CTE Leaders Explore German TVET System

December 12th, 2017

This post was authored by Dr. Elaine Perea, CTE State Director, New Mexico and Dr. Pradeep Kotamraju, State Director, Iowa based on their recent experiences exploring the German Technical and Vocational Education system. 

The Goethe Institut brought together leaders from education, workforce development, industry, and law makers as delegates to visit Germany and learn about technical and vocational education (TVET), the international name for Career Technical Education (CTE).  Dr. Elaine Perea, CTE State Director, New Mexico and Dr. Pradeep Kotamraju, State Director, Iowa, represented their states as well as Advance CTE.  Over six days, delegates learned about German education and workforce development, with special emphasis on apprenticeships, through visits with students, educators, employers, and government officials.

The program included visits to different education and workforce preparation institutions. TVET is part of the nation’s compulsory education, and the first visit was to a realschule (a lower secondary school).

The most notable difference between the students at the realschule and similarly aged students in the United States is the self-awareness that realschule students possess. Every one of them was able to discuss, in concrete terms, their strengths and preferences as it relates to the world of work. Each student expressed their vision of their future career based primarily on their individual traits, as well as their full access to career guidance and development information, which included real-world experiences through internships at the workplace of their choice.

For example, a young man told us that he wanted to work in the automotive industry because he loves cars and speaks English, German and Italian. The delegates assumed he wanted to be a mechanic, or perhaps even an engineer. He realized our mistake, and corrected it – because he loves automobiles, he is inspired to sell them! In contrast, imagine an American ninth grader proudly expressing his desire to be a car salesman, and the reaction that would likely provoke from teachers.

These self-assured learners are proud of their strengths and see themselves as an important part of the economy. Academics are not forgotten, but students at realschule learn about themselves and the world of work in concrete ways that allow them to make informed decisions about their own future.

In the ninth and tenth grade, students arrange their first work-based learning opportunities via a short, two-week internship. The teachers help students think through options and instructors provide support in technical writing task. However, research about where to intern is up to students, and students must contact employers directly and request to be hosted.

In short, teenage students in Germany own their career choices. Not once during the program did a student express the idea that the primary determinant of preparedness was an adult. Instead, one after another, students demonstrated an impressive level of self-determination about their goals and ambitions.

Employers Play Vital Role

Employers are at the heart of the German workforce preparation and apprenticeship system, and all sizes and types of businesses participate and host students as both interns and apprentices. While a commitment to host an intern only requires a few weeks, accommodating an apprentice is a substantial responsibility that includes two or more years of salary support.

One key takeaway is that the role of industry in the German system is both the heart of the endeavor and the most difficult aspect to replicate in the United States without a full-fledged commitment of time, resources and dedication. Students spend a third of their time on formal, structured training with a set curriculum, and two thirds of their time in on-the-job training, which is also directed by curriculum and weekly learning objectives.

Business and industry are highly involved in job classification and curriculum development. While the government oversees qualifying exams and state certifications, the content is developed with significant input from business.  Regional chambers of commerce serve as the intermediary between education and business.

Instructors Help Learners Find Their Paths

Teachers are not apart from the system; instead, they might be called “learning technicians.” They are asked to deliver state-provided curriculum and prepare students to pass a state-administered certification examination.

In Germany, every single student is on a path to a career, and instructors see it as their job to ensure students find their way. Students believe it is their responsibility to find a match between their skills and the world of work. Germany’s low level of youth unemployment (around 6 percent) suggests that youth are authentically engaged in developing their careers.

German teachers play an oversized role in nurturing student’s self-awareness. Especially at the realschule, the role of educators seems to sit squarely within the realm of socio-emotional development. Finding a path forward precedes skills attainment, and teachers are essential to discovering that path.

Implications for US CTE System

Recognizing the level of business and industry involvement is critically important for understanding the German model. Significant resources are provided: direct financial support to the trainees, staff oversight, training materials and advisement on curriculum development. Any widespread work-based learning initiative in the United States will require similarly significant levels of investment.

