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CTE Partners: How Can Employers Help Educators Develop Relevant Career and Technical Education Programs?

CTE Partners: How Can Employers Help Educators Develop Relevant Career and Technical Education Programs?Leaders of industries across the nation share a similar challenge today: finding skilled workers to fill the many open positions in advanced manufacturing facilities. In fact, many of them are asking the same question, “How can employers help educators develop relevant CTE programs?”

Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs at both the high school and post-secondary level can create a pipeline of skilled graduates ready to work in today’s technologically-advanced manufacturing firms. However, this can only happen if the nation’s schools are teaching the skills today’s manufacturers need.

According to Advance CTE, “Schools and colleges across the nation have found innovative ways to connect with industry to strengthen their [CTE] programs. However, with a growing skills gap and rapidly changing workplace, more must be done to ensure educational institutions have the capacity to prepare each learner to succeed in today’s economy.”

To help guide the efforts of the nation’s employers as they seek connections with educators to improve CTE programs, Advance CTE, in conjunction with the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) and Business Leaders United for Workforce Partnerships (BLU), recently published a new resource: Cheat Sheet: Opportunities for Employer Involvement in CTE (“CTE Cheat Sheet”).

Using the ideas laid out in the CTE Cheat Sheet, we’ll summarize the most effective ways employers can generate interest in their industries, give students career advice, and help educators develop relevant CTE programs. Here’s a quick summary of what we’ll cover in this article (click any header to jump to that section):

What Is CTE in Education?

CTE or career and technical education consists of teaching middle school, high school, post-secondary, and adult students the core academic, employability, and technical, job-specific skills they will need to pursue certifications, degrees, and high-wage careers in more than a dozen areas, such as STEM, manufacturing, logistics, information technology, construction, agriculture, and training.

What Is Perkins V?

Passed in 2018, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) reauthorized and updated the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, providing approximately $1.3 billion each year to help CTE programs grow and improve to meet the demands of an economy being rapidly transformed by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

How Can Employers Generate Interest in Their Industries?

A fundamental first step toward bridging the skills gap involves getting students interested in the industries that desperately need skilled workers. In its CTE Cheat Sheet, Advance CTE outlines several opportunities for employers to engage in student outreach activities, including:

  • Participating in career day events
  • Guest speaking/teaching
  • Hosting student field trips

How Can Employers Give Students Career Advice?

As students begin to develop an interest in various industries, it’s only natural that they would seek advice regarding the careers that interest them. In its CTE Cheat Sheet, Advance CTE sets forth several ways for employers to guide students as they research potential careers, including:

  • Mentoring interested students
  • Offering job shadowing events
  • Providing work-based learning opportunities

How Can Employers Help Educators Develop Relevant CTE Programs?

Close partnerships between educators and industry experts can shape future CTE programs to ensure students are learning the skills employers need most. In its CTE Cheat Sheet, Advance CTE recommends a few ways employers can offer their expertise to educators, including:

  • Offering teacher externships
  • Participating in industry advisory boards at local schools
  • Donating relevant training equipment

Amatrol - What Is CTE in Education?What Is CTE in Education?

Before jumping right into how employers can help educators to develop relevant CTE programs, it’s important to make sure that we define what CTE is in education.

According to the experts at Advance CTE and ACTE, CTE or career and technical education consists of teaching middle school, high school, post-secondary, and adult students the core academic, employability, and technical, job-specific skills they will need to pursue certifications, degrees, and high-wage careers in more than a dozen areas, such as STEM, manufacturing, logistics, information technology, construction, agriculture, and training.

Rather than traditional education based upon theory, CTE focuses on relevant technical skills applicable to specific career pathways. CTE students gain invaluable hands-on experience that enables them to better understand and prepare for high-demand, real-world jobs.

CTE programs have developed over time and are more important than ever. In fact, Amatrol recently took an in-depth look at the evolution of modern CTE programs and their importance in creating a skilled worker pipeline: Evolving CTE Programs Can Help Bridge the Skills Gap.

Amatrol - What Is Perkins V?What Is Perkins V?

The continuing importance of CTE programs in the struggle to help bridge the skills gap was verified by the passage in 2018 of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act — more commonly known as Perkins V.

