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.

Students learn new skills, help create new beginnings for others

Originally posted on October 11, 2019 by Lowe’s writer Samantha Pence | Read the original article here

What if you could make an average of nearly $60,000 per year without a college degree? That’s the current median salary of an electrician in the United States. Those who have been working in the field for years can earn even more, ranging up to six figures. With the current workforce nearing retirement age, it’s predicted three million skilled trade jobs will be open by 2028.

Currently, only five percent of parents in the U.S. expect their high school-aged students to pursue a career in the skilled trades. For those not interested in attending a four-year college, skilled trades are an alternative worth considering.

“Working in the skilled trades allows young people to be more creative, to play an important role in solving challenging problems with their own hands and using their talents to make our societies stronger and more vibrant,” said Jennifer Weber, Lowe’s Executive Vice President of Human Resources. “After gaining enough experience, skilled trades are the ultimate path to entrepreneurship and to creating opportunities to own your own business and become your own boss.”

Click here to continue reading the full article, which was published on October 11, 2019

Early Childhood Education Learning Lab opens at KCC

Posted September 16, 2019 for The Daily Reporter | Click here to read the original article

BATTLE CREEK — Early Childhood Education students at Kellogg Community College have a new space to hone their skills on campus this fall.

KCC’s new Early Childhood Education Learning Lab is a traditional college classroom refurbished earlier this summer to resemble a preschool classroom that will help train students to become educators. ECE officials at KCC say the new space supports national accreditation standards and provides students with better opportunities to apply their studies in a controlled environment where they can safely experience the types of situations they might face in the workplace.

Ann Miller, manager of Early Childhood and Teacher Education at KCC, said the new lab will serve as a training ground, giving instructors better opportunities to support individual learning with immediate feedback in a more clinical, consistent setting.

“We really wanted an opportunity to have a hands-on experience for the students in an environment that is safe for them to be able to explore and come up with different learning concepts and best practices,” Miller said. “And we’re intentionally aligning the space with what our students are expected to need in the field.”

This article was originally written for The Daily Reporter. Click here to read the complete article.

From a Maker Fair to a Fab Lab: How a Western Wisconsin school district is helping students develop in-demand skills

By Timm Boettcher, Realityworks President & CEO

In the first of this two-part series for ACTE’s Industry Connect blog, we profile a Western Wisconsin CTE program that’s doing some exciting things to engage CTE students.

Excitement was palpable as Altoona elementary, middle and high school students crowded into the middle school gym on April 25. The students were there to display a variety of handmade, interactive projects for the Western Wisconsin school district’s fifth annual Maker Fair. For the participants, the fair was an opportunity to show off projects that many had made using skills learned in the district’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses, like graphic design, woodworking and coding. For the organizers, the fair was an opportunity to celebrate how far the district’s CTE program has come since their first Maker Fair in 2014.

“When I started in 2014, I was the tech ed department,” said School District of Altoona Technology Education Teacher Jeffrey Ballentine. “Enrollment had been declining steadily since the mid-90’s, and we knew we had to make some changes. A makerspace was the first initiative we started, and with that initiative came a Maker Fair.”

In 2014, Ballentine was teaching one section of CTE courses to fourth-and fifth-graders and one section of CTE courses to ninth- through 12-graders each day, while middle school students received no CTE instruction. He typically saw no more than 10 students per class, and coursework focused on a more “modular” approach.

“Back then, we’d set up stations – a hydraulics lab station, a woodworking station, etc. Students would complete small tasks at each station, but not usually a complete project,” recalls Ballentine. “While they learned skills, this approach didn’t seem to carry as much interest with students – it didn’t give a real-world experience for them.”

To give Altoona students more real-world experiences, renew interest in CTE programs and address a growing skills gap in business and industry, the district started shifting toward a more project-based learning approach.

