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Back to the Future?

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

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

Could it be September again already? That means back to school for students and teachers. For most it is an exciting time, for some there is anxiety and some uncertainty. However, the beginning of a new school year gives everyone an opportunity to set their sights on new goals and new achievements.

We hear a lot in the media these days about how important education is, and we also hear about how education is not measuring up to global standards. What does that mean for us? Can we still be successful? How do we be sure that we are in an educational program that will prepare us for success in the world that we live? The answer to that is Career and Technical Education (CTE). There are many great educational pathways available to us and CTE is the place to begin the process. We know that individually we can have a big impact on how our experiences turn out. As you begin this school year, make up your mind that it will be the best year that you have had so far.

Research tells us that whatever we do, or whatever we accomplish begins in the mind. We can alter our destiny by altering our thoughts. If we set our minds in a particular direction, the chances are that the rest of our physical and emotional self will follow along. The individual that master’s their mind can accomplish great things.

As we begin the new school year, here are five suggestions for making it successful.

1. Begin with a positive attitude. Whenever we begin something new we have the opportunity to take a fresh approach. Old habits can be changed. Old perceptions can be overcome. When we start something fresh we have a chance to be different than who we were in the past, and change to who we would like to become. Remember: What we think, we become. All that we area rises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world. –The Buddha

2. Be focused. One of the critical elements of being successful is to be focused on the goal. When we have a strong vision of our goal we are more likely to reach the goal. Very often as we strive to reach our goals we get distracted and we lose our focus. There are a lot things in our daily life that will pull us away from what we want to achieve. Being focused means that you will ignore those distractions and keep working toward the goal. Remember: When every physical and mental resource is focused, one’s power to solve a problem multiplies tremendously. –Norman Vincent Peale

3. Be a good communicator. Learning to be a good communicator is important for success. After learning the basics of communication the best way to become a good communicator is to practice. Be willing to join the discussion and contribute your thoughts and ideas. Your ideas are valuable and sharing them helps everyone. The second part of good communication is good listening. When we are willing to listen to others, not just hear them, we not only help them but we open our own understanding that helps us grow and be more effective. Remember: The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said. –Peter Drucker

4. Don’t be afraid of mistakes. We all make mistakes. The problem is not that we make mistakes, but what we think and how we react when it happens. We need to learn from our mistakes and then move on with renewed focus toward our goal. Remember: The only man who makes no mistakes is the man who never does anything. –Theodore Roosevelt

5. Be engaged. What you are doing is important, so to be successful be engaged both emotionally and intellectually. Take ownership of where you want to be and then make it happen. There will always be obstacles in your way, but if you are fully engaged in what you want to accomplish you can move them out of the way. Remember: In the present circumstances, no one can afford to assume that someone else will solve their problems. Every individual has a responsibility to help guide our global family in the right direction. Good wishes are not sufficient, we must become actively engaged. –The Dalai Lama

Mastering these five suggestions will help you be successful. A good place to practice these suggestions is in a Career and Technical Education course. Investigate the many pathways that are available to you by checking out UtahFutures.org, and UtahCTE.org. Set your goals for the future and then make it happen. There is nothing stopping you—but you.

Take Responsibility for Your Education

Monday, August 6th, 2012

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

Beginning the third week of August educators and students across the state will return to school to begin a new school year. As you prepare for the first day of school we encourage you to take responsibility for your education and we challenge you to set goals and do everything you can to succeed.

Participation in a Career and Technical Education (CTE) Pathway will help prepare you for college and career success. CTE Pathways show students a direct connection between doing well in high school and being able to transition smoothly to postsecondary opportunities (college) or immediately entering the workforce (career). Concentrating in and then completing a CTE Pathway will give you an advantage as you progress from high school to college and career. For answers to frequently asked questions about CTE Pathways read FAQ CTE Pathways.

Throughout the summer teachers have attended various CTE summer conferences and trainings to aid them in preparing for the new school year. They are ready to educate, train, encourage, and arm you with the tools and skills you will need as you study, learn plan, and prepare for college and career, and to compete in a global economy.

Students, plan now to meet with your school counselor to create your plan for high school, college and career. Your school counselor can assist you as you plan your class schedule and make your goals for life after high school. Planning and preparing are key elements to your college and career success.

