Technically teaching

Missouri takes step to include career education in schools
Monday, April 30, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:05 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008
Alex Lindstedt works on a basic counter circuit in Steve Chott’s Electronics I class at the Columbia Area Career Center. “I’ve kept my mom’s old record player alive for the last five years using microwave and VCR parts,” Lindstedt said.

Before Steve Chott’s electronics class at the Columbia Area Career Center, students sit at work stations and build circuits. After taking measurements and applying power to the circuits, Chott and his students discuss the math and physics involved. The experience is part of the career and technical approach to education.

Business, industry, work force and education depend more on each other every day. While educators are unsure what tomorrow’s careers may be, they say combining core academics with career and technical education is important in preparing students for the future.

Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement

  • It was designed to incorporate academics with career and technical education.
  • The act was signed into law by President Bush in 2006.
  • On Monday, Missouri will submit a transition plan to the U.S. Department of Education that will develop programs for career education.
  • The needs of Missouri’s industries will be incorporated into the curriculum.
  • In Missouri, technical education is taught at career centers.
  • There are 57 career centers in Missouri.
  • This new plan is seen as a way to bridge the gap between secondary education and post-secondary education.

The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act was designed to help with that goal. Signed in 2006, the Act requires coordination between education and industry to ready students for demanding, high-skill occupations.

In January, Missouri business and industry advisers met with members of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to create a plan to integrate the Act into Missouri schools and some post-secondary institutions. On Monday, Missouri will submit a one-year transition plan to the U.S. Department of Education that will provide a framework for high schools and colleges looking to incorporate career education.

This framework includes activities, documents and processes that can be incorporated statewide. In high school, there will be opportunities for students to earn or work toward industry-recognized credentials and work-based learning experiences as early as ninth grade.

Some career and technical education is already available for students through career center courses. With the funding from the Act, education will improve by incorporating the needs of Missouri’s industries into curriculums.

Nancy Headrick, assistant commissioner for the state education department, said this type of education helps students explore fields they may be interested in.

“As the students go through their education process, they can take what they are learning and apply it to their later career,” she said.

States such as Illinois implemented career and technical education into high schools. In Missouri, such education is currently taught in 57 career centers. The unique feature of career centers is that they put students in a more professional atmosphere where they are expected to act as adults, Chott said.

Each center focuses on courses matching industry needs in surrounding communities and student interests.

“The work force needs individuals who are both academically and technically prepared,” said Arden Boyer-Stephens, director of the Columbia Area Career Center.

Classes like Chott’s electronics course are also a way to bridge secondary education to post-secondary education. MU, for example, has already identified this as a good class for students interested in engineering.

Although many career and technical classes focus on one area, such as auto technology, classes like electronics are beneficial to all students because there “is absolutely nothing in the world today that does not have electronic components to it,” Chott said.

Jared Durboraw, an 18-year-old senior at Rock Bridge High School, is enrolled in Chott’s class and said classes there “make it easier to determine what a person might want to do in life.”

Career expectations are an important component of the education process at career centers in Missouri. At the Columbia Area Career Center, students are held to high behavioral standards so that they learn the type of attitudes expected in the work place. The center has a set of guidelines by which students must abide: attendance, respect, safety, responsibility, quality and teamwork. The guidelines are an extension of the belief that if students are treated like mature adults they will act like them.

“Career and technical education does raise the bar on expectations from most students,” Chott said. “On almost all occasions, they behave more professionally and more like adults.”

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