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5 Signs It’s Time to Update Your CTE Program

To view a multimedia presentation of this article, please click here.

Old equipment. Empty desks. Tuned-out students. These are the red flags that every teacher and professor around the world fears.

These warnings signify the worst for Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses: little student interest and low enrollment numbers. When paired with aging equipment that resembles an ancient robot junkyard more than a technical training center, it becomes clearer why some CTE programs are faltering in garnering more school- and campus-wide attention and traction.

However don’t assume these factors to be the end-all, be-all of your CTE program. Instead, consider it an indicator that an update might be necessary to return the flow of positive momentum to your CTE program.

Here are 5 signs that it’s time to roll up your sleeves and update your CTE program:

SIGN #1: Your CTE Program is Teaching Dated Technologies

Implementing training systems that look old, but still teach employable skills, is one thing.

Having students use training systems that feature skills that are now obsolete in today’s industry is a completely different subject.

With the advancement of technology being implemented in this Industry 4.0 era, new skills are needed to fill the 3.4 million expected manufacturing jobs to become available over the next decade. However those skills can’t be taught on decades-old training systems.

Smart sensors, network communications, PLC training, performance analysis – all of these new technologies are far more advanced than your father’s training systems. An update in technology means an update in skillset, which can only be taught using state-of-the-art training systems.Update CTE Training Program

By not focusing on the new set of industrial needs, you run the risk of leaving your students and your CTE program in the past.

SOLUTION: If your students are graduating from the CTE program, yet are having difficulty finding a job that can utilize their (outdated) skills, then you are in dire need of updating your training systems and curriculum.

There has, arguably, never been a better time in history to become interested in a manufacturing career. There are hundreds of thousands of high-paying manufacturing jobs available, literally waiting for someone to take them. But these jobs are remaining vacant.

Companies simply can’t find qualified workers with the correct skillset to fill these positions. And part of that is due to teaching dated technologies.

How Amatrol Can Help: When industry needs change, so does our curriculum. Amatrol employs a large development team, which consists of engineers, technicians, curriculum designers, and multimedia developers with a finger on the pulse of manufacturing, ready to make necessary changes when needed. We also listen to our customers, and make sure our training sets up your CTE program to succeed.

Ultimately, make sure that what you’re teaching aligns with what local industry needs, which leads to our next troubling sign…

SIGN #2: Your CTE Program is No Longer Aligned with Industry Needs

Update Your CTE Program with Instructor EffortStudents join CTE programs to learn the job-ready skills needed to find long-term employment. So naturally, when they graduate from the program, those skills should lead them to a career in manufacturing.

But what happens when the skills you’re teaching are no longer aligned with industry needs? It means your recently-graduated students already have an obsolete set of skills, and no job.

That would not necessarily be touted as a positive recruitment tool.

As mentioned, technology in the Industry 4.0 era is constantly changing. If your course isn’t adapting to these changes in real-time, then your students are suffering the consequences.

SOLUTION: To run a successful CTE program, the instructor will have to put in as much effort as his or her students do.

Instructors are not only asked to provide hands-on skills and thought-out curriculum to students on a daily basis, but they also have to keep working relationships with local industry leaders to ensure the skills taught and skills needed match up.

To ease your workload, try to create a larger conversation between Industry, Colleges, and High Schools. Get everyone on the same page, and come to an understanding of expectations for all parties involved. By opening up dialogue, you increase the likelihood of success for your CTE programs.

To take it one step further, consider visiting local industries and determine their needs. Show them what you are currently doing, and ask for their advice on how to make it better. Better yet, ask that Industry sends someone to your school to validate that your course is teaching the skills they desperately need.

Most companies would be happy to work with schools, especially if it could lead to a potential hiring pipeline in the future.

How Amatrol Can Help: We know how much teachers and instructors have on their plate already, and how overwhelming it can become at times. So let us help you out! Amatrol constantly monitors industry needs, and updates graphics, lessons, and assessments to ensure industry-relevant skills are being taught.

SIGN #3: Your Training Systems Look Old & Obsolete

#DidYouKnow: Students aren’t running out to buy the newest version of Pong. There is not a student black market for state-of-the-art beepers, and the pro/cons of cordless phones are not common discussions among classmates.

Let’s face it — students can be a tough crowd sometimes. But they like new technology.

So how can you try to sell a CTE Program to a student if your equipment resembles that of a 1970s Boeing 747? It’s impossible.Improve Your Career and Technical Education Program with Strong First Impression

Look, whether you like to hear it or not, students are going to have a strong first impression by what they see. If their first encounter into industry is littered with dirty, outdated training systems, you run the risk of playing into the stigma of manufacturing – which is old, grimy, and a place to stay away from.

