Preparing students for a technical future

February is Career and Technical Education Month. CTE prepares youths for a wide range of careers and further educational opportunities. It arms students with core academic, employability and job-specific, technical skills. CTE is helping build a competitive workforce for the 21st century.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education, almost all high school students take at least one CTE course, and one in four students take three or more courses in a single program area. And, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the 20 fastest-growing occupations, 10 require an associate degree or less. Furthermore, of the 20 occupations with the largest numbers of new jobs projected for 2018, 13 require on-the-job training or an associate degree.

Fort Dodge Senior High offers students CTE courses in business and marketing, family and consumer science, health occupations and industrial technology. These courses offer hands-on experience and learning for students looking to enter careers in these fields. In addition, many of the classes offered at Senior High provide students the opportunity to earn free college credit from Iowa Central Community College.

The Business and Marketing Department offers 20 classes, five of which can be taken for college credit. Some of the unique classes offered include: World of Work, a class where students job shadow professionals in the community; Multi Occupations which allows students to earn credit not only for their work in the classroom but also for being employed; and the Technology Applications Lab which is a contract-based class where students work independently to learn a software program that interests them in-depth. Additionally, for the first time, students taking Computerized Accounting through ICCC can earn a certification in Quickbooks which is a program used by many area businesses.

Twelve Family and Consumer Science classes are offered with two available for college credit. Food Prep Lab and Lecture is a two-trimester class co-taught by a Senior High instructor and Chef Michael Hirst from ICCC using the Pro-Start curriculum that can be taken for a total of nine college credits. The Early Childhood Education course partners students one-on-one with elementary teachers for two hours a day as a student assistant. Linking Families is a community partner for the Child Development class, offering students opportunities to gain experience by providing child care.

The Health Care Department offers 11 classes, including eight where the student can receive college credit. Students taking classes through this department gain an understanding of the skills and knowledge required in various health-related careers including nursing, therapy medical assistance and lab technology. Fort Dodge Senior High has a classroom equipped with hospital beds and technology that allows students to practice basic lab activities onsite.

Students can choose from 21 Industrial Technology classes, including nine offered for college credit. Students can explore basic courses in automotive, building trades, manufacturing and engineering, or they can enter a career-based series of classes that fall into the articulation agreement with local colleges. The number of students taking classes from this department has grown by nearly 300 over the past four years. Students at Senior High can experience metal working, foundation pouring, residential wiring, and cabinet design and millwork. Students also have the opportunity to build a robot through the First Robotics STEM grant and to design and build an Ultimate MPG vehicle to race against other schools at the annual Iowa Industrial Technology Exposition.

In addition to CTE coursework, career and technical student organizations prepare youths to be leaders in their communities through career and leadership development, motivation and recognition programs. CTE students at Senior High are encouraged to get involved in DECA, FCCLA and SkillsUSA.

DECA’s program of leadership and personal development is designed specifically for students enrolled in marketing, management and entrepreneurship education. The organization provides members with opportunities through professional conferences, competitions, chapter activities and school and community improvement projects.

FCCLA encourages students to make a difference in their families, careers and communities by addressing personal, work and societal issues. Students participate in chapter projects focused on a variety of youth concerns including teen pregnancy, parenting, family relationships, substance abuse, nutrition and fitness and career exploration. FCCLA members sharpen life skills such as planning, goal setting, problem solving, decision making and interpersonal communication.

SkillsUSA prepares students for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations. The group participates in state and national contests related to CTE. Senior High participants in the 2012 state competition earned six gold, four silver and four bronze metals. Four students went on to compete at the national competition.

This April, 30 Senior High students will compete in the state SkillsUSA competition including students competing in the culinary and nursing categories for the first time.

Author Jennifer Lane is director of communications and community relations for the Fort Dodge Community Schools.