Recently taking over as principal of Lakes Region Technology Center (LRTC) from Bruce Farr, who retired in June, Kathy Tetreault sees several trends in Career and Technical Education (CTE) for the upcoming school year.
“The most talked about trends revolve around job skills development and broader career pathways for all students,” she said. Some of these job skills are known as “soft skills,” which include critical thinking, problem solving, public speaking, professional writing, teamwork, and digital literacy among others.
“Our staff work diligently to provide our students with multiple opportunities to work on their soft skills through portfolio development and the opportunity to participate in our Work Based Learning program,” she said.
These opportunities are made available through career pathways, many of which are offered through Project Running Start, where students have the option to earn college credits while attending high school at LRTC.
“This allows students to begin their college pathway with credits toward their program at a free or reduced cost,” noted Tetreault, who previously served as Student Services Coordinator at LRTC.
As for thoughts regarding her new role, she acknowledged that her transition comes with some uncertainty due to the ongoing pandemic. “The main focus is allowing our students to remain in school and working toward their career goals,” she said. “Our work is to keep our focus on what is in the best interest of our students and meeting community needs.”
LRTC is one of 28 CTE centers throughout New Hampshire.
This week, the Portsmouth Sheraton Harborside hosted the 2021 New Hampshire Career and Technical Education (NH-CTE) Summer Learning Series. Several hundred career and technical education (CTE) teachers, administrators, school counselors, special educators, industry and postsecondary partners gathered to connect with one another, reflect on successes and challenges of the past two years, and plan for successful futures. The energy and excitement of in-person connecting and learning could be felt throughout the three-day learning series.
The event kicked off on Sunday, August 1st with a pre-conference reception and career cluster related professional learning community time. Non-profit and industry-related supporters of CTE were present throughout the event, sharing information and resources to support CTE facilities and instruction throughout New Hampshire. Vendors shared information regarding CTE-related software, equipment, supplies, financial aid, and career pathways.
On Monday and Tuesday, August 2nd and 3rd, the agenda was packed with collaborative work, educational sessions, industry panels, and the annual CTE awards. The event kicked off in the ballroom with NH-Career Technical Administrators President, Jennifer Haskins and NH-CTE Executive Director, Nicole Heimarck, welcoming the NH CTE community back to the first face-to-face learning series in two years and setting the tone for an engaging event. McKenzie Snow, the new Director of the NH Department of Education’s Division of Learner Support, welcomed attendees and shared her history and role.
Deputy Director of Advance CTE, Kate Kreamer, keynoted the day sharing a message of equity, inclusion, and continual improvement for CTE. She shared a national report, “Without Limits: A Shared Vision for Career Technical Education.” The afternoon sessions transitioned into breakout sessions that provided a range of opportunities, such as Linking CTE to Industry Certifications to Create Successful Pathways, Differentiating in the CTE Classroom, CTE and Industry Alignment: Transformation and Innovation. The early evening provided an opportunity for attendees to hear from industry partners including TRANE, Lincoln Electric, and Festo regarding developing industry partnerships, current and future technology integration in industry and the importance of skills-based credentials.
This work will set the foundation for local and statewide CTE centers kicking off the school year and to support learners and industry partners moving forward. Integration of online learning tools, skill-based industry credentials, and collaborative partnerships with industry are three of the focus areas for centers.
Stories of exemplary partnerships were highlighted at the event, such as the New Hampshire Automobile Dealerships Education Foundation and the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association’s. The need to continue building similar partnerships across industries was also discussed.
At Region 14 Applied Technology Center (ATC), which serves the ConVal School District and Jaffrey-Rindge School District, an emphasis on work-based learning (WBL) has led to an innovative partnership with Phaze Welding Technology Center. “Their welding program offers students the most authentic work-based learning experience we can offer as part of a Region 14 ATC course,” said ATC Director Jennifer Kiley.
Daniel Guillou, PHAZE Owner and Instructor, referred to it as an accelerated program, one they developed in partnership with the high school and the Department of Education. “It is not a traditional program that you would see in a typical school setting,” he explained. “There is a lot of information in a short period of time.”
