Career Technical Education — it’s the new buzz in education, along with Common Core, and there’s a pot of money out there to help.
“There is a lot of CTE stuff happening in our region,” said Christopher Moore, associate superintendent of Educational Services for El Dorado Union High School District. “We belong to a 25-district consortium, along with the El Dorado County Office of Education and Black Oak Mine School District, representing about 80,000 high school students in the Capital region.”
Working with the Capital Region Academics for the New Economy with its pathway industry workgroups, community colleges, county offices of education and K-12 school districts, Moore said, “We are forming regional partnerships, investing in our training facilities and focusing on higher-wage/higher-demand jobs — training for careers, not just giving kids electives. Our core academics and our core CTE programs are challenging, rigorous classes with high expectations.”
“Industry is fearful of investing in training because employees often leave,” said Moore. “People used to leave high school and be career ready, but that is no longer likely because most higher-paying jobs require some post-secondary training. The traditional plan for graduating from high school and getting a supporting job, and one day retiring from that job, has changed, especially since the recession. Now, people graduate from high school and they spend time learning and earning before being able to get a full-time job in their chosen career. Retirement is a transitional process over time.”
The unemployment rate for those aged 18-30 is the highest in the nation, at 16.3 percent, even for those with graduate degrees. It’s the highest unemployment this age range has been since 1972. Sixty-three percent of 18-30-year-olds who are employed are in service or retail positions instead of in their chosen careers. Industry wants more than degrees — they want experience.
With CTE, students acquire technical skills required for employment in business and industry; maximize achievement through contextual learning; learn to function in both predictable and unpredictable circumstances; are mentored by an adult, gain employment experience and references and increase the likelihood of high school graduation and success in post-secondary education.
“Post-secondary education can be an apprenticeship program, certification, community college or a four-year college,” said Moore. “Transportation is a huge issue for our students up here, so we’re advocating for more CTE programs to be offered along the Highway 50 corridor.”
In order to be considered college ready, students need to be able to take college classes without requiring remediation, said Moore. “Our rigorous academic courses prepare our students for post-secondary education and CTE gives them real hands-on training and experience.”
EDUHSD is adding several new CTE programs to the district line-up in the 2014-2015 school year as well as full student and parent access to college/counseling software to help navigate through a six-year pathway. CTE is the first step in training youth for a career and provides a bridge to completing that training after high school graduation. Students are encouraged to formulate a “Six-Year Plan,” mapping out courses for four years of high school and the two following graduation.
“We looked at job data — what industries are growing in our region and what jobs are needed through 2020,” said Moore. “We also looked at what post-secondary training is available and where. We’ve made changes, added some new programs, deleted others.”
One example is the addition of a diesel engine CTE class at Ponderosa High.
“We’ve always had a strong agriculture program,” said Moore, “but what is needed now is agricultural mechanics — shipping, heavy equipment, tractor engines.” The program will enable students to pursue careers repairing and maintaining farming equipment, heavy equipment, personal vehicles and diesel generators like those used by hospitals for back-up. “Those careers pay about $45,000-$70,000 a year and students can go on to American River College or Sierra College to complete their certification.”
A second curriculum response to a future need is a four-year engineering program at Union Mine High School which includes robotics.
Another high-demand, high-wage industry is information and communication technology.
“There are so many programming opportunities in our region,” said Moore. “We added AP computer science to CTE last year and now we’re planning to expand it. We’d like to offer it to ninth and tenth grades in the future.”
Students may select CTE courses to meet the high school graduation requirement of one year of career technical education, foreign language or Visual and Performing Arts courses. CTE courses are like AP courses in that a student can earn post-secondary credits for classes directly tied to curriculum at local community colleges like Folsom Lake College, American River and Sierra College.
“They can enter a course pathway and already have one completed class under their belts,” said Moore. “Our aim is to reduce the number of post-secondary dropouts and increase the likelihood of success. CTE needs to be meaningful; the chances of students dropping out are reduced if they have knowledge and skills.
The state is no longer providing specific funding for ROP programs, but it includes a base funding for CTE, allowing districts to allocate resources through local control funding.
“We’ve always run our own ROP programs and we’ll allocate the funds to continue them,” said Moore.
Two hundred and fifty million dollars in career pathway grants from the state is available to community colleges, K-12 and charter schools with matching community partners. CRANE has applied for a $15 million grant which would give additional funds to each district in the consortium, if awarded.
“I want to debunk the idea that schools are focusing on academics and getting students into four-year colleges — we are looking at how can we train our students to get high-paying, high-demand jobs that will support them and their families,” said Moore. “We are revisiting and reinvesting in preparing our students for career and college readiness and I’m proud of the offerings we have. I’m looking forward to the potential for a regional framework for how we train our young people. Education doesn’t stop at 18.”
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.