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Career-Focused Instruction Can Expand Students’ Horizons and Job Prospects, Panel Says

Building an effective career and technical education program in K-12 education requires strong partnerships between schools and regional businesses.

That point was made by each of the three presenters during a Friday morning session at the AASA national conference titled “CTE: Expanding Options for All Students and Creating Pathways for Success.”

Building relationships with local businesses is crucial in providing students with valuable apprenticeship and internship opportunities, the panelists said. The partnership policy between the school system and business “needs to reflect what we as a community need and how we can further actively engage with the community,” said Sandra Cerny, a teacher in the CTE program in the Temecula Valley Unified School District in Temecula, Calif. 

The three speakers highlighted how their programs’ career courses, such as computer science and engineering, benefit students when they correlate with the job openings in their localities and address the workforce needs of the community.

The goal of career-related instructional programs is to provide students with credentials that help them get employed.

Each speaker described his or her district’s CTE programs while emphasizing what one called the  “potential for student success.”      

To maintain an effective program, school administrators must constantly evaluate the career pathway courses and remove obstacles, such as school scheduling, that prevent students from enrolling in career-focused instructional programs.

“I say we’ve gotten a little smarter here in Ohio. It really shows you that academic performance isn’t just important, it's critical,” Brian Bachtel, director of career and technical education in the Kent City School District in Temecula, Ohio, said. 

A step necessary to sustain a successful CTE program involves the addition of new career courses to expand a student’s options. The speakers suggested ideas such as identifying electives that could be expanded into CTE courses.

“You have to ask yourself what the main outputs of that potential course would be. That’s how you identify a course that could benefit the student and the community,” said Cerny.

The panelists encouraged attendees to emphasize CTE in their school districts, providing them with resources such as booklets, websites and studies to improve existing programs. Fundamentally, the attendees were encouraged by Michael Connet, deputy associate executive director with Association for Career and Technical Education in Alexandria, Va., to “have a voice in the discussion of what your community needs.”

(Alexa Vazquez is a sophomore at Bonita Vista High School and an intern for AASA’S Conference Daily Online)

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