To be successful in the program, Guillou said PHAZE assesses individual needs to create customized lesson plans so each student can earn industry certification. “The program is not graded,” he noted. “It is pass or fail, and failure is not something we accept, so we work very hard to get everyone to pass.”
While PHAZE does not engage in job placement, Guillou cited “a huge network in the welding industry.” “I share my network, and it is up to the student to make that relationship work with those contacts,” he said. “This is an introduction to the top of the ladder. The owners and CEOs at the top executive branch are the ones to get the resumes, and they walk to HR and have them schedule a test. These students bypass the usual process.”
The program, which began in early winter 2020, has already paid dividends for students. Out of the first cohort of students to go through the program, three out of five are working in the field and welding for local companies. “One of our students, Cale Skillings, just completed an internship with American Steel,” said Kiley, who said feedback has been overwhelmingly positive regarding the program.
“They are treated like adults with all of the respect and responsibility that goes with that,” she said. “If the students commit themselves to the work and the program, Dan is willing to work with them to meet their needs and allow them creativity.”
According to Guillou, the program underscores a critical need for welders in the area of which he said there are few. “SoClean Inc. needed safety railings built for their loading docks,” he explained. “The high school kids and I designed and installed the railings for SoClean.”
He said the students were able to learn the whole process to repair, build, and manufacture, while also acquiring more of an idea of what is involved with the whole manufacturing process. “The only thing the students are not learning is the time factor of people wanting it done ‘yesterday,’” he said.
Working with industry partners and community groups, Kiley said they were able to fund 5 students from Antrim to pilot the class. “The ConVal School Board has been generous in supporting this program through the local budget, allowing us to pay for 12 students’ tuition per school year,” she said. “Many students elect to continue their work after the school day and on weekends.”
For Guillou, the takeaway for the students is clear. “One of the most valued things kids get out of it is they are learning something that will immediately apply to their life when they get out of high school,” he said.
In 2019, Bruce Farr, Principal of Lakes Region Technical Center (LRTC), received the 2019 NHCTE Service Award, a recognition that underscores for him the importance of Career and Technical Education (CTE) itself.
“Everyone needs a balanced education,” he said. “Public education must provide our young people with an appreciation for the arts, academic skills, civic engagement and job skills.”
This need, he said, has always been top of mind for him.
“Growing up in rural New Hampshire, I witnessed the effect of not having the skills to be successfully employed and the benefits of having valued skills in the workplace,” he said.
For Farr, who has more than 45 years experience in CTE, a continuing issue is that the general public still does not know about this educational arm in the state.
“In many ways, CTE continues to be an unseen ‘jewel’ of public education,” he explained. “Those who have been enrolled in CTE programs or have volunteered in those programs clearly appreciate CTE. However, many of our citizens do not know the opportunities for our students.”
Noting he is personally and professional humbled at receiving the 2019 NHCTE Service Award, Farr expressed particular enthusiasm in his role at helping to modernize NH’s Alternative 4 (Alt 4) program.
“It is a customized process whereby candidates who are highly successful in their field, but lack the traditional formal 4-year teacher preparation degree, are better supported during the certification process,” he said.
The need for Alt 4, he said, cannot be overemphasized.
“A CTE instructor must not only have the ability to successfully teach young people, but they also need extensive firsthand knowledge of their trade/industry,” said Farr. “We have candidates who are willing to make that mid career change and we need to support them.”
He described Alt 4 as an “on-ramp for highly qualified people to enter the field.”
“Each individual’s skills are examined and compared to the state teacher competencies, which results in a plan that can be developed to assist him or her acquire those missing skills,” he said. “It’s a terrific program.”
In looking ahead for CTE and LRTC, Farr said he is excited that at the development of a more seamless transition from high school to either direct job placement or post-secondary school.
“The expansion of CTE to include a rigorous senior year where a student can be enrolled in college, intern in several businesses or start an apprenticeship will support this, too,” he added.
To learn more about LRTC, visit https://www.lakesregiontechcenter.org.
On April 2 at Nashua Community College, high school juniors and seniors are invited to Industry & Transportation/Manufacturing Career Discovery Day, an opportunity to learn about their various transportation and manufacturing programs.
Transportation programs include Automotive Technology, Aviation Technology, Collision Repair Technology and Honda Automotive Technology, while manufacturing programs feature Precision Manufacturing, CNC and Mechanical Design Technology.