“When I speak with industry leaders in our area, they’re saying they want our kids to be able to do things like use a ruler, a tape measure, implement math into a program to operate a machine – things that require hands-on learning experiences,” said Dan Peggs, Altoona School District Superintendent, who was principal of Altoona Middle School when the shift towards more project-based learning was made. “Project-based learning is a way to let students flex a variety of tech ed ‘muscles,’ learn needed skills, work with tools and technology… in a way that suits them.”

Grants Enable Program Growth

In 2014, the district applied for and received a $20,000 state education grant to enhance science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) offerings for fourth- and fifth-graders, including a makerspace – and subsequent Maker Fair. This initiative gave Altoona students a chance to invent and create projects using resources like computers and audio/video editing tools.

“It’s a popular movement,” said Ballentine. “It’s about sharing how you made something and what your experiences were.”

The movement was so popular, in fact, that the next year – in conjunction with a $23 million referendum to remodel several district buildings – the School District of Altoona applied for, and received, a $25,000 grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). The grant’s purpose: to create the Altoona Intermediate and Middle School Fabrication Laboratory, or Fab Lab, in what was previously an elementary school multipurpose space.

“We’ve received several smaller grants, and we get some donations from our community,” said Ballentine. “But without that WEDC grant, I think that our Fab Lab would have been turned back into a gym, and we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

A project-based learning environment designed to provide students with the skills needed to create products and develop skills needed to meet workforce demands, the Fab Lab initially began with a laser engraver, a 3D printer, a vinyl cutter and Lego robot. In addition to equipment, the grant also enabled the district to add a second CTE instructor, Bill Steinke, so courses could also be offered at the middle school in response to increasing demand.

“Our administration believes in hands-on learning, and as a technology and engineering teacher myself, I believe in providing educational experiences that engage kinesthetic learners,” said Ballentine. “Research shows that kinesthetic learning better engages learners and bridges the gaps between theoretical learning and practice.

More student engagement meant higher demand for CTE classes. According to Ballentine, enrollment in the School District of Altoona’s CTE program has increased almost 5 times since the Fab Lab opened its doors in October 2016. That year, 14 sections of CTE courses were offered; during the 2019-2020 school year, Ballentine, Bill Steinke and Sarah Steinke, who joined the department in 2018 to teach fourth- and fifth-graders, will together offer 20 CTE courses. Classes now range from metal fabrication, building construction and welding to graphic design, mechatronics and digital fabrication. Fab Lab equipment has been added to as well; recent additions include traditional tools like welders, as well as a vacuum former, a 3D mill and a plastic injection molding machine.

“Not only do we have more sections available, but we have more kids per class,” said Ballentine, explaining that the district is also seeing more female students enrolled in CTE courses than ever before. “The key is to get them in early, continue them in the coursework.”

Stay tuned next month, when this article continues with a review of the industry partnerships that are helping to ensure program relevancy and reactions from Altoona students, whose CTE experiences are growing

Schooled in ag: School gives students a hands-on education

By Holly Kays | Published August 29, 2019 for the Smoky Mountain News | Click here to read the original article

With a new school year just begun, the 300 students who participate in Waynesville Middle School’s robust agriculture program now have an array of new woodshop equipment at their disposal. “In two weeks this will be like Santa’s little helper’s woodshop,” Noal Castater, agriculture teacher at WMS since 2010, said in an interview the Friday before the first day of school.

The equipment, which includes 17 pieces of woodworking equipment and eight engines, was purchased last spring thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Carolina Farm Credit Corporate Mission Fund. Out of 100 applications, 40 received funding, with an average award of $3,800.

Woodworking, power tool use and small engine repair are lifelong skills, said Castater, and it’s important for students to gain at least a rudimentary grasp of them.

Continue reading the complete, original article on SmokyMountainNews.com by clicking here.

New research points to benefits of high school CTE programs

Originally posted by Daniel Kreisman and Kevin Stange for EducationNext.org | Click here to read the original post

Since the publication of A Nation at Risk in 1983, policymakers and politicians have worked to stave off a perceived decline in the academic preparation of American students. Stubbornly low scores on international exams and signs that many U.S. graduates are ill-equipped for college and the workforce have lent urgency to this perception, and many states have made high-school graduation requirements more rigorous in response. As a result, American high-school graduates today complete more academic courses and more advanced coursework than they did three decades ago. At first glance, this seems clear evidence of progress.

