Auburn Career Center Superintendent Maggie Lynch must have taken a lesson from some of the school's practical nursing students.
That's because an important part of Lynch's job is regularly checking the pulse of the region's labor market.
For example, Lynch and other Auburn officials recently met with polymer manufacturers from the region to discuss their workplace training needs and if the school could provide assistance.
"We're always trying to seek that rhythm of the relationship between the work force and what our role can be to prepare workers and students that would fill the many levels of jobs, from entry level to higher level jobs," she said.
Located at 8140 Auburn Road in Concord Township, Auburn Career Center provides career and technical education to both high school students and adults.
While adult learners fill the classrooms and laboratories at Auburn during the evening hours, two shifts of high school students — juniors in the morning and seniors in the afternoon — complete two-year programs throughout the day.
"Our goal is to have our courses feed into our current workplace market," Lynch said.
As a result, Auburn offers a heavy concentration of programs in manufacturing, the automotive trade, information technology and allied health, she said.
For several of those programs, Auburn has made impressive upgrades in equipment and facilities.
Auburn recently spent $1.5 million to redesign its welding laboratory, which includes 20 new welding booths.
"This whole lab has been completely redone with the best equipment that's available on the market," said welding instructor Steve Waltenbaugh. "The lab has a top-of-the-line vacuum system, machines capable of doing four different types of welding processes ... and every student has all the equipment they need."
The versatility of the machines and equipment in the redesigned lab will help Auburn welding students build strong credentials for the job market, Lynch said.
"That flexibility of being able to go ahead and weld in so many different forms on so many different types of metals is a huge advantage for the workplace," she said.
Meanwhile, Auburn also has enhanced its advanced manufacturing training laboratory with the addition of 14 training simulators for Computer Numerical Control machines.
The simulators make it possible for more students at a time to become proficient before taking a turn on one of the four full-size CNC machines in the lab.
Students can create, simulate and troubleshoot CNC programs on the simulators, said Terry Colescott, high school advanced manufacturing instructor.
"Once you're happy with the program, you copy it to a USB jump drive, walk over to the machine and plug it in, call up our program off of the jump drive, and it'll run that part on our machine," Colescott explained.
The CNC simulators have proven to be an effective teaching tool, Lynch said.
"It gives everyone a larger sense of experience that students wouldn't have had if they had to rotate and take turns because it was just a single piece of equipment," Lynch said.
"So this way everyone is learning at a faster and more experiential rate, becoming troubleshooters while they're becoming programmers, which gives them, of course, a greater value to market to the companies (for future employment)."
Sometime next fall, the advanced manufacturing classes and several other programs will be moving to a different section of the Auburn campus, as the school is planning to build a $1.2 million industrial arts facility.
Plans call for the 15,000-square-foot unattached, prefabricated steel building to be located on the south side of the career center property, toward Girdled Road.
The building would house the advanced manufacturing; heating, ventilation and air conditioning; industrial electricity; and facilities maintenance programs.
"We would like to complete the building hopefully by September so when the students arrive they can move out of the one lab and into the new lab," Lynch said.
Auburn Career Center currently enrolls about 700 high school juniors and seniors who choose from 22 different programs.
While future enrollment growth is limited because of safety restrictions regarding class sizes, Auburn is working to keep its programs filled to capacity for years to come.
It's doing this with several programs aimed at introducing junior high school students to programs offered at the career center.
In fact, Auburn conducts career development classes for seventh- and eighth-graders at all 11 school districts served by the career center: Kirtland, Painesville, Riverside, Perry, Madison, Fairport Harbor, Chardon, Kenston, Newbury, Cardinal and Berkshire.
Seventh-graders complete a career interest survey during the first semester of the program. In the second semester, all students travel to the career center's Quest Lab at Fairport Harding High School, where they get to perform some hands-on activities in their top three areas of interest, based on results of the career survey.
For example, students who show a liking for automotive technology can take off the fenders and doors of a car that's parked in the Quest Lab, Lynch said.
In eighth grade, the career development program brings in guest speakers from various fields and each student does a special project on one of the careers.
Auburn also provides the parents of eighth-graders with vocational assessments, noting their child's strengths and aptitudes, to offer guidance on choosing the right college or career preparatory courses for grades nine through 12.
"So for Auburn, in this world of college and career readiness, we have to be of as much service as possible to parents, students and K-12 districts, because we're here as a resource for all of them as well," Lynch said.