CTE Back-to-School Planning Guide

  • Schedule a meeting with your school counselor to map out your CTE classes throughout high school and your postsecondary options most relevant to your chosen career.
  • Create a portfolio in UtahFutures.org and/or add to your existing portfolio.
  • Become a member of a Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO).
  • Juniors: Ask your school counselor if you are on track to become a CTE Pathway completer. (A CTE Pathway completer is eligible to receive a Secondary Pathway Completer Recognition Award at graduation.)
  • Seniors: Apply for a CTE Scholarship and Tuition Award. Applications are due February 25, 2013.
  • Join the UtahCTE.org online communities—Twitter, Facebook, Utah CTE blog—to connect with CTE throughout the year.

Students, let us know what you are doing and learning in your CTE classes. Are you an FFA member participating in the Utah State Fair in September? Are you preparing for a CTSO state competition? Are you planning to do an internship? Will you be receiving a Secondary Pathway Completer Recognition Award? Tell us how CTE is helping you reach your career goals. Email your CTE testimonial and/or stories to UtahCTE@schools.utah.gov.

Choosing a Career Pathway is an Important Decision

Friday, June 29th, 2012

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

We are hearing a lot these days about “career pathways” and the importance of making a “wise choice” when making a decision about which career pathway to follow. Students are being asked to make this choice early in their educational experience. Choosing a career pathway is an important decision and one needs to understand the process of making career choices, but should also realize that choosing a career is not a onetime event. Career management is a life-long skill that develops for most people over many years.

There are many resources available to help in the career pathway choice. UtahFutures.org is a good place to begin. Talking to parents, counselors, and professional contacts will help. The first step is to understand yourself, what you like to do, what your interests are, and what skills and abilities you would like to develop. Taking interest surveys and participating in career development activities can help to better understand what motivates and drives you. Since we will spend countless hours at work, getting satisfaction from performing those duties is important.

There are many career choices available to you. If you are interested in a Career and Technical Education (CTE) area, 16 “career clusters” have been identified. A career cluster is a group of jobs and industries that are related by skills or products. Each of the 16 clusters represents a distinct grouping of occupations, and each cluster is then broken down into individual pathways. The 16 clusters are:

1. Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources   9. Hospitality & Tourism
2. Architecture & Construction 10. Human Services
3. Arts, Audio/Video Technology & Communications 11. Information Technology
4. Business Management & Administration 12. Law, Public Safety, Corrections & Security
5. Education and Training 13. Manufacturing
6. Finance 14. Marketing
7. Government & Public Administration 15. Science Technology, Engineering & Mathematics
8. Health Science 16. Transportation, Distribution & Logistics

In Utah there are 62 CTE career pathways within eight program areas. Each CTE pathway connects to one of the national 16 career clusters.

Knowing what the many career choices are is also an important step in choosing a career pathway. Actively explore a variety of career options as you consider the direction that you want to pursue. If you understand yourself and understand the options that are available to you, the chances of making a great choice are much higher.

In the world that we live in today, education is the key to a successful life. Developing career skills that are in demand by business and industry will mean the chance for a good job leading to a successful career. Individuals that earn certificates and degrees that are in demand will earn more during their lifetime and will have a higher chance of stable employment.

Spend the time now necessary to make a “wise” career choice and you will be rewarded later in life.

Congratulations on Your Accomplishments!

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

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

As the 2011-2012 school year comes to a close, we want congratulate you on your accomplishments – especially the skills you’ve developed as a result of participating in CTE courses and activities. Whether you’ll be back to high school in the fall to acquire additional credits along your CTE Pathway, or are now heading to college and career, we wish you continued success!

While you’re ramping up your activity level for the summer, Utah CTE educators will be participating in the 58th Annual CTE Summer Conference this month. Thousands of educators take advantage of the opportunity to hear about the latest trends and techniques in all areas of career and technical education – and many of you will be the beneficiaries as they bring what they learn back to classrooms next fall. School counselors, too, will have an opportunity to learn about the latest national initiatives related to counseling students and promoting their success. This year’s theme is, “Believe It and Achieve It: Helping Students Become Career and College Ready.” The Utah State Board of Education supports the goal assuring that graduates of our high schools are prepared to pursue 1, 2, 4 or more years of training/education beyond high school and to succeed in the job market of the future. You can watch for related information and resources – identified with new branding you see here.

