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Being Successful in Today’s Global Environment

Monday, May 5th, 2014

By Gary Wixom
Assistant Commissioner for Career and Technical Education
Utah System of Higher Education

I recently read an article detailing the challenge businesses are having today attracting and keeping skilled workers. Businesses are finding that it is not enough to find employees that fit their requirements, but are struggling to keep them. One of the solutions being suggested for companies is to build a career map for their employees. What is a career map? A career map for employees in a business is a clear pathway of professional development available to employees within the business entity.

This career map provides an employee with a clear, transparent “road map” for employees to grow, develop, and advance within the company. In turn, the company grows and advances. Most businesses understand that the success or failure of the company rests squarely on the skill level, and the productivity of their entry and mid-level employees. These are the individuals who are the backbone of the company—keeping these employees satisfied and progressing within the company brings success to the company as a whole.

If having a career map is important for a business to succeed in today’s global economy, having a well-defined career map is also essential for all students. What does a “career map” look like for a student? A career map for a student has the same characteristics of the career map for employees within a business.

A career map for a student should start early and provide a clear pathway through the educational environment of middle school, high school, and postsecondary training. Flexibility is an essential component, giving students clear direction but offering a pathway to a variety of professional occupational choices leading to jobs and careers that provide a living wage.

A well-defined career map for a student should provide a clear pathway to not only the completion of high school, but also completing the requirements by taking a rigorous course of study that gives them the skills that prepare them to be “College and Career Ready”. In the global world that we live in, everyone needs a set of basic skills that prepare them so that they can acquire the skills that lead to productive employment at a level that provides a livable standard of living.

As a student, ask yourself, do I have a career map? Be sure that you have a well-defined career map that will help you complete high school with a career pathway that leads you to a professional occupation of your own choosing. Need help creating the map? Visit with your parents, a teacher, or a career counselor and create a career map for yourself. Make sure it is written and then post it on your wall where you will see it regularly. The result will increase the chances of you achieving the goals that you have for yourself in providing an exciting a successful future.

STEM 101

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

By Mary Shumway
State Director of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
Utah State Office of Education

If you live in the U. S., the buzz surrounding “STEM” is unavoidable. But the lack of a clear definition of STEM – or even its component parts (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) – may have us buzzing without fully recognizing basic differences in our understanding. “STEM 101” is an effort to increase your awareness of STEM, and to recognize the various foundations upon which different conversations about STEM are based.

The buzz around STEM began with debates in education and immigration as concerns were raised about a lack of qualified candidates for high-tech jobs. The STEM buzz also fed into concerns about the way subjects were being taught “in silos.” Science and math are long-recognized “core academics,” and the introduction of technology and engineering to the mix was an effort to highlight the need to apply science and math in better integrated curriculum.

The U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) published their first STEM-Designated Degree Program List in 2008, identifying college majors associated with occupations for which foreign workers were needed. In education there were efforts to help students understand rigorous academics by applying science, technology, engineering and math in “real-world” contexts, and assuring that students were developing the 21st century skills that would make them college and career ready. The buzz grew, and there were other groups that saw value in associating with STEM.

Utah has its share of organizations, partnerships and government agencies working to increase participation in STEM including the STEM Action Center. The STEM Action Center was funded in the most recent session of our state legislature, and charged with:

>Supporting instructional technology and related professional development.

>Developing the STEM education endorsement and related incentive program.

>Promoting STEM in middle school, in part through enhancing CTE-Intro.

>Promoting STEM education initiatives that result in certifications in high schools across the state.

So, what’s a person to do? Perhaps this background has only served to confuse you further, but here are the two main points: (1) There is no universally accepted definition of what STEM is. (2) The emphasis you see on STEM is the result of various (and many) efforts to make STEM – be a STEM industry, a STEM program of study, or a STEM occupation – more attractive. You, as a student or potential worker, are being asked to invest your time and other resources (college tuition), so you need to know how to critically analyze the information about STEM being offered. Dr. Kris Dobson (an expert in career assessments, occupational data, and college and career planning), advises everyone who is exploring their college and career options – STEM or otherwise – to ask some key questions as they consider career information:

S – Consider the source of the information. Is it a college or company that is motivated to recruit new students or workers, or is it an organization that is a respected developer of descriptive economic information?