Perkins V reauthorizes and updates the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins IV). The law reflects the federal government’s continued commitment to provide approximately $1.3 billion each year to help CTE programs grow and improve to meet the demands of an economy being rapidly transformed by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Perkins V funds are administered at the state level by designated agencies. These agencies must submit an initial state plan to the U.S. Department of Education by April 2020. Eligible recipients of Perkins V funds, such as local schools, community colleges, and technical centers, must then submit local applications to their state agencies.

State agencies must seek advice from many entities throughout the state regarding state plan development. Local recipients are also required to consult with multiple groups as they conduct needs assessments related to their CTE programs.

Perkins V thus offers employers multiple opportunities to get involved with CTE at both the state and local level. According to Advance CTE, “[i]t is critical that business and industry leaders play an active role by providing their expertise, time, and resources in true partnership with state and local education leaders to deliver on the value and promise of CTE.”

Employers and industry representatives can play an important role at each stage of the process. For example, they can provide critical information about the local job market, including available jobs and the types of skills they require. Employers can also offer input and feedback on draft plans and applications throughout the process.

Amatrol - How Can Employers Generate Interest in Their Industries?How Can Employers Generate Interest in Their Industries?

A fundamental first step toward bridging the skills gap involves getting students interested in the industries that desperately need skilled workers. Before high schools and community colleges can build a pipeline of skilled talent, they have to get students into the CTE programs that are the foundation of that pipeline.

Currently, more than eight million secondary students and almost four million post-secondary students are enrolled in CTE programs. Those numbers leave plenty of room for growth for the nation’s CTE programs.

How can employers generate interest in their industries? In its CTE Cheat Sheet, Advance CTE outlines several opportunities for employers to engage in student outreach activities, including:

  • Participating in career day events
  • Guest speaking/teaching
  • Hosting student field trips

According to a recent article by Al Frattarola, the Global Director of Engineering and Technology at Southco, “[o]utreach — the earlier, the better — has proven to be a valuable and effective approach to developing future…staff. The start can be relatively small and simple: arranging ‘show and tells’ at local schools (on career day, for example) to explain what a company manufactures, with sample products and exciting videos that show off what goes on within the local factory’s walls.”

Participating in career day events, in particular, allows employers to engage with students as they share information about their industries. As students think about their futures, employers can open their eyes to possibilities they’ve likely never considered before. Click below to watch a video about Amatrol’s Robotics Engineering Summer Camp, a popular annual outreach event:

As employers begin to make connections with CTE instructors in local schools, guest speaking opportunities may arise. The privilege of teaching part-time or lecturing as a guest can allow industry experts to speak to students directly about how their CTE courses will directly impact their future jobs.

How valuable would it be to answer that popular question: when am I ever going to need to know this? Guest speaking engagements let employers connect the dots between the classroom and the working world for curious students.

As employers nurture relationships with CTE instructors and administrators at local schools, they can offer to treat students to a tour of their local facilities. What student doesn’t love a field trip?

There’s no better way to show students what the real world is like than by letting them see what a day in the life of an employee looks like. In fact, thousands of companies have taken positive steps toward changing student perceptions of their industries by participating in annual Manufacturing Day events produced by the National Association of Manufacturers (“NAM”) and the Manufacturing Institute.

Not sure how to get started? Check out this handy guide to learn how to Host an Event. Click below to watch a video from a recent Manufacturing Day at Amatrol:

How Can Employers Give Students Career Advice?

Amatrol - How Can Employers Give Students Career Advice?

As students begin to develop an interest in various industries, it’s only natural that they would seek advice regarding the careers that interest them. Who better to advise them than the people who currently hold those jobs?

How can employers give students career advice? In its CTE Cheat Sheet, Advance CTE sets forth several ways for employers to guide students as they research potential careers, including:

  • Mentoring interested students
  • Offering job shadowing events
  • Providing work-based learning opportunities

Many schools have developed mentoring programs to offer students career guidance from professionals in the local community. Successful mentoring programs connect students with industry leaders in their areas of interest.

For employers, it only takes a few volunteers a little time to share what they know with curious students. The impact for the students, however, can be huge if the advice they receive helps them to direct their efforts toward finding a high-pay, in-demand job in a field they like.

Some employers take mentoring one step further, offering job shadowing events to interested students. Students with an interest in a particular role within an industry can spend “a day in the life” of a maintenance technician, machine operator, network engineer, or production manager.

More in-depth than a traditional field trip, job shadowing allows students to get a better sense of the range of duties a particular position might include. Extended exposure to the workplace environment provides students with real-world experience they can’t get anywhere else.

