EUGENE, Ore. – Students at Willamette High School have a new tool to help them learn a valuable trade.
Last week, a computer numerical control mill, known as a CNC Mill, was unloaded at the school’s metals shop.
The large machine, which cost $47,000, can be used to create custom-designed parts and products.
It’s a big boost to the school’s Career Technical Education (CTE) program because it’s the kind of equipment that students might be expected to use when they get into the workforce.
“Students are actually going to program themselves and get to cut parts themselves. There’s lots of job opportunities in the industry right now for students who are going to have those skills,” explained CTE instructor Justin McCullough.
CTE is a growing field that embraces skilled trades, applied sciences and modern technologies with the hope of better preparing students for real-world jobs and careers.
Thanks to a bond passed by the Bethel School District last year, Willamette High School will also be constructing a brand-new vocational learning center to further bolster the CTE program. Assistant Principal Dain Nelson said it will likely take several years before the center is up and running.
Over the past year, Willamette has also invested heavily in upgrades while students have been away from the classroom. The upgrades include new computer labs with dozens of more powerful Windows and Mac desktops, 20 additional 3D printers for the digital manufacturing program, large table saws for the woods program and laser cutters for the drafting and digital manufacturing programs. The culinary program also got an upgrade with new equipment for cooking.
Nelson said the pandemic may have actually helped speed things up.
“I think we were able to accelerate some timelines on investments and projects and say, ‘Hey, let’s do it now while we're not having to work around class schedules and this can be a focus when we can’t have the students inside,’” Nelson said.