Connections: The Newsletter of the National Career Pathways Network

Volume 31, No. 4
Strategies for CTE Program Success

Gateway’s High School Academies: Successful, and Can Be Replicated Elsewhere

Gateway Technical College logo Gateway Technical College’s high school academies have become a viable option for high school students to gain college credits and credentials that lead to employment.

Students earn college credits and credentials for free while engaging in career coursework in areas they’re interested in at Gateway—areas the high school might be unable to offer because of a lack of resources or qualified teachers.

“This is another way to give students the opportunity to graduate from college with credentials before graduating from high school. Those credentials can help them to gain a foothold into their career, or to land a good-paying job. And the students don’t pay anything to earn those credits,” says Katie Graf, Gateway’s director of high school partnerships.

“They are saving time and money and getting an edge on their high school classmates in the career field and, if they continue on, a jumpstart on college.”

Other components of the Gateway High School Academy are:

  • Tuition, fees, and books are paid by the high school or funded by a donor.

  • Students can continue at Gateway in diploma or degree programs (stackable credentials).

  • Courses are offered during the school day at Gateway on its cutting-edge training equipment and are taught by Gateway's qualified instructors.

  • Students earn Gateway college credit and have access to Gateway’s resources as a college student.

  • Students can take these credentials to potential employers to show competency in their fields.

Gateway has offered four academies over the past two years: computer numeric control, welding, criminal justice, and Smart Manufacturing. Three academies will be added in 2021-2022: nursing, IT data analytics, and general studies.

Graf offers three pieces of advice for those seeking to start up an academy.

(1) Find funding to get started. Gateway’s road to success began with a grant to pay for the initial round of academies. Students from that group essentially “sold” the concept to the high school for future academies—and it took off from there.

“One principal said the students were carrying around their welding helmets in school like athletes carry around their letterman’s jackets,” said Graf. “The principal told me, ‘I saw the pride, saw what they were learning and, yes, I’ll pay for more.’”

Graf also encourages colleges to seek funding from businesses and local leaders. Businesses see the value in training their workforce and will fund an academy. For instance, a business leader who saw the professional possibilities for workers in automated manufacturing—an in-demand career field—paid for an academy.

(2) Be collaborative, inside and outside of the college. Ask high schools what areas they see student interest in but might not have the resources to provide. Ask deans and instructors to identify areas in which they may have the capacity to offer coursework. Are there times in the day when labs are open? Times of the day when instructors could teach? What bundle of courses could high-schoolers complete within a relatively short time frame?

“There should be a lot of conversation going on—with both sides,” Graf says. “Talk, listen, and then act.”

(3) Work with your career pathways team. Work with the pathways team to build out those credentials and then take them to the high schools and your academic teams to see what’s feasible. Prime areas you might want to consider are short-term certificates that are attainable in high school.

“For instance, I would like to be able to offer nursing as an academy—but realize that a certified nursing assistant certificate is much more attainable, so that’s what we offer,” says Graf.


Katie Graf can be reached at grafk@gtc.edu.

For more information on Gateway’s high school academies, visit www.gtc.edu/earn-credit.