Career and Technical Education prepares students for college and careers by applying academic skills with employability and technical, job-specific skills. CTE is education and training for high demand careers in health care, construction, engineering, mining and maritime occupations, just to name a few. Formerly called “vocational education,” CTE is much more than the old shop class model, and encompasses high-tech skills such as robotics, information technology and mobile app development. Even in traditional CTE programs in the trades and culinary arts, students are learning new technical and entrepreneurial skills.
National data reports high school students who take one or more CTE classes are more engaged in school, graduate at higher rates, and more frequently go onto further training. Recent data from the Juneau School District 2017 Carl Perkins report highlights a 100 percent graduation rate of Juneau’s students who completed two credits in CTE courses, courses aligned with one of the many career pathways offered in our high schools.
CTE programs provide a strong foundation for and serve as a delivery system of STEM competencies and skills. All careers today require some STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) component, and there is strong labor market demand for workers with STEM skills and STEM jobs, which are expected to grow by 8 percent in Alaska in the next decade (changetheequation.org). Fifty percent of STEM jobs require less than a bachelor’s degree and 30 percent of STEM intensive jobs are in occupations including maintenance and repair, installation, construction and health care support (www.acteonline.org).
Students in Juneau’s high schools have many opportunities to explore CTE and STEM careers while earning science credits, and some university (dual) credits in Engineering, Health Sciences, Marine and Environmental Sciences, and applied Technology courses. All these courses and career pathways utilize math, science and technology at various depths and intensity. Classrooms and student experiences are richly supported by mentoring, field experiences and hands-on learning opportunities with many community partners including: Juneau STEM Coalition, the University of Alaska Southeast, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Juneau Housing Trust, City and Borough of Juneau, Douglas Island Pink and Chum, Inc., NOAA, Fish and Game, U.S. Forest Service, Bartlett Regional Hospital, Goldbelt Heritage Foundation, Sealaska Heritage Institute, Southeast Alaska Building Industry Association, trade unions, Juneau Economic Development Council, Chamber of Commerce and Rotary.
There is much to celebrate about CTE and STEM in Juneau’s high schools. Six robotics teams recently advanced to the state competition, including an all-female team. CAD students developed plans for CBJ to consider for Rotary Park landscape designs. Engineering students are analyzing electric motor performance, gears and gear ratios appropriate for given tasks. Fisheries Tech students are working with DIPAC building an incubator for salmon eggs in Dredge Lakes for release this spring. Small engines students are learning about four stroke engines and practicing precision measurements. Marine biology students recently completed the re-articulation of two sea otter skeletons guided by a professor with the UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. Digital arts students are learning virtual reality and 3D modeling. AP Computer Science students are learning how to write their own methods in JAVA and studying the basics of artificial intelligence. Human anatomy and physiology students are learning about the muscular and digestive systems. Forensics students are creating experiments to evaluate what affects witness ability to recall information. Earth Science students are working with local scientists including field trips to UAS and Greens Creek Mine. Outdoor biology students are designing an experiment that models salmon nutrient cycling to plants in the temperate rainforest of Southeast Alaska.
CTE is STEM! CTE delivers real world skills, practical knowledge and experiences and ensures students are prepared for the opportunities and options for college and rewarding careers.
• Carin Smolin is the CTE coordinator for the Juneau School District and a member of the STEM Coalition. STEM Corner is a monthly column about Science Technology Engineering and Math in Juneau, written by a rotating group of Juneau STEM Coalition members.