From digital electronics to early childhood education, radiology to radiant energy, and everywhere in between, Career Technical Education helps students learn skills for the future.

Through 18 two-year programs, four senior-only programs, and four career development programs, South-Western City School District career-technical students are prepared for two-year and four-year colleges. Programs are available at the district's four high schools and the South-Western Career Academy.

By the time the students graduate, they will have earned an education founded on rigor, career certifications and on-the-job experience.

You cannot turn on the television or open a newspaper without hearing about all the job openings across central Ohio. Information technology, manufacturing and healthcare are a few of the industries that lead the pack.

Often overlooked is the need for first responders, specifically the anticipated shortage of firefighters in the next several years.

To meet this need, the South-Western City School District is starting a senior-only fire academy offering for the 2020-21 school year.

High school seniors can earn professional certification and college credit as a firefighter through Columbus State Community College. The partnership between the district, Columbus State and four local township fire departments -- Franklin, Jackson, Pleasant and Prairie -- provides a unique educational opportunity.

Technical training laboratory sessions will be taught at the township fire departments while the classroom instruction will be held at the Columbus State Bolton Field regional learning center. All instruction will be delivered by licensed firefighters from the four township fire departments.

The South-Western Fire Academy is designed to give new firefighters the basic practical and cognitive training needed to operate safely and effectively on the ground by using an intense hands-on approach to firefighting. In addition to the technical skills, the academy gives students the opportunity to learn responsibility, perseverance and work ethic.

The academy meets all the training and education standards for Firefighter I and II designations as identified in the National Fire Protection Association, NFPA 1001, firefighter professional qualifications and provides the minimum level of training recommended to function as a career firefighter in Ohio.

Admission will be by application and students will be required to participate in the Firefighter Mile, which is a standardized firefighter physical ability test designed to assess their readiness for the physical demands of firefighting. An interview will follow with the inaugural class being announced at the end of March.

Upon successful completion of the program, students would be eligible to sit for the state certification examination at the Firefighter II level. Also, upon successful completion of the academy and certification as a Firefighter II, the candidate would receive up to five additional certifications and be awarded 12 credits (20%) toward the fire professional associate of applied science degree at Columbus State.

The collaborative training between Columbus State and the township fire departments is unprecedented.

The South-Western Fire Academy is an example of a true partnership between K-12 education, post-secondary education and industry professionals. It is a win-win for all.

Travis Wood is a career-education technology specialist with the South-Western City School District.