Beyond Industry Partnerships: How Postsecondary CTE Programs Are Achieving Success

By Timm Boettcher | Originally published in the October 2019 issue of ACTE’s Techniques magazine. ACTE members, log in to read the complete article.

Ask Cody Waits, Director of the Office of Skills Development for the Arkansas Department of Commerce, how important it is for a successful postsecondary career and technical education (CTE) program to be responsive to workforce needs, and he won’t hesitate to answer: It is vital.

“It’s vital to the success of not only the program, but also to those who participate in the program,” said Waits. “If postsecondary CTE programs are not responsive to workforce needs, they are preparing program participants for skills or jobs that are not available. If they get it right, they
create a pipeline of talent for companies to source talent and can create corporate confidence that economic developers can leverage in competitive situations.”

Strong partnerships between education and industry are key to getting it right. In the almost two decades that I have been working with representatives of education, industry and workforce development programs, I’ve seen firsthand the great things that can happen when administrators, teachers and businesses collaborate. Education–industry collaboration helps postsecondary programs tailor curriculum to match industry requirements; it helps businesses connect with future employees through tours, speaking engagements, job shadowing and work experience opportunities; and most importantly, it helps ensure that students learn the skills needed for employment in high-wage, high-skill and high-demand jobs.

However, successful postsecondary CTE programs must be living, breathing entities that constantly reinvent themselves.

Successful postsecondary CTE programs in action

To ensure his Pinellas Technical College (PTC) – Clearwater Campus students are prepared for what lies ahead, campus director
Jakub Prokop created a community engagement program. Prokop says the program is helping to foster a deeper level of collaboration between the Florida college and its business and industry partners.

“In today’s changing student demographic, we found that there are
extra steps we can take to prepare the next-generation workforce,” said Prokop. “This new approach to community engagement will provide multiple levels of benefits for all stakeholders while bringing current industry standards into the classrooms and labs of PTC.”

Beginning this year, students considering PTC will start seeing logos and
information about the community engagement program’s business partners — businesses they might someday work for — on the college’s website and in recruitment materials. Current students will hear about those business partners through email and other college communications.

In return, those business partners will participate in an annual event
during which they will interview recent or soon-to-be graduates. The program will not only provide the curriculum and equipment feedback PTC
has regularly gotten from its business partners, but will incentivize prospective students and motivate current ones.

“Postsecondary education can be difficult because students often have a
life they’re managing as well — kids and spouses, etc. Our population, generally, they’re weak in the ability to set things aside and focus solely on their education,” said Prokop. “With this program, we’re building internal motivation and persistence in our students, while keeping our business partners at the forefront of their minds.”

Log in to ACTE’s online member portal to continue reading this article, which was published in the October 2019 issue of “Techniques” magazine.

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