T – Look twice. Think about the information as a whole; does it make sense on the surface? Then break it down to consider specific claims (about STEM industries, education, occupations) that are being made and judge the validity of those claims.

EEvaluate the information based on the methods used to gather, analyze and interpret the data. For example, if information comes from a survey, who conducted the survey, and who (and how many) answered the survey?

M – Finally, ask yourself whether the information is meaningful to you, and – if so – how it can be applied in your decision-making?

In today’s complex world, where information is readily available, but not always of high quality, critical thinking is a key to making good decisions. Is critical thinking a “STEM skill?” What do you think? What do you know about the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in occupations that are of interest to you?

President Obama Supports CTE and Career Pathways

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

By Gary Wixom
Assistant Commissioner for Career and Technical Education
Utah System of Higher Education

February was Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month. All across the country people were celebrating the important contribution that CTE is making to individuals, to communities, to the economy, and to the nation’s labor force as the United States struggles to get its economy moving. The unemployment rate is dropping, but the economy is not growing as fast as it should and one of the reasons is that jobs are still going unfilled because we don’t have enough workers with the skills that are necessary to fill those jobs.

Students graduating from high school today are facing challenges that others who have come before have not faced. Just a few years ago, a high school diploma and a little determination meant a high school graduate could enter many industries and earn a livable wage and launch a career. Today, the chances of that happening are getting slimmer each year.

In the State of the Union address, President Obama indicated that 2014 needed to be year of action, and that our challenge was to help the country to maintain its edge in the global economy. He said, “Here in America, our success should depend not on accident of birth, but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams.” The President emphasized that career and technical education training that prepared people for work was the key and that we needed more programs that linked high school programs to college programs where students could learn the skills that employers need.

Part of the answer to the needs of the labor market is to have quality CTE programs. Arne Duncan, the secretary of education recently said, “The president and I believe that high-quality CTE programs are a vital strategy for helping our diverse students complete their secondary and postsecondary studies. In fact, by implementing dual enrollment and early college models, a growing number of CTE Pathways are helping students to fast-track their college degrees.”

More and more CTE Pathways are being developed across the state of Utah. These CTE Pathways when fully developed connect the high school sequence of courses to a postsecondary certificate or degree. Students who are engaged in these CTE Pathways are having great success, and finding careers that are fulfilling and provide good wages. Check out the CTE Pathways that are available in your high school and schedule a meeting with your school counselor. He or she will provide you with information about how the pathway you are interested in pursuing will connect to postsecondary training, education, and to a career.

Education Requirements for the Jobs of Tomorrow

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

By Mary Shumway
State Director of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
Utah State Office of Education

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released occupational projections for 2012-2022. (You can see the Overview of projections to 2022 in the Monthly Labor Review, December 2013.) The BLS publishes outlook data for a total of 818 occupations, and reports that four occupational groups will likely account for about one-third of the total employment growth. They are: Healthcare, Healthcare support, Construction, and Personal Care.

Occupational projections are just a part of the information developed by the BLS. BLS information of particular interest to students is the education level typically required in order to enter an occupation. BLS analysts assign an education level for each occupation, based on what is typically needed to get that first job – from “less than high school,” to “doctoral or professional degree.” However, the BLS complements the education level with information about work experience and on-the-job training. As most any experienced worker will tell you, being on the job is critical to achieving full competency in almost any occupation. Today’s emphasis on “stackablecredentials” and “lifelong learning” reflects that reality. “Credentials” refer to various forms of validation of skills and knowledge – such as diplomas, certificates and licenses – often pursued as workers come to understand ways of advancing in their careers. “Stackable” describes the way these credentials are often achieved – one stacked on top of another. Stackable credentials, education, experience, and training are all parts of lifelong learning, and your career success will depend on it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The education level assignments made by BLS analysts are reflected in the most commonly-used career information systems, including UtahFutures. It helps you know what education you’ll need to start in an occupation of your choice, but lifelong learning ensures that’s not where your career ends.

What is an Educated Person?