 

There’s even a version of the brand that you’ll see as you reference information to develop your personal plan for education and work beyond high school. More information on the College and Career Ready initiative is to come, so be sure to watch for summer editions of this newsletter, and check the Utah State Office of Education website for further announcements.

Communication Skills—A Career and Technical Education Specialty

Monday, April 30th, 2012

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

There are many factors that come together to make a business successful. You need a good product, you need the right market conditions, and you need skilled employees. Often business executives complain that one of the things that their employees lack is good communication skills. What does that mean? Everyone communicates today. Everyone has a cell phone, an iPad, an iPod, or a portable computer of one kind or another. People are texting, emailing, and posting to Facebook all the time. So what is the problem?

Communication is more than sending words back and forth hoping to be understood. The level of your communication skill often sets you apart from other people. If you are able to communicate well, you are able to clearly state your thoughts so that other people understand your true message, whether delivered verbally or in writing. There are a lot of different strategies that people use to communicate effectively. We not only need to understand how to communicate verbally and with the written word, but also we need to understand the role that non-verbal communication takes place through gestures and touch, by body language or posture, by facial expression and eye contact, or even by the way that we dress.

Probably the first step in communicating effectively is to understand who your audience is going to be and tailoring your message to fit that circumstance. Not everyone communicates the same way or at the same level. Sometimes there is a special “slang” and concepts that go with different jobs. Accounting experts may communicate differently than information technologists. If you know who you are communicating with, your chances of being understood are increased.

Here are five important elements to consider when communicating verbally or in writing.

  1. Don’t be timid. If you have a point to get across, be confident and don’t be afraid to make your point. Too often people assume that what they have to contribute is not important. Be confident in yourself and the knowledge that you have acquired.
  2. Be prepared. When you know that you are going to be in a group, and expected to make a contribution, give some prior thought to your own opinions and be ready to make your point backed with knowledge and facts.
  3. Keep an open mind. If you are communicating with a group they will have a diverse set of opinions. Be willing to listen and be respectful of other views. If you are willing to listen to others points of view, they will be more willing to listen to you.
  4. Write clearly and to your audience. When asked to prepare your thoughts in writing, don’t assume that your audience knows about the subject you are writing about. Introduce your topic, include enough background material to support your point, and then state your main message clearly.
  5. Use correct style and grammar. Too often today style and grammar are an afterthought to the message. Know the basic styles for memos, letters, and reports. A professionally written document goes a long way to help communicate the message. Sentences and paragraphs should not be long and complicated. A few minutes spent proofreading will help ensure that a wrong impression is not communicated.

If communication skills are so important, where can we be sure to get those skills? Career and Technical Education courses emphasize these skills. Be sure that in your program of study you pay attention to those skill areas, whether it is in a business communication class, an information technology class or a drafting class. If you pay attention you will pick up those skills that will set you apart from those you are going to compete with for a good paying job.

The Importance of Women Completing Postsecondary Certificates and Degrees

Thursday, March 29th, 2012
By Mary Shumway
State Director of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
Utah State Office of Education

 

The importance of students being college and career ready is a much discussed topic today. Equally important to being “ready” for college and career, is ensuring that students follow through and obtain a college degree. In Utah, a majority of young women continue on to college after high school graduation, but a large percentage never finish.

First, let’s define the term college. College means 1, 2, 4 or more—a 1-year certification, a 2-year associate degree, a 4-year bachelor’s degree, or a professional degree. No matter what level of postsecondary education a woman attains, obtaining a college certificate and/or degree is invaluable!

The Governor’s Education Excellence Commission – Women’s College Task Force, the Utah System of Higher Education, the Utah State Office of Education, and Prosperity 2020 have partnered to achieve the goal of having more Utah women complete postsecondary certificates and degrees.

The report The Benefits of Higher Education for Women in Utah finds:

  • Many young women do not understand the broad value of a college education.
  • Many young women believe they are being encouraged to attend college but not necessarily graduate.
  • Nearly all young women in the study agreed that a college education is “very important” and “wonderful.” Yet, many do not see the urgency of attending college and completing their degrees.
  • Study participants who had not attended or who had dropped out of college truly believe they will obtain degrees “sometime in the future.” However, statistics show that the majority of these women will never return.

There is a much stronger likelihood that a woman will earn a college degree if she attends college immediately after high school.

