he's now a lead teacher in the academy.
"By the time the student completes the academy, not only have they visited universities, they've also visited industry people, interviewed industry people, or have toured industry facilities and at least walk off with 6-9 college units by the time they complete the program here at Dinuba High School."
Along with teamwork, students pick up other lessons.
"Listening, discipline, measurements, knowing if someone is around you safety wise, we're wearing our safety glasses," said student Jacob Marroquin.
Felicity Morales wants to be an architect and is the only female in her class. She's not intimidated by the equipment or the boys.
"It's tough, they get on my nerves a lot, but being in the academy comes with a sense of pride that I can really accomplish anything I set my mind to, being a female in a male dominant field."
Opportunity is already knocking on this door. Jose and four other academy students were offered jobs by local companies.
"It's a better feeling than sitting at a desk, I guarantee you that."
The house built by students is going up for bid this spring and will be moved off campus.
ABC30 thanks its partners below for putting Children First in the Central Valley.