Career Technical Education forges new alliances with industry, academics
Choices fan out to include arts, technology, medicine as well as ag and shop
Statistics show kids connect, do better with a career course under their belt
And while teens aiming for universities will still fill the seats in higher math and advanced history classes, they may also dabble in hands-on courses that match their interests and round out their resume.
Career technical education has left its parallel, but separate, path to provide extra lanes moving toward being college and career ready. Recognition has dawned that college kids need the common sense and communication skills career courses develop, and career classes need to up their academic game.
“The mentality’s changed. It’s not either or, career technical education or college. The pathway involves bringing the academic and hands-on instruction together. I think we're going to see a lot more of that,” said Mary Whited of the Merced County Office of Education.
“Just keeping up with technology – even automotive is not exactly like it used to be. Repairing a 1973 Chevrolet is not the same as working on a 2015 Chevrolet," she said.
It’s how we turn kids on to their future. Elaine Post, Atwater High marketing teacher
“They have to have a passion for it,” Whited said.
In Stanislaus County, the districts largely provide their own career paths, with the Stanislaus County Office of Education providing countywide events and classes for the expelled and struggling students it serves.
A fresh focus on getting kids ready for the more demanding and fast changing jobs market they will enter has renewed interest and revived funding for hands-on classes. California has designated $900 million over the next three years as matching grants for CTE programs.
A vast spectrum of career choices across 15 industry sectors – agriculture to fine arts, police training to video game design, fashion to finance, hospitals to hospitality – now tempt students to try something new.
“Sometimes it’s the reason students come to school,” Whited said. “I think it brings relevance to their academics, why they're learning it. It brings it all together.”
Research backs them up. Statistics have fueled the career courses boom, including these noted by the California Department of Education on its CTE web page:
- Attendance in a CTE program more than doubles the rate of college entrance for minority students.
- A 90 percent CTE student graduation rate in high school versus only 75 percent average nationwide graduation rate (2008 figures)
- High–risk students are eight to ten times less likely to drop out as juniors or seniors if they enroll in a CTE program.
- Students who complete a blended academic–career curriculum are more likely to pursue post-secondary education (79 percent), have a higher GPA in college and are less likely to drop out of college in the first year
I think it brings relevance to their academics, why they're learning it. It brings it all together. Mary Whited, Merced County Office of Education
Patterson Unified worked with the city of Patterson to attract industry and with industry groups to provide certification of their program graduates. The PHS program also aligns with a Modesto Junior College career training programs, giving students a direct path into jobs-focused college courses.
Modesto high schools will start a 10-week Manufacturing Practicum next year, where students from Modesto City Schools campuses involved in ag classes, technology, welding, robotics and the sciences will work together, said Jeff Albritton, senior director of alternative and vocational education.
“They will come together for an evening class where they will learn about the wide variety of manufacturing jobs in the area. I am gathering industry partners to speak to these students and planning some tours for this group of students,” said Albritton via email.
Some of them go in (to an internship), they’re afraid to even speak. But by the end they’re so confident. Karen Mihok, Oakdale High health-science teacher
- Career Technical Education is the big tent, offering the full range of courses in 15 job sectors – agriculture to transportation -- that link learning and living for students in high school and community colleges.
- The California Career Pathways Trust, created in 2014, funds programs linking businesses, high schools and community colleges that essentially provide job training ladders. High school courses align by design to feed graduates into community college programs to serve high-need employment sectors.
- The University of California has approved 63 courses designed as career technical classes for college prep credit, counting as what are called A-G courses. The UC Curriculum Integration, a collaboration of high school and college instructors, aims to combine core academics with real-world applications.
- The California Career Resource Network offers middle school through high school help in deciding on a career and on knowing what is available to help kids get there.
“It’s changing now. It’s not CTE or college; the message is not either-or, it’s really both,” Whited said.