Taking Business to School: West-MEC and Palo Verde Generating Station

Xello is pleased to support ACTE and CTE practitioners through the development of publication briefs and resources to delve deeper on topics within ACTE’s Quality CTE Program of Study Framework: Business and Community Partnerships. Now, Techniques offers readers a preview of this brand new series, Taking Business to School.

Check back regularly as we develop and promote additional resources.

Taking Business to School: West-MEC and Palo Verde Generating Station


West-MEC Case Study

This publication, written by workforce policy consultant Meghan Wills, focuses on the partnership between a public CTE school district and one of Arizona’s largest employers. West-MEC and Palo Verde’s joint efforts resulted in the design of a new energy and technology program, creating an education and training pipeline for high school students exploring careers in the energy industry.

Palo Verde Generating Station, located near Phoenix, Arizona, is the country’s largest nuclear power facility. In 2014, as company leaders faced challenges related to an aging workforce and lagging recruitment, an innovative idea emerged. They proposed a secondary CTE program that would engage students and develop a cadre of qualified employees.

The two-year Energy & Industrial Technology program at West-MEC prepares students for careers in vital energy industry sectors, such as:

  • Electrical technology
  • Electronics, instrumentation and controls
  • Mechanical technology
  • Engineering technology
  • Power plant generation
  • Industrial plant operations
  • Energy transmission and distribution

Following a curriculum set forth by the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER), technical skills instruction guides learners through topics that include:

  • Introduction to the power industry
  • Introduction to alternative industry, including nuclear, solar and wind power
  • Use of hand and power tools
  • Material handling
  • Tubing and piping systems, and more

Further, the program emphasizes employability skill development and demonstrates real-world relevance. Students enrolled in West-MEC’s Energy & Industrial Technology program benefit from hands-on instruction designed to simulate the industry environment. They also may receive professional certifications from OSHA and NCCER, as well as transferable college credit.

Palo Verde Generating Station is invested in student success.

Palo Verde provides West-MEC with equipment to operate their program, and they’re also directly involved with classroom instruction. Energy industry leaders visit with students on campus and advise on projects. This approach offers significant benefits for all stakeholders.

“The energy program at West-MEC is more than just a training program for high school students,” wrote Meghan Wills, who will author the full Taking Business to School series. “It has become a key resource for the energy industry community that benefits all program partners.

“Palo Verde quickly recognized that West-MEC graduates possess both the technical and employability skills needed to be successful in the job,” she continued. “As a result, Palo Verde created a pre-apprentice program that hires 15 Energy & Industrial Technology program students each year.”

Rick Timmons, a West-MEC instructor who helped develop the energy curriculum, feels strongly about the value of industry partnerships in education. They “need to be the number one priority when starting a CTE program,” he said.

High-quality CTE curriculum must meet the needs of students and the industries in which they will work after graduation. Timmons went on to stress the need to engage business leaders as true partners; they offer significant value, just as our students do.

Read Taking Business to School: West-MEC and Palo Verde Generating Station to learn more and uncover elements of business–education partnership success.