Monday, January 6th, 2014

By Gary Wixom
Assistant Commissioner for Career and Technical Education
Utah System of Higher Education

Every year during the fall, educators from Utah gather in a meeting room to discuss and consider the question “What is an educated person?” Those in the room are not really confused about what an educated person really is, but in defining and considering the topic, educators can make progress in learning how to educate others.

We usually think of education as a process that we go through and at the end we receive a certificate or degree. But education is much more than a piece of paper detailing competencies that we have learned. The philosophers tell us that education is the process of learning about life, and that without education and “truth” we are not really free.

According to Tony McGregor 1, an educated person has some of the following characteristics.

  1. An educated person has empathy and understanding of other people.
  2. An educated person is sensitive to the needs of others.
  3. An educated person has a clear understanding of their own values, wants,
    and preferences without imposing them on others.
  4. An educated person is independent and takes responsibility for their own actions.
  5. An educated person connects and interacts with the world around them.
  6. An educated person is comfortable with who they are, their own feelings and the feelings of others.

Along with the educated person’s characteristics, an individual needs good technical and employability skills. Employability skills are often referred to as “soft” skills and include things like a positive attitude, understanding how to work hard, being able to communicate well with others, being able to work together with others in solving problems, basic computing skills and showing up on time. These skills along with good technical skills are what make a person prepared for a productive future.

Career and Technical Education programs are designed to help individuals gain these skills and move students along the path to becoming educated. As we look to a new year, take a look at the great opportunities that are available through Career and Technical Education programs at your institution. The doors of the future will open for those who are “educated”. Make sure that you are prepared for that future.

1http://hubpages.com/hub/Chracteristics-of-an-educated-person

Mind the Skills Gap

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

By Mary Shumway
State Director of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
Utah State Office of Education

You may have heard the phrase, “mind the gap,” a warning to passengers on the London Underground to be cautious as they cross from the station platform into the train.  Equally deserving of careful attention is the skills gap. It seems that there is a constant stream of articles, studies, and statements by people on all sides of this global issue, alerting us to a dim future should we fail to mind the skills gap.  For example, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development reported that adults (ages 16-65) in the U. S. have poor literacy and numeracy skills, despite relatively high educational attainment (OECD Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from the Survey of Adult Skills). The assessment looked at the cognitive and workplace skills needed to succeed in today’s global economy. A related report focusing on the United States (Survey of Adult Skills, First Results: United States) indicates that there are few signs of improvement. The average basic skills of young adults are not very different from older persons – and basic skills are not only related to employment outcomes, but also to personal and social well-being!

The report reveals much to be concerned about, but an additional report based on the findings, Time for the U.S. to Reskill? What the Survey of Adult Skills Says, lays out policy recommendations to address those concerns. Recommendation 4, in particular, is worth highlighting here:

Link efforts to improve basic skills to employability, recognizing that good jobs open up further learning options, while basic skills can often be more readily acquired in practical contexts.

This is Career and Technical Education! Participating in Career and Technical Education increases the opportunities you have of succeeding in college, career and life. Utah students have the chance to jumpstart their careers by completing a CTE Pathway, which includes Work-Based Learning, being a member of a Student Leadership Organization, and achieving Skills Certificates. Completing a Pathway will help you mind the skills gap!

What Will The Future Look Like?

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

By Gary Wixom
Assistant Commissioner for Career and Technical Education
Utah System of Higher Education

The Great Recession has had an impact on the lives of American citizens that will be felt for a long time to come. Trillions of dollars of American wealth were lost and the impact on employment had disrupted plans of both the young and the old. According to a new study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, what was once a “lockstep march from school to work and then on to retirement no longer applies for a growing share of Americans.”1 In the past, most Americans completed their education, moved onto full-time employment, and then retired at age 65. The education phase of the cycle often was completed at the high school level, and after some on-the-job-training, full-time work was the norm. Today, a new model for this cycle is emerging that includes additional education, changes in employment patterns, longer full-time working careers, and often a transition into retirement.

