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The T in STEM stands for TECHNOLOGY

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

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

We continue to hear that at a time of high unemployment there are many jobs that go unfilled. The reason: American workers lack the necessary skills to fill those jobs. Many are blaming this on a lack of preparation in the areas of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.) During the 2013 session of the Utah State Legislature, a bill was passed to address these issues here in Utah. The bill “House Bill 139” created a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Action Center. The Action Center, and an Action Center Board, that is charged with providing science and technology-based education to elementary and secondary students and to expose public education students to college level science and technology disciplines.

According to “Utah’s Federal R & D and STEM Jobs Report” if we want the next generation of students to have jobs that provide a livable wage we need to make science research and development and STEM Education a top priority. Utah’s students need to know that by the year 2018, there will be 101,000 STEM-related jobs that will need to be filled. Most of these jobs will require some postsecondary education and training.

There is no question that the “STEM Problem” is getting worse, not better. The number of students interested in STEM careers here in Utah is slightly below the national average. According to data from the Utah System of Higher Education, the top 10 graduation majors for Utah Students in 2010 and 2011 were: 

The hope is that the new STEM Action Center will provide solutions that will help close the achievement gaps and encourage more students to enter the STEM related career fields.

Too often when national leaders focus on STEM issues, the discussion is centered only on Science and Math. Certainly these two areas are critically important. A solid foundation in math skills is essential to be “college and career ready”. Technology is also an important component of STEM. Technology covers a wide variety of career pathways that are in demand, have high wages, but at the same time do not always require a four-year degree.

Here are just a few of the great opportunities that exist in the “Technology” portion of STEM.

Educators: Let’s remember that Technology is an important part of the STEM discussion and make sure that students are aware that these Technology careers are a part of the solution to getting the United States working again, lowering the unemployment rate and helping to grow a dynamic economy for the future.

Students: Talk to your CTE teacher or school counselor about the many opportunities in STEM related careers.

CTE: Meeting the Needs of Utah’s Workforce

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

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

Last year, at the Utah Education Summit, Governor Herbert announced his plan to ensure Utah is “on pace” to have 66 percent of the adult population earn a post-secondary degree or certification by the year 2020. The plan is called “On PACE to 66% by 2020.”

At the summit, Governor Herbert stated, “As we compete in what is now a global economy, education will be the key and the catalyst that sets Utah apart. An education system that aligns perfectly with the needs of the marketplace will do wonders in spurring economic growth and innovation. This is the focus of my plan for 66 percent by 2020, and we are on pace to achieve it.”

PACE stands for:
P — Prepare Young Learners
A — Access for All Students
C — Complete Certificates and Degrees
E — Economic Success

Incorporated within the plan is recognition that Career and Technical Education (CTE) is one solution to meeting the needs of Utah’s workforce. The plan is guiding the work of the state legislature, the Utah State Board of Education, the Utah College of Applied Technology, and the Utah Board of Regents. Some details of the plan that involve CTE are highlighted below:

  • Help students become college and career ready while they are young through career exploration, assistance from school counselors, and taking college readiness exams.
  • Help students transition to post-secondary education by including concurrent enrollment in CTE courses and distributing information on women in nontraditional careers.
  • Help students finish degrees and certificates,with emphasis on CTE certificates and associate degrees. The breakdown of the 66 percent is as follows:
    • 13 percent of Utahns with a certificate in an approved CTE certificate area.
    • 14 percent of Utahns with an associate degree, with the majority in CTE fields.
    • 28 percent of Utahns with a bachelor’s degree.
    • 11 percent of Utahns with a graduate degree.
  • Help students find work in their chosen fields or personal pursuits, with 90 percent of employer workforce needs met, including strong ties between CTE programs and economic needs.

It is an exciting time to be in Career and Technical Education, and to be part of the attainment of Utah’s educational and economic goals.

For more information on the Governor’s plan and priorities for education, visit http://www.utah.gov/governor/priorities/education.html.

Skill Attainment Requires Careful Career Planning

Monday, March 4th, 2013

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

During the recent State of the Union Address, President Obama said that we must attract more jobs to our shores, that we needed to equip our citizens with additional skills so they can do those jobs, and we need to insure that hard work actually leads to a decent living. The President has identified some important goals with significant challenges attached. Moving the economy forward, particularly decreasing the unemployment rate has remained difficult for far too long.

