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Elkhorn, Wisconsin

Elkhorn Area High School, located in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, has been an NC3 Certification Center since 2017. In the past three short years, this school has issued hundreds of certifications to their students. Growing its number of issued certifications nearly 50% each year, Elkhorn High has risen in the ranks of our most accomplished high schools within the NC3 Network! Please join us in celebrating Elkhorn Area High School for becoming our June 2020 School on the Rise! 

We were fortunate enough to sit down with Michael Thomas, Elkhorn’s Technical Education Instructor and Department Leader, to gain insight into the success of the school’s ample Technology Education Department. Four years ago, Michael transitioned from industry to education in order to help implement Elkhorn’s Automotive and Manufacturing Program.

Since joining the NC3 Network in 2017, Elkhorn Area High School has grown its CTE program into a strong and formidable department.

Michael acknowledges Elkhorn’s achievements by stating, “I’m super proud of how far our program has come in a very short period of time. The quality of education that we’re able to give our students is just amazing because we have real industry professionals on our team and we bring in real companies that our students have the opportunity to work with, which pushes them closer to achieving their end goal.” Being able to partner with local industries gives students a distinct advantage in being able to join the workforce post-graduation. Students are able to network with employers who recognize the value of industry-recognized certifications and who employ students with confidence knowing that they have gained the experience necessary to become solid workers in their respective fields. 

Earning industry-recognized certifications at Elkhorn Area High School has given students the opportunity to start their careers far earlier than other graduates in the area. Michael states, “These certifications aren’t something that every student is able to earn in high school. Sometimes they don’t have a choice because the school simply doesn’t have a CTE program and they have to wait to earn certifications in college. This means they would not only earn certifications at a later time but they would also have to pay for them.” 

Michael enrolls approximately 250 to 300 students each year who are all able to earn NC3’s industry-recognized certifications to include in their resumes.

He adds, “I think another advantage to earning certifications in high school is that the students start in a direction. They begin to understand what’s involved in certain industries and jobs. It gives them a mechanical ability that they may not always get and they become interested in things that they didn’t realize they enjoyed before entering the program.” 

More and more students are gravitating towards technical education because of all the great opportunities it provides. Students and parents around the country are beginning to see its benefits. Michael explains, “I think the perception of technical education is changing in the professional world because it used to be considered something that people did if they couldn’t go to college or maybe it wasn’t something that could make you a lot of money. Nowadays, that perception has been thrown completely out the window.” 

“I have students who are making upwards of $70,000 their first year out of school with zero college debt,” Michael says.

NC3’s Train-the-Trainer Program has also made an impact on how Michael has integrated NC3 certifications into Elkhorn’s Technical Education Department.

He remarks, “The Master Instructors at Train-the-Trainer are just amazing. They’re top-notch, very personable, and very knowledgeable. I think the way the training is conducted works well because you get your hands on the tools and the best part is that you’re actually sitting there as if you’re one of your own students in the classroom. It really gives you a good insight into how you’re going to run your program. Watching a true professional teach the class shows you what you should be doing. It’s excellent.” 

So what’s next for Elkhorn Area High School’s CTE Program? Michael’s goal is to integrate NC3 certifications into every single one of his classes and he hopes to expand into offering welding certifications in addition to his school’s automotive certifications. 

NC3 is excited to see Elkhorn’s program expand even further and to watch their students continue to succeed in technical education.

Congratulations again on becoming our June 2020 NC3 School on the Rise, Elkhorn Area High School! We are proud to have you within our growing network of institutions across the country! 

Stay tuned for our next School on the Rise recipient in July 2020!

Questions about NC3’s School on the Rise? Please contact Erika Staackmann, Customer Success Coordinator, 847.533.6985,

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