According to the Georgetown study, blue-collar jobs which used to be widely available have disappeared. As these jobs disappeared many young people have had a difficult time moving fully into the labor market. The labor market is changing rapidly. In 1980 the share of young people in blue-collar occupations was 54 percent. In 2010 this number had decreased to 36 percent. In the year 2000 the employment rate for young adults was 84 percent and by the year 2012 that percentage had decreased to 72 percent. Young adults at all levels were negatively impacted by the Great Recession, but those who had some sort of postsecondary certificate of degree felt the impact the least.

So, how do we prepare for the world where the education and employment cycle is changing? First by becoming college and career ready while in high school, and then by following a pathway that will lead to a certificate or degree, that leads to employment and a livable wage.

Check with your CTE teacher or school counselor about the many exciting CTE Career Pathways that are available to you to follow. Choose the courses that will help move you forward, and be serious about preparing for the future. What your education and employment cycle will look like depends on how well you prepare today.

1Anthony P. Carnevale, Andrew R. Hanson, Artem Gulish, Failure to Launch-Structural Shift and the New Lost Generation, Georgetown Public Policy Institute, Center on Education and the Workforce, September 2013.

 

Three Things You Should Know About CTE and High School Graduation

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

By Mary Shumway
State Director of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
Utah State Office of Education

To be ready for life after high school, students first need to graduate. To follow are three often-cited reasons that students drop out (Johnston, J. H. (2010) Dropout Prevention: A Research Brief. Fairfield, CT: Education Partnerships, Inc.,) followed by some examples of ways that Career and Technical Education (CTE) can help prevent students from dropping out.

1.       Academic Factors
Students who receive poor grades are more likely to drop out, but CTE concentrators improved their 12th grade NAEP scores by eight points in reading and 11 in math, while students who took no CTE courses did not increase their math scores and their reading scores improved by just four points. (Department of Education, National Assessment of Vocational Education, 2004) A ratio of one CTE class for every two academic classes minimizes the risk of student dropping out of high school. (Plank et al, Dropping Out of High School and the Place of Career and Technical Education, National Research Center for CTE, 2005)

2.       Occupational Aspirations
Without a clear picture of the opportunities available to them, students are at risk of dropping out. Most careers are made up of a series of jobs, each requiring higher skills and more experience than the one before. By participating in Career and Technical Education, students are exposed to, and prepared for, the first rung on their career ladder. In addition, research shows that CTE students develop problem-solving, project completion, communication, time management, critical thinking and other cross functional skills in demand by today’s employers. (Society for Human Resource Management and WSJ.com/Careers, Critical Skills Needs and Resources for the Changing Workforce, 2008)

3.       Disengaged Students
There are many students who don’t feel connected to their school experience, perhaps even feel that there is no one there who is interested in or cares about them. A recent report (Making the Case for CTE: What the Research Shows, National Center for CTE, 2013) claims that boys, especially, are struggling. But the hands-on, project-based learning strategies that are standard in most CTE programs appeal to a wide variety of students. In addition, students who participate in Career Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) enjoy higher academic motivation and engagement. (Looking Inside the Black Box: The Value Added by Career and Technical Student Organizations to Students’ High School Experience, National Research Center for CTE, 2007)

Utah CTE Fact Sheet — Career and Technical Education Produces Results

The Time to Participate in CTE is Now

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

By Gary Wixom
Assistant Commissioner for Career and Technical Education
Utah System of Higher Education

We are hearing a lot of discussion these days about what is wrong with education and that education needs to be “reformed.” As educational reform takes place, and as education changes to meet the needs of the global economy, Career and Technical Education is a big part of the solution.

In a speech recently given by the Secretary of Education, he said:

It seems easier to define college-readiness than career-readiness, even if there is a great deal of overlap. At the Department, we define a college-ready student as someone who has the knowledge and skills to succeed in credit-bearing courses from day one, without remediation. That standard must be the new bar for success for all high schools, for all students–instead of the old goal of getting students a diploma.

The bar for a career-ready student is just as demanding. CTE students also must have the academic skills to be able to engage in postsecondary education and training without the need for remediation. The cause of strengthening CTE programs should never be an excuse for reducing rigor and tracking students away from pursuing a college degree .i

Did you know Career and Technical Education (CTE) is engaged in preparing both youth and adults in a wide range of careers leading to great paying jobs and a great future? These careers require various levels of education from industry certifications, postsecondary certificates and associate degrees, to four-year degrees.

