Summer Academies: Connecting Business and Education

Seventy Spokane area high school juniors and seniors had an opportunity to explore future careers this summer thanks to three different Summer Academies hosted by Avista Utilities, Wagstaff, Inc. and the Spokane Workforce Council (SWC)/Spokane Community College (SCC). These Summer Academies provided students a glimpse into more than 60 careers in the course of 4 weeks. At the end of each Academy, students walked away with a Career Technical Education (CTE) high school credit, a financial stipend and knowledge of various local career and educational pathways.

Avista’s Energy Pathways, a four-week program launched in 2018, provided facility tours, hands-on activities and job shadowing for 18 high school students. Energy Pathways was intended to align with the state’s Career Connect Washington initiative announced by Gov. Jay Inslee in 2017 to connect 100,000 students with learning opportunities for high-demand, high-wage jobs over five years. Students participated in classroom sessions with Avista experts from various technical and skilled trade fields and put their learning into practice with hands-on activities including designing, planning and performing utility tasks. Part of the experience included the students identifying positions of career interest within Avista for job shadowing in the fields of engineering; maintenance and operations; alternative and emerging energy; and energy efficiency and sustainability. At this year’s August 9th graduation, students shared presentations about their experiences. Although the students enjoyed the financial stipend, they remarked the most valuable part of the program was truly about the overall quality of learning and experience they walked away with.

After attending Avista’s Energy Pathways’ graduation in 2018, Wade Larson of Wagstaff, Inc., discussed the possibility of a production and manufacturing academy with Meg Lindsay, GSI’s Director of Education and Talent. Larson said the Production and Manufacturing Academy evolved from Wagstaff’s participation in Greater Spokane Inc.’s Business AfterSchool program which drew more than 100 students to Wagstaff in October 2018. It took approximately eight to ten months to obtain funding and forge partnerships with other area manufacturers to launch their own summer Production and Manufacturing Academy. Students in this program worked in teams to gain hands-on experience in product creation, design, building, production, sales and customer relations. In addition, three students from this academy were awarded a scholarship to Spokane Community College in order to continue their career pathway. If student feedback was any indication, Wagstaff’s first year was a success.

The third local Summer Academy was hosted by the Spokane Workforce Council and Spokane Community College. Their Skilled Trades Academy gave young adults, ages 16-24, an opportunity to learn about the variety of careers in skilled trades. Safety instruction (First Aid/CPR), industry tours and speakers and certification training (forklift and flagging) were offered during this three-week program. Students worked alongside trades professionals as they earned a ½ CTE credit and financial incentives. This program concluded with a graduation on July 26th and a hiring event to connect graduates with employment opportunities.

At GSI, we are committed to business and education partnerships that foster a strong talent pipeline, crucial to the success of business and our region’s economy. Providing students with opportunities like the Summer Academies – to engage in career pathways outside of school hours, to learn from local professionals and companies, to earn a CTE credit and walk away with a paycheck – is a unique way for a company to engage with their future employees. As the Career Connect Washington initiative scales throughout our state, we look forward to working with more employers to create experiences like this for young talent. Thank you to all who made these opportunities possible for students this year, and to those who continue to help build this system of career connected learning in our region.


Read more about the academies here:

Energy Pathways

Production and Manufacturing Academy

Skilled Trades Academy




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