Career and Technical Education (CTE) provides the answer to one of those challenges, making sure that there are skilled workers trained and ready to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow. By the year 2020, Utah is working to achieve the goal that 66 percent of adults will hold a postsecondary degree or a certificate. As we move toward that goal, it is interesting that many of the highest occupations in demand are in the areas of Career and Technical Education. Nursing and health occupations lead the list, and then operations management, sales, manufacturing, accountants, and construction managers. To be successful in these areas you need specific “skills” and those skills are obtained through Career and Technical Education training.

Successful skill attainment in these CTE areas requires careful career planning early in the educational sequence. Utah has great secondary programs that provide skills and will start students on a career path leading to employment or additional training. Connecting secondary and postsecondary programs together provide an efficient way for students to gain the skills necessary for occupations that provide a livable wage.

Did you know?

  • CTE programs help students achieve graduation at a higher rate than other students. The average high school graduation rate for students concentrating in CTE programs is 90.18 percent compared to a national graduation rate of 74.9 percent.i
  • CTE is an answer for the current a future shortage in skilled workers. Experts project 47 million job openings in the decade ending 2018. About one-third of those jobs will require an associate degree or certificate, and nearly all will require real-world skills that can be mastered through CTE.ii
  • CTE helps students be successful in attaining postsecondary certificates and degrees. Seventy percent of students concentrating in CTE areas stayed in postsecondary education or transferred to a four-year degree program. That compared to an overall average state target of 58 percent.iii

February was national CTE month and across the country states and organizations highlighted CTE programs. As the nation continues to recover from the great recession, and jobs expand and the economy grows again, it is a great time for CTE to take its place in helping the nation reach the goals that have been set.

Do your career planning early and let a CTE pathway lead you to success in your educational pursuits. The future is bright for those who prepare and obtain the skills that will be in demand for the economy of tomorrow.

I U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, Report to Congress on State Performance, Program year 2007-2008. Washington, D.C.

ii Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce via Harvard’s Pathways to Prosperity report, p. 29, http://cew.georgetown.edu/jobs2018/

iii U.S. Department of Education, http://www2.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/2010report/fy2010-apr.pdf

Work-Based Learning Opportunities

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

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

Have you considered participating in a job shadow or internship? Students throughout Utah, through the Career and Technical Education Work-Based Learning program, have the opportunity to participate in job shadows (short-term work experience) and/or internships (long-term work experience) while in middle/junior high or high school. Participation in a job shadow will help you understand how classroom learning is applied in the world of work. Through this structured career activity you will play an active role in learning by observing an employee at a work site to gain valuable career information.

There are many ways for you to learn. You can learn in the classroom or learn in a real work setting. Learning becomes even more meaningful when it is performed in a real work setting. Participating in a job shadow and/or internship will provide you with an opportunity to relate what you are learning in school to the world of work and can provide you with the following skills:

Time management Interpersonal communication Leadership
Following directions Responsibility Ethics

A job shadow experience typically will last from three to six hours at a work site. During the job shadow experience, you will:

  • Observe a range of activities performed on the job.
  • Receive information about possible career interests.
  • Gain insight into the academic, technical and personal skills needed for a particular occupation.
  • Understand connections between education and careers.

Although a job shadow and an internship are both typically unpaid, the knowledge you will gain, the experiences in which you participate, and the connections you will make will be invaluable. You may not receive monetary compensation for your time, but the experience and school credit you gain are huge benefits as you prepare for life after high school. Job shadows and internships take students one step closer to becoming college and career ready!

Imagine shadowing a Web developer and learning how to effectively write code for a new website.

Imagine shadowing an engineer and learning how the concepts you studied in your engineering design class
apply to a construction site.

Imagine shadowing a nurse and learning how to take blood from a patient and then sending it to the lab for processing.

Participating in a job shadow and/or internship will help to prepare you with education and skills for the ever-changing world of work. We encourage you to talk to the Work-Based Learning Coordinator at your school to learn how to get started. Each year over 150,000 students participate in fantastic work-based learning opportunities. Make sure you’re one of them!

What will the year 2013 bring?

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

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

What will the year 2013 bring? If you search the Internet you find predictions for the New Year in almost any area you are interested in exploring. Predictions for what will happen to the economy, predictions for what will happen in politics, predictions for what will happen in education, predictions for the latest in technology, and you can even read about predictions on what the predictions will be! We often use the start of the calendar year as a time to do a little predicting of our own future and make resolutions about how to be “better”, to be “richer”, or to be “smarter.” Then, as the months slip away, we often settle in to what is comfortable and make little change in our lives.

