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Career Technical Education Programs Honored for Excellence

At the Marine Academy of Science and Technology in Highland, N.J., 100 percent of students in the class of 2014 graduated and continued onto postsecondary education—half went into a science, technology, engineering or math field.

Butte-Glenn Community College's Welding Technology program in Oroville, Calif., boasted a 100 percent job placement rate last year.

When reviewing applications for its 2015 "Excellence in Action" awards, these two programs were among nine that stood out to the selection committee of the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium. Leaders from the winning schools were recognized for achieving the highest CTE standards by the Silver Spring, Md.-based organization at its spring meeting in Washington on Thursday.

The programs honored demonstrated rigor, had data to back up their success, and reflected strong partnerships with employers, high schools, and colleges, said Kate Blosveren, the associate executive director of the consortium, which last year recognized six programs in its inaugural year of the awards.

Some institutions credit their success to forming deep connections with industry and broader community as programs evolved.

"Vocational programs need to keep pace with the workforce," said Earl Moore, the principal at MAST, which was established in 1981 and was previously a marine-trades program. Business, education, and community leaders on the school's advisory board help design the curriculum and work as mentors with students, he said.

A competitive selection process helps the 300-student academy attract high-achieving students from across the state who are serious about studying marine biology and biological oceanography. Once a week, small groups of students are bused from campus to work on a 65-foot research vessel maintained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They study marine biology, chemistry, and physics, often earning college credit through dual enrollment by the time they graduate.  

Between the academic rigor and practical work experience on their senior capstone project with a mentor, Moore said students finish ready for college, even if they become attorneys or accountants rather than STEM professionals. (The program was honored by the consortium for excellence in the STEM career cluster.)

In California, Don Robinson, the department chair and an instructor in the Welding Technology program at Butte-Glenn, said ideally students begin in high school taking two prerequisite courses before enrolling in the one-year, intensive community college program, recognized for excellence in the manufacturing career cluster. The program, which typically has about 55 students, has long had a good job-placement track record, but last year it hit 100 percent, thanks in part to the economy and input from local industry, said Robinson.

Business leaders advised the college to add instruction in particular welding jobs that were in demand and held mock interviews with students to polish their image. "It's like a pre-screening," said Robinson. "It's a win-win because they are the professionals. They are the ones that do the interview." At the end of the day, the instructor relays back the feedback from the employer so students know what they need to do to improve.

Other winners of the consortium excellence award (along with the career cluster represented) included:

  • Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences (agriculture, food and natural resources);
  • Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning program at Upper Valley Career Center in Piqua, Ohio (architecture and construction);
  • Bergen County Technical Schools - Bergen County Academies' Academy for Business and Finance (business administration and management);
  • Emergency Medical Services program at Walters State Community College in Morristown, Tenn. (health science);
  • Culinary Academy at Lorain County Joint Vocational School in Oberlin, Ohio (hospitality and tourism);
  • Early Childhood Education program at Henderson County High School in Henderson, Ky. (human services).; and the
  • Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics Academy at Omaha Bryan High School in Omaha, Neb. (transportation, distribution and logistics)

Consortium officials said there were 100 applications for the award and programs were considered in each of 16 career clusters.

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