First Lady Dr. Jill Biden visited Bates Technical College’s South Campus on Friday, October 7 to tour youth apprenticeship and the Technical High School programs that connect youth to hands-on workforce education while they earn their high school diploma.
The first lady’s visit highlighted the importance of the technical education and youth-focused workforce education programs, like the college’s Technical High School.
“We are honored to spotlight our excellent career training programs, Technical High School and youth apprenticeship opportunities during First Lady Jill Biden’s historic visit,” Bates Technical College President, Dr. Lin Zhou said. “We are thrilled that Dr. Biden chose to recognize our college as an innovator in creating career pipelines that connect high school and adult students to resources and opportunities.”
Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, Amy Loyd; Pierce County Executive, Bruce Dammeier; Tacoma Mayor, Victoria Woodards; and Bates Technical High School Principal, Yifan Sun also joined Biden and Zhou on the tour. The group visited the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) and welding programs, and joined high school students in the auditorium for a back-to-school event.
While visiting the HVAC program, Dr. Biden met 2022 graduate, Jayla Cureton, an 18-year-old who works a $30 per hour job as an HVAC technician for MacDonald-Miller, one of the leading commercial refrigeration companies in the nation.
“At Bates, I definitely learned the skills I need to enter the industry, and I thank my instructors for that,” Cureton told Dr. Biden. “I enjoy what I do, and it is really fun.”
During her tour of the welding program, the first lady met instructors, Liberty Olson and Teo Oreiro, and students, including Emmely Tran, Joseph Cusick, and Brighton Benzien.
Benzien is already working as a welder and earning $25 per hour. The high school student is currently in his fifth quarter and will graduate spring 2023 with an Associate of Applied Science degree and a Washington state high school diploma, at just 17 years old.
The welding students presented Biden with a hand-welded name plate with her name in cursive. The first lady later referenced the name plate on her Facebook page, writing, “In all my years of teaching, this is by far my favorite name plate! Thank you to the high school students at Bates Technical College for such a thoughtful gift – I know the perfect spot for it at the White House.”
During her visit, Dr. Biden commended the work of Bates Technical College, emphasizing the importance of two-year and technical institutions.
“[Two-year] colleges are a key to offering hands-on learning and job training,” she said. “I think colleges are doing more and more of this, where students are identifying their interests early so, they’re saving time, and more focused on what they’re going to do in life… It is an amazing and wonderful opportunity for all these students.”
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