Take an active role to:

  • Help young women and those who influence them understand the broad value of getting a college education.
  • Talk to girls, as young as possible, about going to college.
  • Discuss with girls and young women the importance of graduating from college and not just attending college. Use the word “graduation” in more conversations.
  • Encourage young women to attend college directly after high school.
  • Ask K-12 teachers to integrate assignments that help students research why college is important; invite guest speakers to discuss the college experience.

Through the Student Education Occupation Plan (SEOP) students create a college and career ready plan. Our vision is that this plan will put each young woman on a path to enter college—after high school graduation—stay in school, and obtain a certificate and/or degree.

By completing a postsecondary education, women:

  • Maximize their quality of life and that of their family.
  • Have the ability to earn more than a livable wage.
  • Will benefit from continual opportunity.
  • Will have fewer periods of unemployment.

Learn more about the Women and Education Project at http://www.uvu.edu/wep/. Together we can impact the lives of young women, and educate each one about the importance and long term benefits of a postsecondary education. Obtaining a college certificate and/or degree will impact a woman’s life and the lives of every member of their family and succeeding generations.

Make a Wise Career Choice

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

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

There is light at the end of the tunnel. We are finally seeing the end of the “great recession”. Although the U.S. unemployment rate remains high, it dropped by 0.2 percentage points in January to 8.3 percent and there are some positive signs that the economy is getting stronger. Here in Utah the unemployment rate is 2 percent lower than the national figure and we ended the 2011 year with a rate of 6 percent. This lower percent is good news, but here are some interesting facts about the unemployment rate here in Utah.

 

Did you know that?

  • 10.7 percent of 25 to 34 year-olds with a high school degree are unemployed.
  • 4.9 percent of 25 to 34 year-olds with a bachelor’s degree are unemployed.

But only

  • 3.2 percent of 25 to 34 year-olds with an associate degree are unemployed.

Obtaining a skill after graduating from high school has never been as important as it is today. At least 66 percent of jobs in Utah will require more than a high school diploma by 2018. We know that there will be a skill shortage in many areas unless more students make the transition between high school graduation and postsecondary training. Here are some of the jobs that are growing the most here in Utah.

  • Accountants
  • Allied health occupations
  • Automotive service technicians and mechanics
  • Computer support specialists
  • Hospitality and tourism
  • Manufacturing
  • Registered nurses
  • Transportation and distribution

Obtaining additional skill training after high school results in a higher salary and helps to ensure a steady job during difficult economic times. By choosing the right major you maximize your return on your effort. Not everyone must choose a major with a high salary at the other end, but being informed about where your choice of major is leading you is important. Here are two websites and an article that will give you some information that will help you make a wise career choice: UtahFutures.org, CampaignForYoungAmerica.org, and College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings.

Join Utah Students in Celebrating CTE

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012
By Mary Shumway
State Director of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
Utah State Office of Education

 
Join the 14.4 million secondary and postsecondary CTE students nationwide in celebrating Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month during February. This newsletter is dedicated to assisting you in your planning and celebration of CTE. This year’s theme is Career and Technical Education: Preparing Students for College and Career! We encourage you to participate in both national and local activities and events throughout the month. Your school district, school, and/or classroom can pick a day, a week, or the entire month of February to celebrate CTE. We encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to spotlight your CTE programs. Students are doing wonderful things in schools throughout Utah and now is a perfect time to showcase their CTE training and the skills they have developed.

According to the report, Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018, from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 30 percent of the 46.8 million job openings created by 2018 will require some college or a two-year associate degree. CTE is an essential component to filling these jobs openings. Encourage students to become an active member of a Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO). In conjunction with the hands-on learning students receive in CTE classes, involvement in a CTSO gives students the academic motivation and engagement to be successful in their pursuit of further education and training. According to the National Research Center for CTE (Alfeld, C., et al., 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) factors often linked with student participation in a CTSO includes: higher grades, career self-efficacy and college aspirations.

As I meet and visit with CTE administrators, teachers, and students across the state I am impressed with the quality of their programs and the terrific opportunities available to students through CTE. Teachers work tirelessly to bring the best instruction to their classroom each day. The enthusiasm, knowledge, and skill each teacher has for preparing this generation for the future is inspiring. Your work does not go unrecognized. CTE Month is an opportune time to share your success stories. Write an op-ed, contact your local newspaper, and use social media to spread your stories. Hearing the success stories of students makes me proud to be an educator and to be involved in this great work. Together we can prepare students for college and career and to successfully compete in a global economy.