Remember, a majority of students today were born after the year 2000 – so don’t try to pass off equipment older than they are as a state-of-the-art learning machine. Instead, consider an upgrade.

SOLUTION: For a moment, put yourself in the shoes of your prospective students during an open house. They might be searching for some kind of potential career, but they don’t know what exactly. Some might even be open to learning more about the first thing that catches their eye.

So when you roll out a fleet of grey-colored antiques, chances are slim that you’re going to attract the attention of any prospective student. If you must, keep the older-looking equipment (that is still up-to-date, of course) near the back of the room. Or better yet, don’t display it at all.

Additionally, think of ways to liven up your classroom or laboratory. If your training systems have moving parts or eye-catching components, place it front and center. Have your systems performing demonstrations, which should lead to more prospective students stopping to look.

(Some training systems are even painted to make their appearance stand out from the rest – we’re partial to Amatrol blue.)

How Amatrol Can Help: Our learning systems, which are designed by subject-area experts, feature industrial-grade components, highlight key industry skills, and come in both full-size and portable options. Simply put, they’re the best in the market.

SIGN #4: Your Online Courseware is Dated

Same argument, new section – if your curriculum looks like it was created for a Commodore 64, your students will tune out. And if your students tune out, word will spread about your program’s ancient software.

Update Your CTE Courses with New Technology and eLearningRemember, this generation of students was raised in a time of video games being widely available. If they didn’t own the newest game system, they would find someone who did, just so they could experience the enhanced graphics and gameplay.

If your online learning doesn’t mimic video games graphically, or in terms of engagement, then you’ve already made program recruitment and retention more difficult.

Learning job-ready career skills is always priority No. 1 – but don’t let engagement suffer because you’re married to dull software. Do some research, and find the best of both worlds.

SOLUTION: This fix is a bit simpler, as the ball is more in your court.

If your eLearning courseware is dated, the first step is to evaluate all of your options. Many online learning options have probably changed since the last time you looked around. So poke around to see what works best for your program.

Once you have discovered of options, schedule some visits with the vendors. Ask them to review your hardware and courseware, and request recommendations and evaluation access (or demos) – most will be more than happy to assist. By getting vendors involved early in the process, a courseware can be catered to your program’s specific needs while staying within your program’s budget.

By simply adding updated courseware to your CTE program, you’re showing students that you’re not only committed to their learning and engagement, but you’re also willing to have some fun along the way.

How Amatrol Can Help: Aside from Amatrol’s innovative training systems, we offer an unmatched learning experience thanks to our world-class eLearning and curriculum. While some companies can offer either hands-on learning or online curriculum, Amatrol succeeds in both areas of learning, setting us apart from any competitor. Want to try it first? No problem – we’d be glad to set you up with access for evaluation.

SIGN #5: Your Class Sizes Continue to Shrink

One year, you have a class of 20. The next year it drops a couple, then a few more the year after. Now, you’re struggling to reach enough attendees to keep the program going.

If your CTE class sizes are shrinking, it means what you’re currently doing to promote your program isn’t working.

And it’s nothing personal – you may be the most qualified instructor in the area. Your background may align perfectly with the message your program wants to push, and your training equipment is top of the line.

But something has made it so students are not readily coming to your program. As an instructor, it is your task to understand why more students aren’t joining the program, and how you can change it for the future.Update Your Career and Technical Education Course with New Curriculum

Simply ignoring dwindling class sizes could lead to your program’s ultimate demise.

SOLUTION: As mentioned previously, students like the newest and best things in life. So if you treat your CTE program as the never-ending wheel of training, and fail to make changes to adapt to the growing industrial technologies, then you’re essentially telling students that what they’re learning now is no different than 15 or 20 years ago.

And no students want to join a program that hasn’t altered its curriculum since their birth.

If your program needs more visibility, consider reaching out to school or local newspapers to do a feature story. Become active in school events, especially job fairs, networking events, and new student orientation.

Even better, get your current students involved in the recruitment process by giving testimonials. Your program’s message will be much more meaningful coming from someone their own age.

There is no such thing as too much publicity. So get creative, and find a way to speak your program’s truths to as many people willing to give it a listen.

How Amatrol Can Help: It’s not you – but if you’re convinced it is, Amatrol offers Instructor Training Courses during the summer at our Amatrol Headquarters. We’ve been doing it for more than 20 years, and have trained thousands of teachers to become better prepared and equipped to teach Amatrol products.

Our summer sessions will pair you with other instructors from all over the world, who are teaching the same type of program as you. Not only is it a great opportunity to share ideas with colleagues, but it also allows us to find the perfect training solution that would work best for your students and CTE program.

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About Wes Scott

Wes Scott is a former public high school teacher and journalist. 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 Wes on Amatrol’s TwitterFacebookLinkedIn, and YouTube pages.

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