Lillian “Lily” Perry wears her welding gear with confidence and panache. This month she’s entering her senior year at Southeast Area Technical Skills Center (SEA-TECH), and she already has a year of advanced manufacturing and welding technology under her belt. How did she end up in the cutting-edge program at SEA-TECH?

Lily’s interest in science and technology was piqued when she attended the Great Explorations event at Whitman College in 2011. That year’s hands-on science, technology, engineering and math conference featured NASA astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, and helped Lily realize science and technology were not only interesting, they were fun.

Fast-forward to her summer job in 2013, working at a horse camp on Mercer Island, staying with a local family. Lily’s hostess, an enthusiastic Boeing employee, encouraged her to pursue the kind of educational experiences that might lead to a career at that company.

Fortunately for Lily, the SEA-TECH skill center opened in the fall of 2014 on the campus of Walla Walla Community College. Skill centers provide access to technical programs that prepare students for careers, apprenticeships and/or postsecondary education. SEA-TECH is designed to help students get a head start on their career goals by providing focused training in specific professions. Dennis Matson, director of the center, works closely with the local school board, and his advisory committee includes educators and representatives from the public and private sectors. 

Participation at SEA-TECH has grown steadily since its inception. It can currently serve as many as 192 students; enrollment for this school year will be 110. The courses are available to junior and senior high-school students from the Walla Walla, College Place, Dayton, Waitsburg, Touchet and Prescott school districts. Students spend half of their day at SEA-TECH, the other half at their district or in other programs such as Running Start. 

Programs offered at SEA-TECH include:

Digital Media Technology

Led by instructor Jeffrey Townsend, this program challenges students to develop superior skills in graphic design, audio production, lighting, digital photography and filmmaking, motion graphics, visual effects, 2-D animation, 3-D modeling, 3-D animation and more.

Each discipline is reinforced by developing a fluency in story structure and storytelling techniques — methods that benefit the creative process in any type of media. Students’ work is a mix of class assignments, self-selected projects and “client” jobs for area schools, organizations and nonprofits.

Students work with industry-standard software and learn established techniques as well as transitional or cutting-edge approaches. Field trips expose students to studios where media is produced every day. They can acquire sufficient skills and knowledge to seek employment or further their education in a range of digital media-technology fields. 

Health Science Careers 

This program, led by instructor Sandy Thomas, introduces students to the health care field, with an emphasis on knowledge and skills applicable to many related occupations. Students explore health careers in their areas of interest, as well as targeted-demand areas for future job openings. Students successfully completing all the coursework and clinical internships are eligible to take the Washington state certified nursing assistant exam. (Of 38 SEA-TECH students who took a recent CNA exam, 32 passed.) 

Students successfully completing the course with a grade of B or better may qualify to earn college credits. The program receives support from local assisted-living providers, including Regency at the Park, Odd Fellows Home and Park Manor Rehabilitation Center. 

Advanced Manufacturing and Welding Technology

Under instructor James Polson, this program provides a state-of-the-art, industry-based shop environment designed for the student who is ready to develop skills in and understanding of manufacturing, welding and metal fabrication. Students practice skills that will prepare them to further their education for industries such as building fabrication, machining, construction, foundry work, agricultural, aerospace and more. 

Students are taught safety, design, processes, light and heavy fabrication, common terms and industry expectations. The program recently received a grant from Boeing to buy a laser engraver and a computer numerical control lathe. Students work on equipment commonly found in modern fabrication and manufacturing industries, providing hands-on practice and knowledge that may lead to industry certification and college credits.

Electrical Systems Technology

In this program, students learn how energy sources are produced, generated, transmitted and distributed. They research and develop renewable and nonrenewable energy sources for commercial, residential and transportation industries, while investigating the potential environmental impact of each source. 

Topics include wind and solar concepts, electrical theory and application, fluid systems, motors, electrical fabrication, mechanical systems, hydraulics, mathematics, print reading, workplace effectiveness, pneumatics, measurement tools and site analysis. These skills may be applied to a wide range of careers. Students successfully completing this course are eligible to earn college credits and/or industry certification.

Summer programs are also offered at SEA-TECH, including introduction to manufacturing, filmmakers boot camp and a health program. Each is a 14-day, intensive course.

Recommended for you