According the U.S. Department of Education almost all high school students participate in CTE, and more than half take three or more credits completing a CTE program of study. These CTE programs of study equip students with core academic skills, employability skills, and job-specific and technical skills related to a specific career pathway.

Data indicates that when students take CTE classes they are at less risk of dropping out of high school. ii The average high school graduation rate for students concentrating in CTE programs is 90 percent, compared to an average national freshman graduation rate of 74.9 percent. iii More than 70 percent of secondary CTE concentrators went on to pursue postsecondary education certificates and degrees, and 4 out of 5 secondary CTE graduates who pursued postsecondary education after high school had earned a credential or were still enrolled two years later. iv

Career and Technical Education is working. Get started early following a CTE Pathway to success. To find out what career and technical education opportunities are available to you, talk with one of your school counselors or teachers today.

Sources:
i http://www.ed.gov/news/speeches/new-cte-secretary-duncans-remarks-career-and-technical-education

ii (Plank et al., Dropping Out of High School and the Place of Career and Technical Education, 2005)

iii U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, Consolidated Annual Report for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 Program Year 2007–2008, unpublished data [National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium analysis]; U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Public School Graduates and Dropouts From the Common Core of Data: School Year 2007–2008, 2010.

iv U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Postsecondary and Labor Force Transitions Among Public High School Career and Technical Education Participants, 2011.

Don’t think of summer ending …think of school beginning!

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

By Mary Shumway
State Director of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
Utah State Office of Education

It’s hard to believe but it’s that time of the year again – the beginning of a new school year. Your Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers have spent part of the summer updating their knowledge and skills to ensure that your classroom experiences are better than ever. Welcome back!

In recent years Career and Technical Education has faced some challenges. Between No Child Left Behind legislation, increased graduation requirements in math and science, accountability in academic subjects and budget cuts, CTE has had difficulty maintaining a full range of options in some schools. But a recent article – “Stop Stigmatizing Vocational Education” (published online by RealClearPolicy, a catch-all source for policy news and commentary) – suggests that Career and Technical Education needs to become a greater focus in our education system. New technologies (e.g., hydraulic fracturing), global economic trends (e.g., rising wages in Asia), and domestic policy changes are bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.

What does this mean for today’s CTE students? Even as our nation redefines the knowledge and skill requirements of these new energy and manufacturing jobs, you can be assured that the CTE experiences you have today are designed to help you be college and career ready. That’s because not only does CTE help you develop technical knowledge and skills, CTE also offers opportunities to develop the social capital, employability skills, and the positive work ethic that will make you a quality worker, no matter the specific job.

Here are five ways to maximize your CTE experience this year:

1.  Develop a meaningful College and Career Plan. Talk to your counselor about what types of high school courses are available to help you learn the hands-on skills required in careers of interest to you. Get advice about what postsecondary options are most likely to promote your success, given both your personal and career goals. For most students this plan must also include specific information about how you will pay for the costs associated with your postsecondary training.

2.  Commit to a CTE Career Pathway. A Pathway is like an educational map that will guide you to the high school and postsecondary options that best support your career goals.

3.  Participate in a Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO). Discover the CTSO most related and active for your CTE Area of Study. Every CTSO is designed to advance student leadership, citizenship, and professionalism. Through regional, state and national conferences, members have opportunities to be involved in service projects, showcase their technical skills, and network with one another.

4.  Take advantage of the Skill Certificate Program. Skill Certificates verify the technical skills that you have attained by taking a CTE course and demonstrating your competencies through an assessment. There are Skill Certificate tests associated with every CTE Area of Study.

5.  Take part in Work-Based Learning. Internships, Service Learning, Job Shadows, Field Studies and Career Fairs are just some of the ways to be involved in learning that extends your classroom experiences to the world beyond.

Career and Technical Education is the most meaningful part of high school for many, many students. For some it provides a much-needed glimpse into the future where they can successfully compete for interesting, well-paying jobs. For others it might simply be the first taste of an area of study that they will want to pursue in more depth in high school and beyond. Whatever CTE means to you, may this school year bring you every opportunity to succeed today and in the future.