April 25, 2007 Edition

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Classes, clubs
can prepare
students for future

By Sherry Moore

Workforce Education coordinator. That is my title, but what exactly does it mean? After four months on the job, I am still defining the duties myself. Having spent most of my career as one of the coordinatees, I will just explain what my teachers are doing and assure you that my job is to help them in any way possible.

These career and technical education teachers (CTE ~ formerly known as vocational teachers) are truly some of the most caring, student-oriented people in the public schools. This was my experience as a high school student ~ thus my interest in becoming one of them myself. Most baby boomers were encouraged, if not required, to take courses in home economics, agriculture, typing and accounting. I continue to use the skills learned there every day, both on the job and at home. Many aspects have changed over the years, but the basic concepts remain the same. These courses are designed to prepare students to be productive members of society.

Yes, our 21st century world requires young people to further their education beyond high school and be lifelong learners, but it doesn't mean they should become professional students. The bottom line is that we want each one of them to eventually be able to get and keep a job. Career and technical programs and their student organizations (FBLA, FCCLA, FFA, HOSA) continue to be the most effective means of insuring the attainment of that goal. They are available for all students, and they teach teamwork, problem solving, decision-making and people skills as well as the specific skills unique to each program.

You may have noticed in recent news that the Arkansas Department of Workforce Education has a new director, former State Senator Bill Walker, and that one of the traditional sources of CTE funding, the Federal Perkins Grant, has been reauthorized to include more stringent guidelines. Perkins funds, used extensively for purchasing equipment in the past, will now be directed at insuring that CTE courses also contain rigorous academic content.

Funding priority will be given to those career pathways that lead to high skill, high wage and high demand positions in the state economy. This is not to say that any of the programs are less important, only that the main emphasis for all students, both academic and CTE, will be to raise their academic achievement levels, especially in math and literacy.

I said all that to say this: "get involved." Students are currently signing up for the classes they wish to take next year, and eighth grade career orientation students are making their "Four Year Plans." Parents are required to sign off on these proposed plans. Talk with your teens about their goals in life, their strengths (and weaknesses) and their interests. Encourage them to take classes that will help them reach their goals. Last week's Cat's Dispatch included an editorial by Jessica Bailey in which she encouraged her peers to be themselves and not take classes just to be like their friends. I applaud her strength in advocating individuality and nonconformity. A high-paying job is not an indicator of success if the person who has it is miserable, nor is a lower wage indicative of failure if the person is happy in his or her work.

Career and technical teachers routinely explore career options with their students and guide them to make informed choices. Students can become "completers" in specific programs of study by completing three units of designated courses, which can lead to post-secondary degrees or certifications. A student can greatly benefit by concentrating electives in their chosen area of interest. This is true even if they wish to pursue a professional field. For instance, an aspiring veterinarian obviously needs advanced math and science classes, but would also profit by taking the agriculture program of study in animal science. A childcare program of study could lead to careers in education or pediatrics. Computer competency is basic to all career areas and health careers are always in demand.

To learn the options available at your child's school, contact your local CTE teachers or high school counselors. For additional information, call me, Sherry Moore, your Northeast Arkansas Education Cooperative Workforce Education coordinator, at 886-7717. That is a part of my job ~ one that I love and that I am passionate about!

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