Camacho helps IVROP students understand how academics apply to work world

February 26, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

Not everybody needs to go to college, but people could use career planning, vocational training and knowledge in home economics to become better consumers.

At least that's what Mary Camacho, superintendent of the Imperial Valley Regional Occupational Programs, says. That's not to say vocational training doesn't go hand-in-hand with academics.

"I have always promoted the concept of vocational education, but in the sense of integrating academics with voc ed because we're all going to eventually work," Camacho said. "I think you need to make a connection with what you're learning academically to the job that you're going to be taking in the future."

She said it's important students understand how academics are applied in the work world.

"Then they can understand academics better," she said.

Camacho, 48, grew up in the Imperial Valley, graduated from Central Union High School in El Centro in 1971 and graduated from Imperial Valley College. She received a degree in home economics from San Diego State University. Upon returning to the Valley she did her student teaching at SDSU-Imperial Valley campus.


After a year of student teaching, Camacho taught home economics for two years at DeAnza Junior High School in Calexico. She then taught home economics and special education for seven years at Calexico High School. After that, she went back to school and obtained a degree in special education. She was also an assistant principal at Calexico High School. She has a master's degree in vocational education.

As the head of IVROP, Camacho sees that Imperial Valley residents have access to job skills training they need, as well as what she calls soft skills. These include how to fill out a job application, how to get through a job interview, what is expected by employers, how to dress, how to obtain transportation, how to open a checking account, how to shop for groceries, how to plan a nutritious meal, how to obtain child care and so on.

She said such skills help address "the whole person."

"Some of these issues hinder people from being good employees," she said.

The role of ROP is to provide free, practical hands-on training, career guidance and job-placement assistance. It provides training to acquire entry-level jobs, update/improve job skills, prepare for advanced training and education, prepare for a college major, earn credits toward high school graduation and earn a certificate of demonstrated competencies. There are no fees or tuition. The classes are open to all Imperial County residents. ROP helps train people for companies seeking to locate in the Imperial Valley as well as for businesses already here.

Camacho sought the ROP superintendent position in 1995 as an opportunity to do something to benefit the county as a whole within the ROP sphere.

"It was something I believed in, valued and I felt that I could make a difference," she said, adding the impact being made by ROP is greater than she initially thought. "I have to give credit to my staff. My staff is wonderful. I have some people who've worked at different places that bring all their experience and richness to this organization and have helped guide it to where we're going. It's great to have a wonderful staff like that and be a part of that."

ROP has been selected to train employees for the beef- processing plant being built in Brawley and for RoGar, a custom manufacturer of cables and harnesses for the semiconductor industry planning to move from Calexico to El Centro.

How does ROP help ready workers for beef processing?

"We're working with CalWORKs and taking individuals that have limited-English skills and putting them in immersion classes to build up their English skills, but then we're also going to give them instruction on health and safety and sanitation; all those kinds of things that will better prepare them for a job within the meat-packing industry."

Camacho said ROP's vocational training contributes to the economic development of the county.

"That makes me feel real proud," she said.

Ultimately, officials from the meat-processing facility will provide ROP with the desired curriculum.

For the custom manufacturer of cables and harnesses, ROP hired a maquiladora-experienced person to help with the training of new employees.

ROP is part of the K-12 public school system, and Camacho answers to an eight-member board of trustees that includes representatives of all the county's high school districts and county Office of Education. Funding comes from the school system and other sources.

ROP offers about 40 different courses, including accounting and computerized accounting, banking and finance, computer-assisted drafting, farm implement mechanics, food technology, nursing assistant, retail, truck driving and welding, among others.

It should be obvious by now that Camacho loves her job and believes ROP training, like truck-driver training, makes a difference in people's lives.

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