Students from Aviation High School in Queens, New York, are some of the only high school students to compete against adult professionals in the annual national Aerospace Maintenance Competition.
Students from Aviation High School in Queens, New York, are some of the only high school students to compete against adult professionals in the annual national Aerospace Maintenance Competition.

But much of those gains have come at the expense of student participation in vocational, or career and technical education, classes—a broad category of coursework that encompasses everything from welding, to sports management, to computer science. Many praise this shift, arguing that vocational education in high school deters capable students from college and prepares them for “dead-end” jobs. Yet an opposing camp points to shortages in the skilled professions, noting that not all students are college-bound and that for some, vocational training may be the difference between high- and low-paying jobs. Pushing all students to concentrate on core academic classes at the expense of vocational study, advocates say, takes the focus off the occupationally relevant skills and credentials graduates need for a smooth transition to adulthood.

This raises a central question: What is the relationship between modern-day vocational or career and technical coursework and high-school graduates’ success in college or in the workforce? Is vocational education an off ramp to college foisted upon lackluster students, or a different and less costly path toward adult success? We examined high-school and college transcripts and labor-market outcomes for about 4,000 adults to find out.

Click here to continue reading the original post, which was published on EducationNext.org.

Tri-County gets 10k grant from Bayer to fund STEM project

Originally posted by Heather VanDenmark for the Herald Journal on July 27, 2019 | Click here to read the original post

REMINGTON — Employees from Bayer Crop Science of Remington recommended Tri-County Intermediate School receive a $10,000 grant from the Bayer Fund’s 2019 site grant initiative.

The funds from the grant will be used to improve the school’s hydroponics program, which offers students engaging experiences that will develop 21st century skills.

According to TCI Principal Brian Hagan, the funds will be used to purchase two vertical hydroponic systems. This will provide students the opportunity to learn a different type of hydroponics system for crops such as peppers and tomatoes.

This article was originally posted on July 27, 2019 for the Herald Journal. Click here to read the original post in its entirety.

At career camps, middle school students get hands-on experience with CPR

Originally posted by Rachel Alexander on July 9, 2019 for the Salem Reporter | Click here to read the original post

In mid-July, Sprague High School appears mostly deserted.

But one basement classroom teemed with excitement Monday as 20 students practiced chest compression, hooked up defibrillators and tried to listen to heart monitors over the din of people screaming, “I have an emergency!”

It was the first day of health services camp, a week-long program for Salem-Keizer middle school students taught by Sprague High School teachers.

At the start of camp, “most of them didn’t know each other. You could’ve heard a pin drop,” said health and sports medicine teacher Kimo Mahi.

Three hours later, the teens were working together to save the lives of their dummies while teasing each other.

Click here to read the original post, which was written by Rachel Alexander for the Salem Reporter on July 9, 2019

Career & technical education programs get funding boost to help fill need for workers

Originally posted on July 13, 2019 for abc27.com | Click here to read the original post

LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) – This year’s state budget includes millions of dollars of support for career and technical education programs. The goal is to help fill the high demand for skilled workers.

Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology is getting four million dollars extra this year, so it could expand its programs and train more students.

“If we had 1,400 employers with over 4,000 jobs seeking our close to 400 graduates, obviously most of them didn’t get the human resources they need, which means they can’t do the business that they need to do,” said Dr. William Griscom, the president of Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.

Several chamber of commerces in Pennsylvania say the need for candidates with career and technical education is higher than ever.

“When you have an institution that has been turning away thousands of enrollees because they just didn’t have the room or the space, and at the same time you’re turning away thousands of employers who say, ‘I need welders for this and I need this’…to be able to finally be able to put our money where our mouth is,” said Sen. Scott Martin.

Click here to read the original article, which was posted on July 13, 2019 for abc27.com

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