After learning of the German model, delegates did not arrive at any sort of “plug and play” ideas that are easy to transport back to the United States. Instead, we developed a deeper and nuanced understanding of the system, with the insight that ownership of what happens within the education system, but more specifically, within the TVET system, seems to “belong” much more to the employers than to the government.

The visit was a catalyst for creative thinking about how to improve work-based learning in the United States. Key suggestions include adequately incentivizing employer participation through tax deductions and direct funding, considering employee training and loyalty as a company asset, running Pell grants and guaranteed student loans through employer training channels, and increasing teacher knowledge of technical careers.

While none of the delegates thought the German model could or should be transported in its exact form, the delegates agreed that American learners would be well-served if they had more work-based learning and real-world experiences.

The outreach program was sponsored by several key partners, include the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Goethe-Institut, Deutsche Bank, the Robert Bosch Stiftung, and the Siemens Corporation. All travel costs were covered by Goethe-Institut and its partners.

Welcome to Laura Scheibe, South Dakota’s New State CTE Director!

October 10th, 2017

Before joining the South Dakota Department of Education, Laura Scheibe’s career as an American diplomat took her all over the world from Belarus to Southeast Asia. Her journey three years ago to South Dakota came as she and her young family were looking to move away from Washington, DC, and closer to relatives. Her move into education, she said, was a natural fit after having spent her career in public service.

Prior to being named the State CTE Director, Scheibe served as the deputy director of the South Dakota Department of Education’s Division of Accountability Systems, which includes state report cards, K-12 accreditation and helping to lead the creation of the state’s new plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

One of her top priorities is to use that experience crafting the state’s ESSA plan to find more ways to integrate Career Technical Education (CTE) more fully into education and bring the benefits of CTE to more students.

Scheibe is becoming the State CTE Director at an exciting time in South Dakota, where Gov. Dennis Daugaard is challenging the state to reimagine what high school looks like for students and how it prepares students for success and opportunity in life.

For Scheibe, she knows that robust CTE programs can do exactly that by helping students find their passion and discover their strengths.

“It’s about throwing our preconceived notions out a bit to help better prepare kids for the future,” she said.

Andrea Zimmermann, Senior Associate, Member Engagement and Leadership Development

Welcome to Laura Foley, Oregon’s New State CTE Director!

October 4th, 2017

Laura Foley, Oregon’s new State CTE Director, has viewed her entire professional career, which has included being a social worker, a small business owner and an educator, through a social justice lens.

“My equity lens is always, ‘Who’s paying attention?’” Foley said.

That’s because Foley, who was the first in her family to graduate from high school, was once a child who fell in between state systems and supports. She said she graduated high school with a 4.0 grade point average though sleeping through most of her classes and working 40 hours a week to help her family pay the bills. Her school guidance counselors focused on students deemed on the “college track.”

“I looked at college as a place for rich kids that was just about reading a bunch of books,” she said.

Instead, the local public library was the place she would go to teach herself what she wanted to know – for free. After a number of years, Foley would eventually go on to college, where she finished her undergraduate and master’s degrees in two and a half years.

Foley said she has spent her career trying to find the way to help the most people she can reach.

She first started working in social services, but quickly realized that the work was more reactive and intervention-focused than it was proactive. That realization led her to become a teacher, which instantly felt like a natural fit and could reach up to 300 students and their families each year.

Over the next 18 years, Foley would continue to expand her reach and impact as an instructional coach, then as an administrator and a teacher trainer. Whenever she saw a need, she would work to find a way to fill it, which is why she is now one of five K-12 reading specialists in the state and also once started her own business to design clothing for people with disabilities.

So when the position of State CTE Director became available, moving into the state administration was a natural next step for Foley. In this new post, she plans to use that same approach to ensure equity and opportunity for all students by asking “who’s paying attention” and identifying gaps that need to be filled. She sees the state’s chronic absenteeism and low graduation rates as symptomatic of larger issues.

Foley said she wants to expand career readiness so that students as young as elementary school begin to have authentic exposure to careers. Then during middle school, students are engaging in hands-on, authentic curriculum that encourages them to be creative.

