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Dual Enrollment Programs Pave the Pathway to Career Success

How do you prefer to communicate with family members, close friends, and co-workers? The options today are numerous: instant message, tweet, snap, text message, or even — if a non-emoji-enabled technology will have to do — a phone call.

Of course, some people fondly remember the days of the landline and what a revolution it was to be able to simply talk on a cordless phone, let alone carry a mobile telephone equipped with the Internet around 24/7. The technological advances of the past several decades have changed our lives in ways most people never imagined.

Although it might seem like things can’t get much more advanced than they already are, technology will continue to reshape our lives in the decades to come. In particular, technological advances will transform our workplaces in ways we don’t yet fully understand.

An Uncertain Future

For example, the World Economic Forum predicts that 65% of children entering primary school today will one day work in new types of jobs that don’t currently exist. Likewise, a recent survey by Deloitte revealed that 47% of today’s jobs could be gone in the next 10 years, including 20% of assembly jobs in manufacturing.

Given an uncertain, yet certainly-shifting future of work, how should instructors guide students looking to prepare themselves for future careers? Today’s instructors must encourage students to match their interests and talents with in-demand skills and roles that will likely be needed in a future workplace transformed by advanced technology.

One increasingly-popular way to do this is to encourage students to explore dual enrollment options at the high-school level. These courses, especially those with a career and technical education focus, can help pave the pathway to a successful career.

Tremendous Growth

Dual enrollment programs — also called dual credit or concurrent enrollment programs — allow high school students to take college-level courses in conjunction with local community colleges. In addition to satisfying high school requirements, students also earn college credits, often at a greatly-reduced rate compared to normal college tuition fees.

Participation in dual enrollment programs has grown rapidly over the course of the past decade. The most recent data available comes from a report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) from the 2010-11 school year.

At that time, 82% of all public high schools offered dual enrollment programs, with a total of more than 1.4 million students taking college-level courses for dual credit. Those numbers represented a whopping 72% increase from the 2002-03 school year.

Dual Enrollment Delivers

It comes as no surprise that dual enrollment programs are popular. Students get a taste of more challenging material while also earning college credit, which not only saves them money on college costs but also can reduce the time it takes to complete a college degree.

But do dual enrollment programs deliver on the promise of preparing students for college? Recent research suggests that the answer is yes. A study by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College and the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center concluded that students who participate in dual enrollment programs are more likely to graduate high school, go to college, and ultimately earn degrees more quickly than their peers.

A CTE Focus

Fortunately, dual enrollment programs continue to expand and, as they do, more and more programs include courses with a career and technical education (CTE) focus. According to NCES data from the 2010-11 school year, almost half (49%) of schools had students taking part in dual enrollment courses with a CTE focus, such as computer science or manufacturing.

This equates to more than 600,000 students participating in CTE dual enrollment courses. As U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos noted during her 2017 visit to Florida’s Valencia Community College, “dual-enrollment and advanced manufacturing programs are creating impressive opportunities for students.”

Dual Enrollment Benefits

The benefits of dual enrollment programs with a CTE focus can’t be overstated. Their continued growth will provide numerous advantages to students, educational institutions, and industry alike.

Students

For students, the benefits of CTE dual enrollment programs keep growing. In addition to earning cheap college credits, which can reduce future costs and shorten their time to a degree, some students in robust dual enrollment programs can even earn an Associate Degree during high school.

As students gain experience with real-world equipment and learn hands-on skills, they’re able to explore a variety of careers while graduating with marketable skills that could lead to a job straight out of high school. In fact, those earning industry-standard certifications as part of their dual enrollment programs can often go straight from high school into middle-skilled, high-paying jobs at local manufacturers.

For the many students who continue on to some type of post-secondary education, certifications and real-world experience give them a distinct advantage when competing for internships, apprenticeships, and other opportunities. Future employers are keen to find students who have already demonstrated that they have skills valuable in the workplace.

Schools

Dual enrollment programs also greatly benefit the community colleges that develop and sustain these programs. As noted previously, dual enrollment programs help prepare students for college and lead to higher high school graduation and college entrance rates.

This is especially true for those programs with a focus on CTE. According to Advance CTE, students who take CTE courses are much less likely to drop out of high school than other students. Experts estimate the high school graduation rate for students that concentrate in CTE is approximately 95%, which is about 10% higher than the national average.

Importantly, over 75% of students that concentrate in CTE enroll in a post-secondary institution after high school. Community colleges that cultivate students through dual enrollment programs help to show students the pathways that will lead them to college and ultimately a career.