A good way to start off the year 2013 is to make a goal to learn something new every day. After all, we are learning creatures—we come into the world needing to learn everything, and we spend the first years of our life focused on learning, so making a lifelong practice of learning is what makes humans unique. Today, learning is easier than ever before. We are confronted with loads of information on a daily basis. Information on any subject is just a click away on the Internet. What we do with that information is the key. Let’s make the year 2013 a year of learning no matter what station of life you find yourself in.

Did you know that nearly 30,000 high school students not only are learning in high school, but at the same time they are earning college credit through the concurrent enrollment program? Last year students earned over 194,000 college credits while still in high school and got a head start on their college/career pathway.

Research is showing that students who participate in concurrent enrollment courses improve their chances for success. Career and Technical Education (CTE) is a great place to begin a concurrent enrollment experience. Students who participate in CTE concurrent enrollment courses reduce the likelihood of dropping out of high school, they generally obtain more academic and technical skill than other students, transition to postsecondary training at a higher rate, and have a greater opportunity to obtain employment leading to a livable wage.

There will be many opportunities to “learn” during 2013. If you are still in high school, look into the many career pathways that are open to you, and take advantage of the concurrent enrollment program. If you have moved beyond high school, choose a career pathway that will lead to good employment and personal fulfillment. In the year 2013, let’s make it a year that we learn something new every day.

The “Career” in College and Career Ready

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

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

Have you heard that you need to be “College and Career Ready”? What exactly does that mean? You have most likely been told the importance of going to college and completing a degree. Have you thought about the “career” part of College and Career Ready?

Being career ready means that you also focus on: (1) specific employability skills—such as being to work on time, working as a team, etc., (2) entry-level job skills—computer skills, completing tasks, etc., (3) specific skills in an industry—such as health care, Information Technology certificate, etc.

All of these career ready skills are important to develop along with academic skills. A career-ready person effectively navigates pathways that connect both education and employment to achieve a successful and financially-secure career.

It is important to think about a career and know that it is more than just a job. Being career ready is something you work on your entire career. It requires you to be adaptable and committed to lifelong learning. Being career ready also means that a study has a mastery of key academic, technical and workplace knowledge, and skills. Skills may change and need to be adapted from one job to another as a person progresses along a career path.

A broad coalition of national education, business, philanthropic and policy groups has come together to create a clear, unified and focused vision for what it means to be career ready. The coalition is called the Career Readiness Partner Council—careerreadynow.org. Their goal is to enhance reform efforts around college and career readiness to include a more comprehensive understanding of what it means to be career ready.

The council recently released a statement entitled “Building Blocks for Change: What it Means to be Career Ready.” This statement makes clear that career readiness is a process of connecting “education and employment to achieve a fulfilling, financially-secure and successful career.” The document establishes that career readiness must foster “adaptability and a commitment to lifelong learning, along with a mastery of key knowledge, skills and dispositions that vary from one career to another and change over time.”

If you take advantage of Career and Technical Education courses, pathways, and leadership organizations you will be better prepared to meet your personal goals and the economic needs of Utah and the nation. Talk to your school counselor about participating in a CTE Pathway and about the courses you will need to take to put you on the path to a rewarding career. With the guidance of your school counselor, you and your parents can develop a PLAN to help you achieve your personal goals and to prepare for life after high school—college and “career.”

Being Career Ready Means Good Jobs and Good Pay

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

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

Over the last few years we have heard a lot about unemployment and the challenge that the “Great Recession” has brought to economies all around the world. Here in the United States the unemployment rate has stayed around 8 percent and may not significantly improve for some time to come.

Earlier this year, the McKinsey Global Institute released a report titled, “The world at work: Jobs, pay, and skills, for 3.5 billion people.” In this report, they indicated that the global labor force will grow to 3.5 billion by the year 2030. Students coming of age here in the United States during this time will be competing in this global environment for good jobs and good pay. The McKinsey report also indicates that we are experiencing a situation where joblessness remains a problem for many economies, with pools of youth with very poor employment prospects, and employers frustrated because they can’t find skilled workers. If this trend continues, economies across the world will have too few skilled workers to help their economies to grow and develop.

