CPTC student is Washington’s New Century Workforce Pathway Scholar

By Jean Borst

We’re only three months into 2023, and Laurel Behrend has already had a great year.

The Clover Park Technical College (CPTC) student was named to the All-Washington Academic Team, graduates this month from the College’s Nondestructive Testing (NDT) program, and will soon launch a career in her field of study that will take her across the U.S.

To top it off, Behrend is also a 2023 New Century Workforce Pathway Scholar – one of only 52 students in the country to receive the prestigious honor.

The scholarship program, sponsored by the Coca-Cola Foundation with additional support from Phi Beta Kappa, recognizes the most outstanding workforce-bound student from each state. More than 2,400 applications were submitted, and each student was evaluated on academic achievement, leadership, service and significant endeavors. Behrend received the highest application score in Washington state.

“We are so proud of Laurel and her accomplishments,” said Clover Park Technical College President Dr. Joyce Loveday. “This latest honor is well deserved and a testament to her outstanding academic achievements and dedication to improving programs for our future students.”

Finding her passion

Behrend was pursuing a degree in occupational therapy at Washington State University when she discovered her passion was elsewhere.

“I was successful in school, but I wasn’t enjoying my time there,” she said.

Behrend had spent several summers working manual labor jobs at a paper mill and a dam in eastern Washington. She liked being in an industrial setting, and she realized she could make a career there.

“My dad told me about how nondestructive testing is done at the paper mill where he worked, and it sounded like something that would play to my strengths,” she said. “I decided to change tracks and haven’t looked back since.”

Nondestructive testing not only became a new path for Behrend. She’s embraced the branch of science and engineering, which includes inspection methods used by many industries to examine materials, structures or systems without causing any damage. Behrend serves as student director on the board of directors of the Pacific Northwest Section of the American Society of Nondestructive Testing. She is also student representative on an CPTC advisory committee dedicated to improving the college’s NDT program.

It’s all paid off. After graduation, Behrend will launch her career with The Merrick Group. She’ll travel to nuclear power plants across the country to perform eddy current testing, a process that applies electrical currents to an object to create electromagnetic fields. The testing is used on plant components to identify manufacturing defects, corrosion damage or cracking.

“I get a lot of satisfaction from fixing things,” Behrend said. “I’m excited about the opportunity  to use my NDT knowledge and skills to help maintain nuclear power plants and keep people safe.”

As a New Century Workforce Pathway Scholar, Behrend will be recognized along with her fellow award winners during the Association of Community College Trustees’ Leadership Congress held in Las Vegas in October.