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.
Regardless of age or background, many people learn by doing, which is a principle that guides Dave Harkless, who teaches Project Bike Tech at Hugh J. Gallen Career & Technical Center in Littleton. “Students get to build bikes, work on bikes, and ride bikes,” he said.
The two-year Career and Technical Education (CTE) program is not just fun, however, as it helps students understand career pathways within the bicycle industry and prepares them for entry-level positions as bicycle technicians or retail associates. “Students learn valuable job skills and more about jobs in the bike world, too,” said Harkless, who also owns Littleton Bike & Fitness.
“There’s a really high demand for bike mechanics right now, and we can’t even keep up with it,” he added. “We know that when our students do finish the program that there will be a place for them in the workforce.” He said students also learn a variety of other skills that translate into the workplace. “They learn teamwork, accountability, that they have to be on time, and how to use tools — these are basic skills that they can take forward,” he said
Aside from providing students with “great hands-on experience,” Project Bike Tech benefits surrounding communities, as the majority of the bikes go to non-profits, schools and other community-based programs. “We sent a dozen to Riding for Focus, which is a program that provides an energy outlet for ADHD and hyperactive students during the day,” explained Harkless. “We’ve also sent 30 to the Boys and Girls Club, 25 to Copper Cannon Camp, and 15 to White Mountains Regional School.”
Upon program completion, students earn two certificates. One certificate is endorsed by CTE, while the other as an entry-level bike mechanic/assembler is endorsed by members of the bicycle industry. “As the student enters the bike industry, employers know the training is standardized and supported by the cycling industry,” said Harkless, who said he has hired some former students. “We weren’t starting at square one with this,” he said. “They already had good skills.”
A full service CTE facility offering a wide variety of foundation classes for students throughout the North Country,Hugh J. Gallen Career & Center is one of 28 CTE centers throughout New Hampshire.
When people think of culinary programs offered at New Hampshire’s more than two-dozen Career and Technical Education (CTE) centers, they likely think of skills related to food preparation, which only tells part of the story. “CTE helped prepare me for industry in many ways,” said Sarah Howland, who graduated from Concord Regional Technical Center’s Culinary & Pastry Arts program in 2015. “It helped me develop people skills and a sense of professionalism.”
Now Banquets and Catering Kitchen Manager at Fratello’s Italian Grille in Manchester, Howland said her experience in CTE was important because it gave her an idea of the restaurant industry itself. “CTE taught me to multitask and work efficiently in a fast-paced environment that can be stressful,” she said. “The program helped me grow as an individual personally and professionally.”
For Adam Parker, who will take over Culinary & Pastry Arts in the fall from Chef Bob McIntosh who has led the program for 20 years, Howland’s CTE experience is not necessarily unique. “I’ve been on the program’s advisory committee for the past three years and seen first-hand how CTE in general can shape a student’s perspective on their future,” he said.
This perspective is built on tangible life skills. “Culinary and Pastry Arts teaches the fundamentals of cooking and baking along with social skills, team building, and individual development within an overall progressive learning environment,” said Parker. “These lifelong skills build confidence, leadership, and a tenacious hunger for knowledge built on goal-oriented daily development.”
As former Director of Operations and Corporate Chef at Fratello’s, Parker also hosted Students-to-Work events and sponsored a culinary scholarship for SkillsUSA NH competitors. “I’ve hired students, some of whom now run their own kitchens,” he added. “In a state struggling to find people to work, CTE is a solution we can tap right now in hospitality and other industries across the state…Sarah’s experience is one of thousands of success stories statewide in a variety of CTE programs.”
Educating students from nine surrounding area high schools through programs that provide specific, career education in career pathways aligned with current and future employment needs, Concord Regional Technical Center (CRTC) is one of 28 CTE centers throughout New Hampshire.