May 3, 2022

Student applications pour into Pierce County Skills Center

A record number of high school students are applying for the Pierce County Skills Center (PCSC), and the timing couldn’t be better. With more businesses choosing Pierce County and the demand for career-ready workers on the rise, the Skills Center plays an increasingly important role in building the region’s talent pipeline.

Preparing for the future

The Pierce County Skills Center offers 11th and 12th graders high-quality, tuition-free technical and professional training to prepare them for post-secondary education, apprenticeships and the workforce. The center is operated by Bethel School District and serves 10 partner high schools in Pierce County, including Bethel, Eatonville, Fife, Franklin Pierce, Orting, Steilacoom, Sumner, Tacoma, University Place and White River.

Like the other 14 skills centers in Washington State, PCSC offers students the opportunity to:

  • Explore a career in depth.
  • Learn from industry professionals in state-of-the-art facilities.
  • Earn high school and college credit (tuition-free!).
  • Obtain industry-recognized certificates.

Academics and more

Students split time between their home school and the PCSC campus located at 16117 Canyon Road in Puyallup. Classes at the Skills Center have an academic component, but it’s the real-world experience that makes it unique. Students receive actual lab experience, whether it’s working on a car, caring for patients or designing and building parts and products.

Industry-spanning courses offered through PCSC include:

  • Aerospace composites
  • Aerospace machining/fabrication
  • Automotive technology
  • Construction trades
  • Cosmetology
  • Criminal justice
  • Culinary arts
  • Fire science
  • ITS & cybersecurity
  • Medical careers
  • Pre-pharmacy technology
  • Pre-physical therapy and sports medicine
  • Pre-veterinary technology
  • Video game development

Expanded programs to meet demand

When PCSC recently opened registration for 2022-23 classes, it received more online applications within the first 25 minutes than it did over a 24-hour period the previous year. As of late April, 466 students were enrolled and only a handful of spots were still available.

“I think students and families are re-thinking post-secondary plans,” said Michelle Ledbetter, Pierce County Skills Center Director. “They recognize the importance of career and technical education and the opportunities the Skills Center provides. We offer them a head start, whether they transition into an apprenticeship, direct employment, a community or technical college, or a university.”

Ledbetter also believes the spike in interest reflects a post-COVID swing. “Students are excited to be at school, apply their skills, and find meaning and pride in their accomplishments,” she said.

A big funding boost from the Washington State Legislature will enable PCSC to expand capacity to meet demand. The 2021-23 biennial K-12 Capital Budget includes $9.83 million in capital project funds to modernize and convert the Skills Center’s Evergreen building into 10,000 square feet of classroom space for fire science and construction classes. The realignment also frees up space for advanced manufacturing technology classes.

Learn more about the Pierce County Skills Center here.


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