Once students focus on a specific career path, employers can do students and themselves a huge favor by providing work-based learning opportunities. These usually take the form of paid internships, apprenticeships, co-op programs, or part-time jobs.

Al Frattarola of Southco notes that his company has had great success with internships. Although “[t]hese types of programs do require investments of time and resources…the payoff can be significant: With the right program, it’s much easier to turn interns into full-time [staff] who will be dedicated to the company from day one.”

How Can Employers Help Educators Develop Relevant CTE Programs?

Amatrol - How Can Employers Help Educators Develop Relevant CTE Programs?

While connecting with students is a great outreach opportunity, perhaps the most beneficial relationships employers can cultivate are with local school administrators and CTE instructors. Close partnerships between educators and industry experts can shape future CTE programs to ensure that students are learning the skills employers need most.

How can employers help educators develop relevant CTE programs? In its CTE Cheat Sheet, Advance CTE recommends a few ways employers can offer their expertise to educators, including:

  • Offering teacher externships
  • Participating in industry advisory boards at local schools
  • Donating relevant training equipment

Employers know all too well how rapidly advances in technology are changing the modern workplace. CTE instructors and other faculty, however, don’t always have the time or resources to keep pace with these changes.

Offering teacher externships allows employers to educate the educators about changes in technology and the skills required to excel in the new positions being created. Summer break can be a great time for employers to host instructors for workshops that will get them up to speed on the latest updates to technology, machinery, processes, and roles within the company.

Employers can also offer advice more directly by participating in industry advisory boards at local schools. Industry partnerships benefit schools by incorporating industry experts into the process of reviewing, developing, and revising CTE curriculum.

Amatrol - Advanced Manufacturing Fundamentals (AMF) - Industry 4.0 Fundamentals (I4F)

As noted by Advance CTE in its CTE Cheat Sheet, employers can also:

“provide guidance on industry standards, certifications or program facilities and equipment, and review program curriculum for secondary and postsecondary institutions. They may also advise on which occupations are in demand and which CTE programs in local districts and postsecondary institutions should be added, eliminated or revised.”

Opportunities for effective partnership are out there. For example, The Saratogian recently reported that the Hudson Valley Community College’s Office of Workforce Development invited regional manufacturers and training partners to take part in a roundtable discussion about how the college could help bridge the skills gap faced by local industries. Forty representatives from both private and public organizations took part “with the hope of finding better ways to recruit new employees” and “encourage more young people to enter the manufacturing fields.”

Since modern CTE programs focus on teaching in-demand technical skills by giving students hands-on experience with real industrial equipment, it’s critical that administrators and CTE instructors receive advice and guidance from local industry experts regarding the skills to be taught and the types of equipment students will encounter on the job.

Schools can then seek funding, such as Perkins V grant money, to purchase curriculum and equipment to teach a wide variety of in-demand technical skills that will prepare their students for available jobs. For example, Amatrol, the world’s leader in skills-based, interactive technical learning for industry and education, offers two comprehensive programs focused on teaching students the skills they need to thrive in either advanced manufacturing (Advanced Manufacturing Fundamentals (AMF)) or technologically-advanced Industry 4.0 jobs (Industry 4.0 Fundamentals (I4F)).

Click below to watch Bob Sexton, a former educator and one of Amatrol’s current curriculum experts, give an overview of Amatrol’s I4F program:

Many employers will have firsthand experience with quality training equipment that they’ve used in-house to train new employees or teach new skills to current workers. Employers who want to ensure that local CTE programs teach relevant skills are uniquely positioned to donate industrial training equipment to schools to give students hands-on experience with the machines they will use on the job.

Next Steps

Advance CTE’s CTE Cheat Sheet offers employers a wide variety of suggestions they can use to generate interest in their industries, give students career advice, and help educators develop relevant CTE programs. CTE instructors and administrators can also capitalize on these suggestions by sharing the CTE Cheat Sheet with employers in their area. Forging partnerships between educators and local industry will reap huge rewards as CTE programs are shaped to teach students in-demand skills that will allow them to step into available positions in local facilities.

 

About Duane Bolin

Duane Bolin is a former curriculum developer and education specialist. He is currently a Marketing Content Developer for Amatrol, Inc. Learn more about Amatrol and its technical training solutions, including eLearning, here and connect with Duane on Amatrol’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube pages.

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