In order to be successful in this highly competitive workforce, students will need a different set of skills than those required in years past. The skills of the 21st century are requiring a combination of technical knowledge and skills, coupled with solid academic knowledge.

On October 18, 2012, the Career Readiness Partner Council issued a statement on what it means to be Career Ready. The report, titled “Building Blocks for Change: What it Means to be Career Ready,” is an effort by 27 organizations and companies to clearly define what it takes to be Career Ready.

A career-ready person effectively navigates pathways that connect education and employment to achieve a fulfilling, financially-secure and successful career. A career is more than just a job. Career readiness has no defined endpoint. To be career ready in our ever-changing global economy requires adaptability and a commitment to lifelong learning, along with mastery of key knowledge, skills and dispositions that vary from one career to another and change over time as a person progresses along a developmental continuum. Knowledge, skills and dispositions that are inter-dependent and mutually reinforcing. These include:

Academic and Technical Knowledge and Skills
A career-ready person is proficient in the core academic subjects, as well as in technical topics. This foundational knowledge base includes competence in a broad range of academic subjects grounded in rigorous internationally-benchmarked state standards—such as the common core state standards for English language arts and mathematics. It also includes a level of technical-skill proficiency aligned to a chosen career field and pathway, and the ability to apply both academic and technical l earning in the context of a career. Many careers also require deeper learning and mastery in specific academic or technical subjects.

Employability Knowledge, Skills and Dispositions
A career-ready person has a good understanding of their interests, talents and weaknesses and a solid grasp of the skills and dispositions necessary for engaging in today’s fast-paced, global economy. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Goal setting and planning;
  • Managing transitions from school to work and back again,
    and from one occupation along a career pathway to another;
  • Clear and effective communication skills;
  • Critical thinking and problem solving;
  • Working productively in teams and independently;
  • Effective use of technology; and
  • Ethical decision-making and social responsibility. 1

To be “career ready” students need to start early with a solid career plan. One of the advantages of Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs is there is a clearly defined pathway to follow. In Utah, at the high school level, students can choose from over 60 CTE Pathways within eight Areas of Study. We know today, that most pathways that lead to good paying jobs require some form of postsecondary education. These 60 CTE Pathways will lead to a variety of certificates or degrees at Utah’s postsecondary institutions that do lead to good jobs with good pay.

Decide today to be Career Ready by following a CTE Pathway and acquire the academic and technical knowledge and skills, plus the employability knowledge, skills and dispositions that lead to success.

1 http://careerreadynow.org/docs/CRPC_4pagerB.pdf


CTE: Five Ways That Pay

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

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

Now is the time to prepare for life after high school. Through career exploration in middle/junior high school you discovered your interests, likes and dislikes. You also learned about classes and training related to your career field of interest as you advanced to high school. In high school you are encouraged to participate in a CTE Pathway where CTE courses align with postsecondary programs and employer based training. This connection provides the foundation for postsecondary training resulting in an industry-based certification, a postsecondary certificate, or an associate degree. CTE arms you with the academic knowledge and technical skills for ongoing success in college, career, and life.

A new report released by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce outlines five areas where students can focus in order to obtain education and train for careers. The report, Career and Technical Education: Five Ways That Pay Along the Way to the B.A., found that there are 29 million jobs (21 percent of all jobs) that pay great middle-class wages (above $35,000 per year and below $95,000 per year) and don’t require an expensive Bachelor’s degree. The report lists five alternative paths to middle-class jobs: employer-based training, postsecondary certificates, registered apprenticeships, industry-based certifications, and associate degrees.

CTE programs are more affordable than traditional college programs and can give graduates access to on-the-job training that help them succeed in the labor market. Research shows that CTE programs provide a good return on public investment. In fact the average employment rate of a person with a CTE upper secondary degree is 75.5 percent, 4.8 points higher than for those with a general upper-secondary degree. At least some postsecondary education or training has become the entry-level requirement for many jobs. By the year 2020, two out of three jobs will require some postsecondary education or training.

In Utah, the school districts, the Utah College of Applied Technology (UCAT) and higher education institutions are working together to ensure that employer-based training, postsecondary certificates, registered apprenticeships, industry-based certifications, and associate degrees are developed and accessible for students throughout the state. Participation and completion of a CTE Pathway, in high school, will provide you with the academic knowledge and technical skills to have a competitive edge and to compete successfully in a global economy.

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.