Career & Technical Education: Closing the gap

Are our children ready to make sound career decisions? How do our courses equip them to begin making some of those decisions while in high school?

One of the reasons American businesses aren’t hiring workers during the recession and recovery is because they can’t find qualified people to fill the positions in highest demand. In 2012, many of those job forecasts point to the fields of skilled trades, sales, accounting, information technology, healthcare, education, technical services, business, and engineering.

In order to better prepare students for life and work after high school, America’s best school districts (including the Fargo Public Schools) have laid the first bricks of a path for their graduates to close the gap between “qualified” and “hired.” This new path includes collaborative work between school districts, state organizations, colleges and universities, and local businesses. One of the curriculum areas in which it is most visible is Career and Technical Education, or CTE.

For its part, Fargo Public Schools currently offers 65 courses in 10 programs of study:

  • Business Education
  • Family and Consumer Science
  • Technology and Engineering Education
  • Health Careers
  • Information Technology
  • Marketing
  • Architectural Drafting
  • Automated Manufacturing
  • Automotive Technology
  • Construction Technology

One of the results of these courses is engagement, allowing students to decide if the area appeals to them as a possibility for post-secondary education and/or training. The courses themselves are designed to equip students with skills that will benefit them in workplace and daily life, in employment, and in specific careers. The skills themselves may suffice for an entry-level job in a single career area. However, advancement within it usually requires further study toward industry or post-secondary certification, or a two- to four-year college program. The era of the 4-year-degree as the standard to gauge career opportunity and success, as we know it, is over.

Within the Fargo Public Schools, several CTE instructors have already formed partnerships within the community that either bring the real world into the classroom, or add an impact opportunity for students’ efforts. Recent examples include an Auto Tech project to repair a fire-damaged plow truck for the City of Argusville; a diesel technology pilot program with area implement/heavy construction equipment dealerships; and an annual Construction Tech project to build homes for the City of Fargo. Others include working relationships between FACS classes and local child care centers; the District’s drop-in neighborhood daycare center at South High; Health Careers job-shadowing (multiple-visit) with area hospitals, clinics, and chiropractic, dental and veterinary practices; and on-the-job experience work agreements with local employers for Marketing students.

Looking forward, the District is expanding its use of Project Lead The Way curriculum: project-oriented engineering courses used in our high schools that is recognized by post-secondary institutions. FPS currently offers two PLTW engineering courses: Introduction to Engineering Design and Principles of Engineering. Two more will be added for next year.

At the state level, the North Dakota Legislature in 2009 dedicated funding for the Career and Technical Education Scholarship in order to give a boost to these educational paths. It provides a renewable $1,500 payment up to four years for any student who meets the criteria at an accredited North Dakota institution.

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