Tacoma’s Bates Technical College grabs attention of White House

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden’s visit to Puget Sound will begin with an appearance at Bates Technical College and High School in Tacoma on Friday.

After a stop in the Bay Area, Biden will arrive in Seattle Friday afternoon and head directly to Pierce County. Her appearance at Bates is intended to highlight workforce development programs.

Bates honored for innovation

“We are definitely honored to spotlight the excellent career training programs and the high school and youth apprenticeship opportunities that the visit from the First Lady will provide,” Bates High School Principal and Dean of Instruction Yifan Sun said. “As a community college educator, the First Lady understands our mission. And we are excited and thrilled that she’s chosen to recognize the college as an innovator in creating clear pipelines that connect high school and adult students to resources and opportunities.”

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The programs vary from welding to culinary arts. Students can either get a high school diploma or an Associate of Applied Science degree.

Student enrollment doubled in the pandemic

“We have over 500 students. They are from different school districts,” said Sun. “They earn credits on their diploma and degree in a lot of high demand, high salary programs.”

The Technical High School is available to students ages 16 to 21. School officials emphasize the hands-on aspects of their programs. They are particularly proud that the student body grew during the pandemic.

“During COVID, I think things really turned for students, and the online learning was tough. Bates came back relatively early because we are a hands-on institution. And so many of our learners are hands-on students,” said high school counselor Lexi Torres. “And they really wanted to come back to school in person and have that opportunity. And so we found ourselves with our enrollment doubling in the last two years during COVID.”

The school is free and funded by the state

“All of those districts that are sending students that are making the choice to come to Bates for one of our training programs — we’re actually billing the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for each of those students,” said Chelsea Lindquist, the assistant director of communications and marketing. “The allocation is the same as they would have gotten if they had stayed in a traditional high school. It’s simply coming to us, which then covers their tuition, their books, their tools, and the costs associated with them earning their degree and diploma from Bates.”

The programs are continually updated to match changes in technology and industry trends. “We have advisory boards for all of our programs, which actually serve the students really well in terms of finding employment at the end,” Torres said.

Dr. Biden will also attend Murray fundraiser

Before she leaves, Biden will attend a fundraiser for Sen. Patty Murray, who is locked in a contentious race with Tiffany Smiley.

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