“We have invited many of our industry partners from both the transportation and manufacturing industries,” said Samantha Belcourt, CTE Coordinator of Continuing Education, Nashua Community College. “Many of our partners also serve on program advisory boards, which help inform curriculum and ensures that our graduates are career ready.”
These relationships, she said, are crucial.
“They keep our programs current and relevant to the needs of industry,” she added.
Belcourt said the event is not just geared toward students with experiences in these fields.
“Seniors at the high school level who have not had exposure to these type industries are under the misconception that they cannot pursue a degree in these fields,” she said. “These programs, however, welcome students with all backgrounds and experiences.”
According to Karl Wunderlich, Department Chair of Transportation, Nashua Community College, the event also underscores the educational value available with the Community College System of New Hampshire.
“Why spend $100,000.00 or more on a four year education and not be able to earn that back within 5 years?” he rhetorically noted. “Our 2-year degree, for example, costing about $25,000.00 including tools, can help a student earn higher wages and more job security. A graduate working in this industry for 5 years can earn $100,000 annually or more.”
He said job placement in these fields for graduates is nearly “instant.”
“The rate of new people coming into this field is not keeping pace with those reaching retirement age,” he added. “All types of jobs available.”
Belcourt agreed and said community college education relies on partnerships with both educational leaders and industry partners.
“We depend on our industry partners to help align our programs with industry standards,” she said. “We can not only set the right expectations for out students, but create career pathways.”
Any educator interested in bringing their students to campus for Career Discovery Day can RSVP to NCC Admissions Director Laura Tremblay at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Career and Technical Education is often at the forefront when it comes to experiential, hands-on education, which is demonstrated in a recently announced collaboration between Seacoast School of Technology (SST) and Volvo Car University.
Spearheaded by Dan Enxing of Volvo Cars Exeter, SST is one of six schools in the nation–and the only high school–to receive a new Volvo s60.
“The goal is to get students working on relevant cars with new technology so they will be better prepared for the work place,” said Enxing, member of the Exeter Area New Car Dealers Association.
He said Volvo Corporate is putting “a lot into this program.”
“They will watch to see what effect it has on the schools and quality of student that graduates and enter the workforce,” he said.
Noting he advocated for SST to receive a pre-production car upon learning about the program, Enxing said he will donate all of the special tools the students will need to work on it.
“This program is where my future technicians will come from,” he explained. “If we can help get them working on cars with modern technology, it will benefit the students and dealers…There is a shortage of new technicians, and I see this [program] as one way to help students get excited about becoming a technician.”
According to SST Principal Sharon Wilson, this kind of collaboration with industry partners represents “the heart and soul of CTE.”
“It takes great learning opportunities and gives them a weight that can only be achieved by making it ‘real,’” she said.
This reality, she said, could could refer to earning college credits, obtaining industry certifications, or gaining work-based experience.
“We serve six different sending schools and are fortunate to be part of a local community that embraces our school and our mission,” she said.
Regarding the impact she envisions this collaboration will have for Automotive students at SST, it has for student learning
Noting the degree of sophistication for automotive repairs has increased exponentially, Wilson said this opportunity will help their students “be truly competitive and marketable.”
“We need to give them the most rich and diverse opportunities to hone their skills and challenge them,” she said. “This donation of a pre-production vehicle will open up new pathways for our students, making them more competitive candidates in regards to employability.”
In reflecting on the importance of CTE itself, Wilson said it is important the general public understand its role in today’s economic landscape.
“CTE programs allow students to earn credits while in high school at a significant financial savings while allowing them to better commit to a major down the road,” she said.
11 out of 12 SST programs have dual enrollment opportunities.
Last year, SST students earned 1,667 college credits while enrolled here,” she said. “The financial savings available to students from this is a game changer.”
Wilson said students in CTE are also more likely to graduate from high school.
“Nationwide, they have a 93% graduation rate, which is 13% higher than those who do not take CTE programs,” she said. “91% of students who take 2 to 3 courses in a CTE program also go on to enroll in college…These are important stats and paint a different picture than I think people generally have of CTE.”
To learn more about the SST, or its collaboration with Volvo, visit seacoasttech.com.