What Will the Future Bring?

Friday, January 6th, 2012

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

What will the future bring? That question is something that we all think about from time to time. We live at a time of turmoil both within the country and internationally. The news is full of discouraging predictions about the future. With all the doom and gloom in the press, it would be easy to become discouraged about our own future. On the other hand, if we just look around, we soon discover that it is a great time to be alive. Technological advances have made life easier and more interesting, and those advancements will continue to come and be a part of our lives changing how we live, learn, and interact with our environment.

As we start into a new year we are often focused on making resolutions, setting goals, deciding to take a different path. The year 2012 will continue to be challenging, but can also be the beginning of new hopes, dreams and accomplishments. Now is a great time to set additional goals for career advancement. The rate of unemployment continues to be a challenge for the nation around 9 percent and even here in Utah it is still around 6 percent. The prediction is that those rates will be with us for the next couple of years. But did you know that there are many great paying jobs that are going unfilled today because there are not skilled workers to fill them. Actually the future for job growth here in Utah is pretty bright.

According to the Career Clusters Forecasting Demand for High School through College Jobs, 2008-2018, the fastest growing job clusters in the nation are Information Technology, Health Sciences, and Human Services. Of all the states, Utah is third in the growth rate for Information Technology. Utah is second for the growth rate for Health Sciences, and Human Services. Each of these Career Clusters provide higher than average wages. So, how can you get one of these jobs? By following one of the Programs of Study that are available in these Career Clusters. You can explore these Career Clusters and also check out the great information available, to help you focus on a particular program of study, on UtahFutures.org.

To get a good paying job in the future, you will have to have specific skills that you can get by following a Career and Technical Education Pathway while in high school and then moving on to certificate, or degree training at a college or university. The possibilities are unlimited—just set your sights high and move forward.

CTE Can Help Address Human Capital Issues

Monday, December 5th, 2011
By Mary Shumway
State Director of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
Utah State Office of Education

 
A national report, Developing Human Capital: Meeting the Growing Global Need for a Skilled and Educated Workforce, recently released by McGraw-Hill’s Adult Education and Workforce Initiatives, underscores the value of Career and Technical Education (CTE) in today’s market. The report notes that – as the area where business and education most overlap, CTE is in a prime position to maximize the efforts of educational institutions and business/industry as they work cooperatively.

The authors suggest “The U.S. and other developed nations need to devote more resources to career and technical education – not just for young people still in school, but even more critically for adults who face barriers to employment due to lack of formal education, English language or other skills.”

You are encouraged to read the full report (which includes a conversation between Association of Career and Technical Education Director Janet Bray, and National Association of Workforce Boards CEO Ron Painter), but here are a few highlights:

Workplace Needs:
Economic, social and technological changes demand corresponding change in the relationship between employers and employees, and between business and education.

  • Technical credentials have the potential to outpace the wages of bachelor’s degree holders.
  • Low-skilled jobs are disappearing. Some other jobs have the same traditional titles, but require new skill sets.
  • The demand for high-skilled, well-trained workers is strong and growing stronger. 71 percent of “growth” jobs through the year 2016 will require postsecondary credentials.
  • “Soft skills,” including the ability to work effectively with others, continue to be important “21st century” skills.

Workforce Realities

  • Approximately one million U. S. high school students a year drop out before obtaining a diploma.
  • Eighty-eight million U. S. adults have at least one major educational barrier to employment (e.g., do not speak English well).
  • As the population ages and baby boomers retire, the percentage of working-age adults with a high school education is destined to decline.


The Remedy

We must define a remedy for the disconnect between education and business. Here are some strategies we propose to assure that CTE programs in Utah better meet the needs of business/industry, and the needs of the students we serve. We must:

  • Continue to work with business and industry partners to ensure alignment of our programs with their needs;
  • Communicate the value of CTE to policy makers to ensure adequate resources;
  • Assure that students and their parents understand the value of participating in CTE Pathways to achieve the associated marketable skills that will help them achieve success in the 21st century workplace.
  • Promote experiences to ensure that students perceive the relevance of their educationto their future lives. Assure students have the information they need regarding:

Graduating from high school and being prepared for career and college will give young people a huge advantage as they progress in life. Partnering with business and industry, CTE can reduce barriers so that students continue to receive the training, academic knowledge, and skills they need in order to be productive, highly-trained employees.