As the skills gap widens, CTE gets a necessary investment proposal from the President to address the workforce challenge our country faces

By Timm Boettcher, President & CEO of Realityworks, Inc.

This week has been nothing short of a GIGANTIC week for Career and Technical Education (CTE). On Monday, February 10, CTE received well-deserved recognition in the President’s State of the Union address. In that address, President Trump stated, “My budget also contains an exciting vision for our nation’s high schools. Tonight, I ask Congress to support our students and back my plan to offer vocational and technical education in every single high school in America.” Following that address, President Trump did just that. In his budget recommendations to Congress, released shortly after the address, the President called for an additional $900M in investment in CTE.

WOW. You may be asking yourself, “what is this CTE and why such a huge increase and bold move?” Well, the answer is quite simple to me and frankly, LONG overdue. I’ve been working with CTE programs for more than 23 years. I will start by first explaining it with a phrase I borrowed from my good friend Doug Majors, CTE President at Meridian Technical Center in Oklahoma. He said, “There isn’t a day that goes by that you could live without CTE.

The impact of CTE

Now, you are probably saying, “really?” But the answer is 1,000% yes. CTE programs in our country produce the workforce our businesses need to run effectively and the resources we need to live every single day. They produce many of the folks you need at the hospital, like a CNA. In fact, CTE programs produce the talented individuals in factories across the country that run the machines and even the robots that build the goods we consume, like the car you drive. On top of that, CTE programs produce the automotive technicians that you need to repair these high-tech cars. CTE programs produce the professionals we need in our certified childcare centers. And really, what is more important than having a properly trained professional care for our children?

The list goes on. CTE also produces the professionals we need in our restaurants. (And I’m not in favor of giving up going out to eat!). Speaking of going out to eat, CTE produces the talent that grows and raises all our food – and we need that. CTE produces the plumbers, carpenters, and electricians we need to build our homes. And who doesn’t want a safe, well-built home? CTE produces all sorts of technicians from manufacturing to electronic to computer programming. Look around – do you have an electronic device near you, in your hand, or your pocket? Yeah, CTE was instrumental in making that.

As I look around the plane I’m taking from Minneapolis to San Francisco today, I realize CTE was instrumental in building this plane. I sure am glad that a high-quality CTE program trained the folks that built this plane.

Everywhere we look, we see examples of CTE

By now, you’re probably saying, “wow, CTE is everywhere!” And you’d be right. This country was built by our forefathers who were apprentices – and apprenticeship is a big part of CTE as well. In CTE I can get work-based learning experiences and explore careers to make sure the career path I am choosing makes sense for me. Pretty awesome.

I applaud the President for his bold proposal. I think it is desperately needed to make sure we maintain a strong, vibrant, healthy economy. We have to be careful in how we do it and that it doesn’t come at the cost of something else that is needed but I will tell you, investment in CTE is absolutely needed – just remember the need for CTE in your daily life the next time you grab a bite to eat, get in your car or on a plane, head to your hotel, your home, or office, or use a computer. CTE helped build it all, and without CTE, you simply wouldn’t have it.

This blog was originally written on February 14, 2020 for Realityworks, Inc. Click here to see the original.

How My Students Use a Classroom Garden to Grow Food for School Lunches

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on on January 21, 2020. You can see the original post here.

At the beginning of the school year, I had an idea: What if my students started a classroom garden that helped supply food to our school cafeteria? The students would have a hands-on, purposeful opportunity to learn about plant science. Plus we’d help our food services department cut costs.

I asked my administrators if I could test out a new plant lab garden system from Realityworks. I’m only in my second year of teaching, but they trusted me, and my request paid off. Now, the whole school benefits from nutritious salad greens that my students grow right in our classroom garden.

Engaging Students From the Start
When students entered my classroom in the fall, the first thing they noticed was the flashy and futuristic-looking equipment. They were immediately curious and excited to learn about this state-of-the-art indoor garden.

The process of growing produce was simple. The starter kit included everything we needed to grow 42 beds of butter lettuce. The kit came with seeds, reusable growing cups, Rockwool, and starter nutrients that have lasted us the whole year so far. It also came with a user guide, LED grow lights, fans, a water pump, and a seven-gallon water tank.

Teaching the Future of Agriculture
Through this hands-on classroom garden project, my students learned exactly how to grow food through a modern system of indoor gardening called hydroponics. Farmland is all around our school, so it’s hard for my students to imagine that hydroponics is rapidly becoming a popular way of growing food in our country. But this project helped.

In a nutshell, hydroponics is an alternative farming technique that’s great for areas that don’t have a lot of cropland. It eliminates the need for soil. Instead, it uses a water pump to circulate nutrients through Rockwool growing cups that hold plants. This helps grow healthy vegetables just about anywhere. Plus it allows farmers to easily maintain optimum growing conditions for their indoor crops.

Keep reading the original post by clicking here.

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