“By the time they get out of high school, they should have a viable plan that they have tried for a while and have received guidance for postsecondary education to help them decide where they want to go and have a good idea what it’s going to take [to get there],” Foley said.

Foley comes into this role at an exciting time, as Oregon has made historic investments in recent years in CTE as well as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Foley said she plans to better connect these two disciplines because there are so many natural collaboration and integration opportunities.

Andrea Zimmermann, Senior Associate, Member Engagement and Leadership Development

Welcome to Dr. Colleen McCabe, Wisconsin’s New State CTE Director!

September 5th, 2017

Earlier this year, Colleen McCabe was visiting the Wisconsin state capitol to meet with legislators about funding for her local school district, or as she describes it, “happily minding my own business.”

That’s when she got a text from a close friend, Morna Foy, who also happens to be the president of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS). Foy asked McCabe to consider joining her at WTCS as Provost and Vice President of Student Affairs.

McCabe knew this would require her to fill the very big shoes of Kathy Cullen, who was retiring after having served in that role for more than a decade. Ultimately, she accepted and was named to the position in early August.

As she settles into her new role, McCabe said she is looking forward to learning more about the shape and history of the technical college system, and using her well-honed skills of innovation and collaboration to look across the system to make sure WTCS is best serving their learners.

Starting from her time as a college athlete and later a coach, McCabe said she believes in understanding the individual gifts of each player or student, rather than trying to force them into a prescribed system. Her greatest coaching challenge came when she served as the coach for a high school boys’ basketball team.

“Working with 19 ninth grade boys, you learn a lot about how to get your message across and get people working together toward a common goal,” she said.

McCabe began her career in education teaching high school health and physical education in Wisconsin. She went on to get her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, from St. Mary’s, Winona, because she wanted to work to help integrate health skills and competencies across discipline areas in education. After 14 years of K-12 instruction, she joined the University of Wisconsin-Platteville as an assistant volleyball coach and lecturer. During her 17 years at the Platteville campus, she completed her doctorate in educational leadership, from Edgewood College and then entered into a faculty role, where she continued to teach and served as department chair of Health and Human Performance for 14 years.

McCabe also consulted with the state’s Department of Public Instruction on their health education initiative to help K-12 educators revamp their curricula to focus on the development of the health-related skills, through use of content activities and assessments. This “Skills are the Units” concept prompts developmental learning so that students know how to use health content effectively throughout life. Because of her work in both K-12 and teacher education training, the Wisconsin Health and Physical Education Association, honored her as the 2014 Health Educator of the Year.

Now at WTCS, she plans to leverage all of this experience to keep the technical college system on the cutting edge. She noted to support the vision, planning, and work needed to remain a leader in career and technical education requires the ability to adapt and make changes.

“Change is hard,” McCabe said. “No one welcomes it, even the minute changes. I believe my role at WTCS is about supporting people when they have to get out of their comfort zone when change is needed.”

Andrea Zimmermann, Senior Associate, Member Engagement and Leadership Development

Welcome to Chad Maclin, DC’s new State CTE Director!

August 15th, 2017

Chad Maclin grew up in Fairfax, Virginia, in a family full of educators. He knew from a young age that he also wanted to become a teacher, but it wasn’t until a high school drafting class that he realized he wanted to teach Career Technical Education (CTE).

“CTE is where I felt most comfortable in school. It was my favorite class,” Maclin said.

Maclin also recognized that it wasn’t just the drafting class that made an impact, it was the teacher.

“He made geometry make sense to me through drafting,” he said. “This course was offering me more than content. It was the through-lines to understand how these other classes mattered.”

Maclin went on to receive his CTE teaching degree from Old Dominion University, and began his teaching career in Tampa, Florida.  A few years later, he returned to his hometown of Fairfax to teach technology education courses.

“I wanted to make my class the favorite class where students could go to make sense of their core academics,” he said.

Over the next two decades, Maclin served as a CTE teacher and administrator for Fairfax County Public Schools. He earned his Master’s Degree from George Mason University and he also served as president for the Virginia Association of Career and Technical Education.

