WALDO — Everything seems new at the Waldo County Technical Center.

New staff (some with new titles), new programs, and new faculty were rolled out at the start of the school year. Also new is a grant-funded program that is specifically designed to connect WCTC students with potential community employers.

“There’s a lot going on,” said WCTC Extended Learning Opportunities Coordinator Rachel Littlefield. “It’s an exciting time here.”

Student interest is one reason for the excitement. Enrollment is up roughly 10% over last year, to 248 students. WCTC Director Rick Amero notes the ground is moving on career and technical education.

“The stigma of vocational training is disappearing,” Amero said. “Students are realizing they can make a career without college debt, and that those careers pay well.”

WCTC will again offer 14 programs from auto to welding and everything in between. New within some of these programs are new certifications.

This year the school will add a new program specifically aimed at freshmen.

“CTE is career and technical education,” Littlefield said. “We’re offering a semester-long class for freshmen to explore those opportunities to see what they might like.”

The CTE Exploratory section will be taught by Chris Kein, an accomplished woodworker and former Regional School Unit 3 educator and coach.

Also joining the WCTC faculty is Hillary Steinau, the Graphics Design instructor. Steinau owns her own design business, Camden Design.

Hillary Steinau is the new Design Program instructor at WCTC. Photo by Jim Leonard

Steinau’s Design Program, along with the Culinary Arts and Welding programs, remain the most popular at WCTC.

Linking students with potential employment opportunities will be Littlefield’s job as ELO director.

“It’s a grant-funded program,” said Littlefield of her new position. “I make the connection between our students and the community.”

Those connections previously existed, but not to this degree, explained WCTC Student Services Coordinator Bonnie Kein.

“We have always connected students on a small scale to jobs in the community through general teacher-business networking,” Kein said. “However, most teachers simply did not have the time required to make as many of those connections as they’d like. Now, through Rachel’s position, we have the opportunity to make those connections on a grander scale. We are very excited about this opportunity and plan to take full advantage.”