Incorporating high school career and certification pathways into industrial arts fields like automotive and woodworking, which fall under the STEM umbrella but can often be overlooked, is as important as mapping college pathways, Sean Cassel, an assistant principal at Seneca High School in Tabernacle, New Jersey, writes for Edutopia.
Cassel writes that his school’s industrial arts pathway began with designing a cluster of courses in the automotive industry, complete with certification opportunities. The effort required gaining accreditation from the Automotive Service Excellence Education Foundation and making connections with dealerships and repair shops.
- To recruit incoming freshmen into the program, the school utilized resources like video, social media and email announcements due to social distancing requirements during the pandemic. And to generate excitement, the school counselor and Cassel personally visited students to tell them they had been accepted into the program.
Career and technical education has regained traction in recent years as policymakers and education leaders have recognized that every student's end goal shouldn't necessarily be college, but that they'll still need training in specialized skills for well-paying careers.
Creating strong curricula for career and technical education pathways, however, requires collaboration with local businesses. Charleston County School District in South Carolina, for instance, partners with more than 100 businesses that help with on-the-job training, curriculum plans and employability training. The trick is to be collaborative with problem solving and be flexible, district leaders told K-12 Dive recently. Partnerships eventually become win-wins for both the district and the businesses, especially since they can connect graduates with jobs.
Some districts start exposing students to CTE career choices as early as middle school. The 2018 passage of an updated Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act allows school districts to spend federal money on career education and training programs at the middle school level. Some states, including Maine and Indiana, now require these opportunities to be offered. And some districts give 8th-graders the option of selecting a career cluster.
Computers, simulators and other forms of high-tech equipment used in these programs can also sometimes be overwhelmingly expensive for districts. To offset these costs, the U.S. Department of Education provides about $1.3 billion per year for CTE courses at the elementary, secondary and adult levels. The Pathways to STEM Apprenticeship program has previously provided $3 million to six states to help CTE students acquire post-secondary education that links them to careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
Other resources for CTE programs include Project Lead the Way, which develops curriculum for STEM classes, and Advancement Via Individual Determination, which offers professional development that aims to eliminate the achievement gap.