ST. GEORGE – There is a skills gap in our workforce, particularly where young workers are concerned, it can be felt nationally – notable TV personality Mike Rowe has launched a nationwide campaign aimed at filling that gap – and it can be felt locally. At the same time, there is what might be called a “vision gap” in which high school students looking towards and transitioning into college and career struggle for direction and purpose.

In other cases, while parents want to give their teenagers an advantage, the price tag to do so can make it hard if not impossible. But it doesn’t have to be so; Dixie Applied Technology College has launched a program tailored for a select number of high schoolers, a program that will help them blast off into a fine and purposeful future. It begins in August and the college is accepting applications now.

Students at Dixie Applied Technology College, St. George, Utah, undated | Photo courtesy of DXATC, St. George News

Often, until learning is applied in a real-world environment students have trouble valuing it. Understanding education’s benefits sometimes comes later and time has been lost that could have been spent positioning a young person for a good job with career and earning potential.

Hands-on training in fields with ripe job markets, combined with free credit towards college degrees can help young people lock-in early, gain those income-earning aptitudes that will set them apart from their peers and benefit the needs of local employers at the same time.

As the local economy makes its march toward improvement, more and more businesses in Southern Utah are seeking qualified, well-trained employees that have the skill set and ability to keep up with today’s fast paced technology . Dixie Applied Technology College wants to help train and provide those businesses employees while furthering students’ progress toward college degrees.

A new opportunity for high school students

The nationally accredited Applied Technology College – whose three-pronged mission is to prepare students to be forward thinking, future focused and job ready – recently launched a new program designed specifically to target high school students and give them the education, training and confidence they need to jumpstart their careers as well as provide a leg up as they pursue higher education.

Designed in conjunction with local manufacturing and information technology companies, the AM STEM Manufacturing and IT programs will give students what Vic Hockett, vice president of DXATC, calls a kinetic, or hands-on learning approach to studying the four educational focuses of today’s industries; Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Student at Dixie Applied Technology College, St. George, Utah, undated | Photo courtesy of DXATC, St. George News

“Studies have shown that when you engage in kinetic learning you retain 80 percent of the knowledge,” Hockett said, “so all of our programs are kinetic learning, you tie your minds and your hands to the task and that is how you retain your knowledge.”

In addition to receiving hands-on training, the new programs are offering a three-tiered educational track. Graduating students will receive their High School Diploma, a certificate from DXATC and 30 credits toward their degree at Dixie State University. They follow the regular school year schedule then, after graduation in May, they are eligible for a paid internship in which they work four days a week and continue at DXATC one day a week in leadership skills classes.

It is what the technology college likes to call “credits to the third power.”

The idea for the STEM programs came from a real and immediate need by the manufacturing and information technology industries who approached DXATC with the demand to have more high school students who are highly skilled and trained, ready to enter the workforce with practical knowledge, Hockett said.

Though students in both programs will receive national certifications that will allow them transferability and opportunity everywhere, Hockett said, local businesses are hoping to entice graduates to stay in Utah, in St. George, and build the companies that are here. It’s a win-win that local companies are motivated to invest in having found proven benefits in engaging job-ready interns and employees who have already been well trained.

Students enrolled in the program will take part in paid summer internships with local businesses that will allow them on-the-job training and the ability to forge relationships with leaders in the local industries.

Students at Dixie Applied Technology College, St. George, Utah, undated | Photo courtesy of DXATC, St. George News

Program tailored for a select and special few

Spots are limited to 25 students each for both of the year-long AM STEM manufacturing and IT programs. Those interested in attending will go through an application and interviewing process which will enable the technology college to choose students who are best suited to the program and to select students who will be positively changed by attending. The school wants students who have a positive attitude with an aptitude and love for learning who really want to “be something big in their lives,” Hockett said.

Students who are accepted will begin the program on the first day of the 2014-15 school year and attend class from 7-9:30 a.m. on the DXATC campus. Though the early morning start might strike some as demanding, the college is positive the students will rise to the occasion.

“There is a time commitment involved, students have to give up their sleep and be here at 7 in the morning, “ Jennifer Forbes, director of marketing, said, “and that was a concern for some, but that is what the industry demands and we think we will see students rise to the level of learning and the commitment.”

But how do I pay for my student to participate?

High school students attend DXATC tuition-free but they do have to pay the classroom and national certification fees. On the IT side, fees are $820 and on the manufacturing side fees are $1,025. As an extra incentive to participate in the manufacturing program, local businesses have agreed to select certain students to sponsor and will pay their fees for them.

Students at Dixie Applied Technology College, St. George, Utah, undated | Photo courtesy of DXATC, St. George News

Applications are now being accepted for both programs. The AM STEM IT program is open to students beginning their sophomore, junior or senior year but due to industry safety standards that do not allow workers under the age of 18 on a manufacturing floor, the AM STEM Manufacturing program is only open to students entering their senior year.

Gaining competence, confidence and hope

DXATC president, Kelle Stephens, is excited to be offering these unique programs to high school students and believes that they are not only giving them the tools necessary to enter the workforce and to pursue higher education but also to be a positive leader in their own lives and to have the confidence to believe in their capabilities.

“We have story after story after story of people who come here. We give them competence, confidence, and they are then able to become independent,” Stephens said, “ but another thing that I think we give them is hope.”

With that hope and the necessary training, DXATC students will be able to contribute to bridging the skills gap and rise and shine toward a brighter future.



To learn more about the AM STEM IT program click here

To learn more about the AM STEM Manufacturing program click here

To learn more about DXATC including other educational programs click here

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