The students’ jaws dropped when they heard that an experienced sheet metal worker could make upward of $65 an hour. A dozen sophomores were crowded in the vestibule of Peterson Mechanical’s headquarters, on Eighth Street East, on an outing organized by Sonoma Valley High School’s engineering, technology and design pathway. Opportunities like this, to job shadow employees working in these fields at local businesses, are the cornerstone of the pathway program.
Thanks to grants from Sonoma County, and field experiences like this one, Sonoma Valley High School’s Linked Learning engineering pathway has hit its stride this year. The pathway elective is in its second year and it currently has 68 sophomores and juniors enrolled.
Peterson Mechanical was one of the first businesses to step forward to mentor and offer field experiences to Sonoma High students.
Founded in Sonoma by Ed Peterson in 1915, the company today is run by Les and Peggy Peterson, and employs more than 100 people, providing plumbing, heating, ventilating, air conditioning, design build and mechanical services for commercial work, as well as residential heating and air conditioning services. Peterson’s current projects include Sutter Hospital in Santa Rosa, Agilent, Sonoma State University, Santa Rosa Junior College and the Green Music Center.
Explained Vice Principal Andrew Ryan, who leads the pathway team at the high school, “The visit to Peterson is the finest example of work-based learning yet; Peterson front-loaded the experience with visits from four employees from the union trades through civil engineering grads. The trip provided a comprehensive experience for students to broaden their understanding of engineering and design as well as introduced them to some of the technology visible in this industry sector.”
Peggy Peterson said, “Our employees have shared their knowledge and skills through the guest speaker and field trip programs, and we plan to host interns next year. Businesses like ours can offer students the chance to see the connection between school, career and life. We are products of public education ourselves and are excited to give back to the system in a tangible way. “
Ryan added, “This is a true partnership between public education and private enterprise, one that could lead to internships for future seniors and spark the interest of young men and women alike.”
“The two pieces of the puzzle that needed to come together for any pathway to truly be successful, are community support and buy-in from local businesses,” explained Ryan. “Involvement from businesses like Peterson is key, as is the financial support we receive from the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation, Linked Learning grants and the County’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) Fund.” In addition to the pathway, the high school currently offers 32 sections of CTE classes.
Sonoma Valley High School pathway students will get another chance to connect their education to the real world later this winter when they head down to watch the demolition of the Bay Bridge with local engineer Joe Capriola. Tesla engineer Julian Minuzzo (SVHS ’09) also plans to come speak on campus and show students around Tesla’s company headquarters.
Sonoma Valley High hopes that other local businesses will step forward to host a field trip and provide job shadows. The high school is working closely with Jennifer Yankovich from the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce and members of the pathway’s Community Advisory Board from local engineering, design and technology companies. Interested community members can contact Ryan at any time at email@example.com, or by calling 933-4010.
Building on the high school’s successful agriculture and culinary arts programs, plans are afoot to possibly introduce a second linked learning pathway centered around ag business and/or farm-to-table coursework and career training.