I think that I speak for all my NC3T colleagues when I say that I’m still catching my breath after last week’s ACTE VISION conference – it was a wonderful experience (as always), and we stayed very busy with our booth in the expo, participation in pre-meetings and pre-con workshops, and hosting and attending a number of breakout sessions. I’m already looking forward to next year’s meeting in Anaheim.
Before the conference officially started, I participated in two different industry forums. The first was the Workforce Development through CTE Summit, in which representatives from multiple trade associations joined to talk about how they could work together to address their workforce development challenges. The second was hosted by NCCER and focused more specifically on meeting workforce needs in the construction industry. (I moderated the first, sat on a panel for the second.)
In both cases, one of the most prominent questions was: With such a strong push for four-year college, how do we expose students to CTE and get them interested in exploring the tremendous opportunities available to them? To be clear, there are a large number of people doing great work on this front, but the fact remains that a lot of students – the majority of whom will one day enter the workforce – have no idea what CTE is or how it can help them prepare for their futures.
The answer that resonated most with me: Put students to work in visible ways.
For students already in CTE or a Pathways program, let them do real-world work that will be visible to their fellow students and to the community. Construction students can build everything from trophy cases to homes, all of which can be highly visible to their fellow students. Have your agriculture students grow flowers that are used to improve the atmosphere of the school or at least special events, or ask your culinary program to run a small café or cater community events. Have your IT students perform tech support for students and the community. It just takes a little creativity, and the work that students do will not only provide students with great experiences, but their work will serve as the best advertisement you could ever run.
For prospective students, don’t be just another adult talking at them – they’ll tune you out. Instead, give them an opportunity to do something firsthand. Offer a tour of your program and have activities set up for them to do. Run a challenge, and let current students act as project mentors. Get them moving and doing, and they’ll see firsthand what you offer, and how enticing it is to them based on their interests.
CTE/Pathways students are creatures of action – use that to your advantage to build community and student support!
Brett Pawlowski is Executive Vice President of NC3T, the National Center for College and Career Transitions (www.nc3t.com). NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance and tools to help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education.