While academic debates still persist regarding whether today’s student requires more hands-on training or academic rigor to succeed as an adult, such discussions miss a key point.
“There is a real career to be had in the trades that is quite lucrative with the right education,” said Karen Machado, principal at Manchester School of Technology (MST).
In promoting the viability of Career and Technical Education (CTE) in the state, barriers extend beyond academic circles.
“There are programs where you can earn a degree to become a teacher, business manager, engineer and more, but many parents and students still do not realize that,” she said. “There is also a great salary with these jobs and many opportunities for female students, too.”
Recently featured in The Hechinger Report, MST has distinguished itself in recent years for its emphasis on creating opportunities for CTE and academic teachers to actively collaborate in educating students. As one example, Machado cited a Biology class in which a group of students had previously failed one or two times.
“They needed to experience Biology in a different manner,” she said.
At MST, this “different manner” led to a collaboration between their Horticulture teacher, who had expressed an interest in team teaching an Ecology course, and Biology teacher. The Horticulture teacher conducted the hands-on experiences outside while the Biology teacher conducted in-class direct instruction and experiments.
“Nearly all students will successfully finish this course,” said Machado. “The same was the case for our Manufacturing teacher teaching Physical Science with a Geometry teacher. Adding that relevance piece makes all the difference in the world when teaching students.”
The need for such collaborative teaching methods does not just represent best practice in the industry; rather, it addresses real needs in industry today, as she cited CTE as an important player in the state’s economic development.
“Now more than ever, businesses have a desperate need to fill these positions with the best experienced employees,” she said. “CTE will help to keep these young talented minds in the state of New Hampshire. This is so true now with the low unemployment rates. We need to keep our talent in state.”
In discussing how CTE works, Machado said it is important to note how it has changed through the years. She described it, as do most professionals in the CTE industry, as relating to “career pathways,” which are not necessarily straight or even linear.
“In our school, students who are motivated create their own pathway,” she said. “The beauty of students being at MST full-time is that they find the way to take two or three CTE programs. Sometimes, students take courses on VLACS in the summer to make room in their schedule for the needed time for CTE. Some students take architectural engineering and then go into carpentry.”
She said she has even had a student who completed two years of carpentry and then went into the Firefighter Program in the first semester and completed the EMT program in the second semester as a senior.
“One problem that has come up is that students are wanting to take a 5th year of high school to take more CTE programs,” she said. “They are truly seeing the benefit of becoming educated in high school instead of paying for it later.”
This article represents the first of several articles that will take a deeper look at MST and the larger context in which their programs have been developed to better meet the needs of students and industry.