Industry

In addition to the benefits enjoyed by the students and schools involved in dual enrollment programs, there are also benefits for industry and the economy as a whole. Many community colleges partner with local manufacturers. Thus, industry representatives have the opportunity to support and influence dual enrollment programs by helping educational institutions understand the roles they need to fill and which skills employees will need to succeed in industry.

This is especially important in today’s manufacturing environment, where a tremendous skills gap has left manufacturers in desperate need of highly-skilled workers to fill open positions. For example, recent statistics from the Department of Labor reveal that October 2018 set a new all-time record of 522,000 open manufacturing jobs (an increase of 37,000 over the previous month). This workforce crisis isn’t likely to get better any time soon, as long as the number of overall job openings (more than seven million) exceed the number of people looking for work (six million).

Many entities are working to close the skills gap, though, and there is reason for hope. In December 2018, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) published a five-year plan to improve STEM education in America.

The strategic plan envisions an interdisciplinary approach to STEM education that “includes the teaching of academic concepts through real-world applications and combines formal and informal learning in schools, the community, and the workplace.” To that end, dual enrollment programs that focus on CTE will continue to be important tools to elevate the level of STEM education and prepare students with the skills they will need to be successful in the workplace of the future.

A Real-World Example

A great example of a CTE-focused dual enrollment program can be found in Scott County, Indiana. Students at high schools in Scottsburg, Austin, and Crothersville can gain college credit through a dual enrollment program developed in conjunction with Ivy Tech Community College and the Mid-America Science Park (MASPark)

MASPark is an innovative science park dedicated to career and technical education and local workforce development. Its Training & Workforce Development Center features an impressive 3,500 square feet of training space, including an Amatrol industrial training lab with real-world advanced manufacturing and green energy training equipment.

Credits & Certifications

The two dual enrollment programs currently available focus on welding and advanced manufacturing. For example, welding students can earn both an American Welding Society certification in stick welding, as well as nine college credits.

Likewise, advanced manufacturing students can earn six college credits toward an Associate of Applied Science degree, while also earning industry-standard certifications in safety, quality practices and measurement, manufacturing processes and production, and maintenance awareness as part of the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council’s (MSSC) Certified Production Technician (CPT) program.

Students can begin taking these classes as early as 10th grade. Motivated students who complete both programs could graduate high school with a full semester’s worth of college credit in hand, as well as multiple industry-standard certifications. The prospects for such students are bright indeed.

A Win-Win

Robert Anderson, Superintendent of Scott County School District 1, believes the dual enrollment program represents a great partnership that has fostered productive collaboration between schools and local industry:

“It’s created a partnership between some of the employers and the school system, opened up a dialogue about what the needs of each other are. Manufacturers and other employers, they’re looking for good employees and it’s to their advantage also to see our kids excel. It’s kind of helped get us on the same page and help understand what we all need and what we all want. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Kyle Mullins, the CTE teacher at Scottsburg High School, leads the dual enrollment program and concurs with Anderson:

“Our [CTE] opportunities offered to Scottsburg High School students at [MASPark] in welding and advanced manufacturing are cutting-edge and allow students an innovative opportunity to compete for jobs in the 21st century. Upon graduation from our programs, students will be prepared to have a huge impact on today’s high-performance manufacturing industry.”

Mullins uses a blended approach with students, including “e-learning, practical industrial maintenance and production experience, and collaboration with industry members in real-world manufacturing scenarios.” He works hard to build relationship with local manufacturers, structuring his curriculum to address the skills gaps they need to fill while also securing internship and job-shadowing opportunities for his students.

With Mullins’ help, students get hands-on experience with real-world equipment to develop advanced technical skills. These skills have great value in the job market for those who want to go to work immediately upon graduation. For those who wish to pursue a post-secondary degree, they will already have college credit that will help them achieve their degree more quickly.

A Trusted Training Partner

For educational institutions looking to build robust dual enrollment programs, Amatrol offers a wide variety of comprehensive training solutions that combine in-depth multimedia eLearning curriculum with high-tech physical trainers that teach hands-on skills with real-world industrial components.

With more than three decades of experience designing and manufacturing state-of-the-art training systems, Amatrol remains the world’s leader in skills-based, interactive technical learning for industry and education.

Amatrol offers learning systems for a wide variety of in-demand skill sets useful throughout industry, including: power and energy, controls, manufacturing processes, design, fluids, fluid power, thermal, electrical, electrical motors, mechanical, communications, robotics, computer integrated manufacturing, mechatronics, and automation.

Visit Amatrol online to learn how you can leverage its technical training expertise to train tomorrow’s workforce today. Together, we can bridge the skills gap and continue to transform the global workforce one life at a time.

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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