Aligning Education with Career Pathways

2013-12-29T08:00:00Z Aligning Education with Career Pathways
December 29, 2013 8:00 am

Former Secretary of Education William Bennett, author of Is College Worth It, found that there are about 21 million people in higher education - about half the people who start four year college never actually finish, and for those who do finish half are either unemployed or radically underemployed and in debt.

He also looked at alternatives to traditional four-year college, which include entering the workforce prior to college, joining the military or going to a two-year community college. In one example, he discovered how graduates of Jefferson College of Health Science and Nursing in Virginia make more after two years than those from the prestigious University of Virginia in Charlottesville after four years.

The difference can be attributed to a growing trend across the country.

By linking academics and real world experience, Career Technical Education (CTE) purposefully relates school-based learning with the knowledge and skills required for success in the workplace. With research indicating 39 percent of US employers are experiencing difficulties when it comes to finding employees with the skills they need, CTE focuses on preparing students for a specific career path.

“As young people begin to think about their future after high school, it is critical that they know employment opportunities and what it takes to get the jobs of tomorrow so they can plan to achieve their career goals,” Linda Woloshansky, President and CEO, Center of Workforce Innovations, Inc., said. “To help students with that planning, CWI as the managing partner of READY NWI and in partnership with our Career and Technical Education Directors, has developed an awareness and information session for counselors, teachers and faculty to be delivered by the experts. These experts include career pathways and labor market consultants, employers from Northwest Indiana, and even students completing their education.”

On Wednesday, January 8, nationally-known College & Career Readiness Consultant Matt Fleck with Fleck Education Services, LLC and former Director of Indiana CTE, will welcome attendees to Harre Union on the Valparaiso University campus for an “Update on Career Pathways: A Career & Technical Education (CTE) Professional Development Program for Counselors and Teachers.”

Following Fleck, Woloshansky will provide a brief update on high demand jobs and career paths. Then, a unique student/parent panel will provide their insights on CTE programs in the region. Audra Peterson, Director of Career Technical Education for LaPorte County at the AK Smith Career Center in Michigan City, will serve as moderator.

There will also be a networking dinner with a presentation by guest speaker Anthony Sindone, Continuing Lecturer of Economics at Purdue University North Central along with a dynamic panel of northwest Indiana business leaders discussing jobs and career paths as well as what skills are required to secure them - including a special preview of regional career clips featuring local employers who discuss their industry and the career opportunities they offer - plus a wrap up with closing remarks from Don Babcock, Director of Economic Development for NIPSCO.

“Students graduating from high school today will be shaping the economic destiny of our country,” Jon Groth, Director of Career and Technical Education Porter County Education Services, said. “Our graduates will be entering an increasingly complex and globally competitive workplace environment. That is why it is so important for today’s young adults to leave high school with technical skills and positive workplace attitudes. They need to experience their future careers while still in high school. In our programs, we promote lifelong learning and the value of education. Our students leave high school well-prepared for their futures.”

Groth, who has been in his role for 20 years, embraces “providing the opportunity for everyone to be successful at work” because “if you love what you do, you will never work another day of your life,” recently had the opportunity to meet a manufacturing employer who is experiencing difficulty when it comes to finding skilled workers.

“Indiana State Senator Ed Charbonneau stopped by during a tour of the area with various employers,” he explained. “One particular manufacturer who fills a very specific niche is finding the need for skilled workers difficult to fill. We discussed how we could direct students with some of those skills who have proven trainable. What we’re discovering is that these specialties are as valuable as getting a Ph.D. It’s exciting to be working with an opportunity like this from the ground level.”

With 1,100 students (15-20 percent of Porter County students) enrolled in 35 different programs, Porter County Career & Technical Education exposes them to a variety of local career opportunities in agriculture; architecture and construction; arts, AV technology and communication; business and marketing; education and training; health sciences; hospitality and human services; information technology; manufacturing; public safety and transportation.

Likewise, students in LaPorte County can learn more about local careers in advanced manufacturing technology, agricultural sciences, automotive service technology, construction technology, cosmetology, culinary arts, early childhood, electronics and computer technology, engineering, facility maintenance, health careers and welding.

In Lake County, students get the CTE experience at the Area Career Center in Hammond, which is led by Mike Zimmerman. Programs tied to local jobs include auto technology, collision and refinishing technology, computer information technology, construction technology, cosmetology, criminal justice and law, culinary and pastry arts and sciences, dental assisting, digital imaging and design, early childhood education services, entrepreneurship academy, health careers, industrial maintenance/welding and multimedia broadcast.

Earlier this year, a video exploring “Success in the New Economy” was produced in partnership with Citrus College in Glendora, CA to appeal to a broader audience on what it’s going to take to be prepared for tomorrow’s labor market realities.

Leveraging his expertise in higher education and CTE, writer/narrator Kevin Fleming reiterates the highlights from recent conference presentations and research literature to create a compelling data-driven perspective on the importance for students to receive both hands-on, technical training as well as theoretical, classic education as part of a balanced approach to life and career preparation.

For example, conventional wisdom suggests that a university degree guarantees a higher salary. But with rising education costs, a shrinking job market and the oversaturation of some academic majors in the workforce, this old advice is now a myth for a majority of students. The economy and the world have dramatically changed. Over the last three generations we’ve gone from 13 percent of the population stepping into a college classroom, to 60 percent attending some form of higher education.

Today’s CTE programs are preparing high school students to help drive America’s success and vitality by partnering with employers and improving pathways to college and career readiness.

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