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.

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

Las Vegas School Connects Disadvantaged Kids to Careers

By Devin Bodkin | Originally posted 6/4/19 in Idaho Ed News

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Darlin Delgado’s past inspires her pursuit to help students in poverty.

“I was one of them,” said Delgado, principal at Las Vegas-based East Career and Technical Academy.

Delgado’s family migrated from war-stricken El Salvador to Sin City when she was a child. The search for a better life wasn’t easy. She didn’t speak English, and her father’s job as a dishwasher at the Dunes Hotel didn’t pay much.

An attentive teacher eventually reached out to the young girl, stressed the value of an education and gave her some helpful resources.

That gave Delgado a purpose, she said, and inspired her to one day become a teacher.

Today, connecting disadvantaged students to careers is a hallmark of Delgado’s school, which operates in one of Las Vegas’s poorest areas.

Despite the challenge, the academy’s emphasis on career-technical education is helping students in poverty surpass state averages in areas where they typically fall behind.

Click here to read the original article in its entirety, which was originally published on June 4, 2019 On IdEdNews.org.

State CTE Policies Hard at Work: Florida College Starts Mechatronics and Electromechanical Technician training program with job growth grant

For Career & Technical Education programs to succeed, collaboration between business and education must occur. As President & CEO of Realityworks, Inc, I’ve seen firsthand the impact of successful partnerships: Not only do students learn valuable academic, technical and employability skills, but they do so through relevant, workforce-driven programs that provide valuable real-world, hands-on learning opportunities.

State CTE policies are a key part of successful industry-education collaboration. In previous blog posts, I explored the welding and manufacturing program that Michigan educators worked with industry representatives to expand thanks to funds from House Bill 4313, and the health occupations program that Oregon educators worked with local businesses to develop with funds from a career-readiness grant. This month, we’re looking at St. Petersburg College (SPC) in Pinellas County, Florida. In April 2018, the four-year state college was awarded a $1,596,858 grant to start a Mechatronics and Electromechanical Technician training program.

Read the full article from ACTE’s Industry Connect November 2018 blog here.

Harper working to tackle the skills gap

The “skills gap” has become a popular buzzword, and for good reason. In 2016, nearly half of U.S. employers reported that they faced difficulty filling jobs due to lack of available talent. Both nursing and manufacturing in particular face a critical shortage of skilled workers, a trend driven largely by the aging baby boomer generation.

Just look at the stats:

  • By 2024, there will be more than 1 million job openings in the U.S. for nurses.
  • Over the next decade, 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled nationwide.
  • And in Illinois, middle-skill jobs overall (requiring education beyond high school but not a four-year degree) account for 53 percent of the state’s labor market, but only 42 percent of the state’s workers are trained to the middle-skill level, according to the National Skills Coalition.

 

Click here to read the entire article published on the Harper College website. 

Manufacturing today offers a new world of opportunity

It’s National Manufacturing Month, and that makes October a great opportunity to take a fresh look at the industry’s role in our nation, our state and right here in Hopkins County. Its opportunities are real and growing, and they might be a good bit different than you imagine when you think about the industry.

 

For example, modern manufacturing is evolving into a more diverse sector, as much about creating things as producing them. The old perceptions of grimy plants, tedious manual tasks and dangerous machines are giving way as advanced technologies such as 3D printing, computer-aided design and robotics play a larger and larger role in bringing about our products.

 

“New jobs in modern manufacturing extend beyond shop floors and laboratories into offices, state-of-the-art tech centers and even your living room,” write the National Association of Manufacturers and Manufacturing Institute at their recruitment website, CreatorsWanted.org. “Everything that is made needs smart thinkers and doers to invent, market, distribute and maintain revolutionary products.”

Click here to read Ray Hagerman’s complete article published on The Messenger website.

Workplace Learning Is Central To Closing Skills Gap

Workplace learning that bridges the gap between employee skills and company needs is critical to every firm. Knowing what talents workers bring to the table currently and predicting which skills a company will need to succeed in the future is tricky. Experts say focus on reducing the impact of automation. How? Help workers develop soft skills such as communication, adaptability and critical thinking.

Key to closing the skills gap is creating a culture of workplace learning, says Kelly Palmer, co-author with David Blake of “The Expertise Economy: How the Smartest Companies Use Learning to Engage, Compete, and Succeed.”

“The skills gap is a very real thing, and if (leaders) are not encouraging employees to learn, it might not happen,” Palmer told IBD. “Simply sending employees to class alone is not working.”

Click here to read Adelia Cellini Linecker’s compete article published on Investor’s Business Daily.

How transformative tech can address the skills gap within construction

Technology is evolving at a rapid pace, with new devices and products being introduced on a daily basis to help enhance the workplace. It could be argued that the construction industry has been slow in bringing this in, and is yet to undergo a major transformation.

Firms now find themselves in a difficult position as they compete to an international completion, and having to deal with more complex projects and concepts. The threat of skill gap has also meant many companies lag behind compared to any other industry. This leads to many projects having a number of complications and delays which can be avoidable in this day and age.

Alongside this, the industry also suffers from an ageing workforce which may not be used to modern technological advances, resulting in a major skills gap amongst many companies in the industry. Thus, there is the incentive to retrain workers to be able to operate new technology and attract young people who are technological natives into the industry.

The industry needs to embrace transformative technologies in order to cater for the changing sector and to address the skills gap. This transformative technology includes hardware and software that are designed to bring about positive and more reliable changes for the benefit of workers.

Click here to read Tevor Horsley’s complete article published on the Construction Global website. 

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