Students have competed every year in the SkillsUSA competition in Kansas City. This year, more than half of the 21 who competed finished in the top 10 percent. Also, two students won gold medals at the Health Occupation Students of America conference in Orlando.
"We set the bar high for ourselves," Erwin said.
Putnam Superintendent Chuck Hatfield has said a large number of high school graduates in Putnam go on to college, but nearly two out of three of those don't earn a degree.
At the career and technical school, 98 percent of students who complete the program leave and move on to a school in their career field or have a job lined up, Erwin said.
Because of those numbers, Erwin said the school is working to explain the career center's program to students at an earlier age.
"We give tours in 8th and 10th grade and familiarize students with what happens," he said. "We're trying to come up with programs to target middle schoolers.
"At 17, I didn't know what I'd be doing, but it helped that I was exposed to a lot."
Kevin Roberts, who teaches automotive courses, said he's impressed so many of his students have gotten jobs at dealerships or small car shops while they're in school. But, he said, some students just take the class for general knowledge.
"About half of my morning class told me they're just doing this for themselves, so they don't have to pay someone $80 an hour to fix their vehicle," Roberts said.
Nick Kersey, 17, of Hurricane, said he started attending the school for the hands-on learning.
"After my class took a field trip here, I loved it and knew it was for me," he said, as he swept the floor of the school's car garage.
Kersey, who didn't know much about cars before he attended the school, now wants to attend the University of Western Ohio, a college level career and technical program, to study automotive repair.
"There's just more learning here," he said.
Reach Kate White at kate.wh...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.