In July, he moved into a new role when he was chosen to be the State CTE Director for the District of Columbia. Maclin said he was excited about this incredible opportunity, and is looking to increase CTE dual enrollment participation, engage with local and regional business leaders to determine which industry certifications that are meaningful and recognized, and bolster student engagement and learning through Career Technical Student Organizations.

Maclin said he also wants to make sure CTE programs are promoted far and wide so students and parents can make the most informed choices.

“So many times we hear, ‘I didn’t know schools offered that,’” Maclin said. “I’ve heard it for 20 years. I want to help students and parents know those options are out there.”

Andrea Zimmermann, Senior Associate, Member Engagement and Leadership Development

Welcome to Chris Deaton, Indiana’s New State CTE Director!

August 9th, 2017

Nearly 17 years ago, Chris Deaton’s first real job out of college was with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, where he expected to do accounting and operations work for a federal grant he knew little about at the time – the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins).

About two weeks in, his supervisor asked him to take over the office’s data collection and accountability responsibilities. Though he didn’t have much experience doing data and accountability work, he set out to teach himself whatever was necessary to do the job.

Soon after, Deaton realized Career Technical Education (CTE) had its hooks in him.

“It didn’t take me very long, but I fell in love with it. I could have left several times but I just can’t,” Deaton said. “I became very passionate about CTE and the students, what we can do for them, and how we can benefit the economy [through CTE].”

In July, Deaton was named as the State CTE Director at the Indiana Department of Education. While there is always some learning curve to any new job, Deaton feels at home in his new office, because in some ways, what’s new is actually old. That’s because for several years, Deaton’s former office at the Department of Workforce Development was the eligible state agency for the state’s Perkins grant. Now that the Department of Education serves as the Perkins eligible agency, Deaton said he is settling back into the familiar work.

Deaton said he is excited about the work ahead, which includes a major initiative to overhaul the state’s career pathways. The effort will require engaging key stakeholders across the state to reimagine how these should look to ensure every high school student has access to a true career pathway.

Andrea Zimmermann, Senior Associate, Member Engagement and Leadership Development

Welcome to Harold Mackin, Connecticut’s New State CTE Director!

June 26th, 2017

If someone had told Harold Mackin 10 years ago that he would one day be the State CTE Director of Connecticut, he would have thought the person was crazy.

That’s because Mackin was firmly settled as a district-level director for Career Technical Education (CTE) in Washington state, where he had been born and raised and taught CTE for nearly 24 years. Yet as his youngest of five daughters was entering third grade, Mackin began to ponder his own future, and that set him on a course that eventually led him to interview and apply for an agricultural education position in the state CTE office in Connecticut.

The day of his interview was the first day he had set foot in New England. That was seven years ago, and now Mackin has been tapped as the State CTE Director. Moving from the local to state level was certainly a shift, Mackin said.

“When I first arrived, the learning curve wasn’t a curve at all,” he said. “The line was 180 degrees that went straight up.”

In those seven years, the state CTE office, which had seven staff members when he arrived, has changed significantly with retirements and budget shortfalls, and now has two staff members.

Despite those changes, Mackin said he sees opportunities to raise the profile of CTE in Connecticut, where the Ivy League schools dominate students’ post-high school plans. He hopes to bridge the divide between academic and technical courses through the state’s mastery-based learning initiatives. He said this work could bring more contextualized instruction into academic teaching and more academic recognition to technical courses.

Andrea Zimmermann, Senior Associate for Member Engagement and Leadership Development

Welcome to Arizona’s New State CTE Director, Cathie Raymond

May 1st, 2017

Cathie Raymond had her mind made up at 14 years old while sitting in her home economics class – she was going to teach Career Technical Education (CTE) when she grew up. And for 43 years, she did exactly that, first in Missouri and then in Arizona.

Now she’s ready for a new challenge. In April, she became the State CTE Director for Arizona, and said she’s excited to leverage her years of experience in the field to help more teachers.

“My whole goal is make everyone’s job easier,” Raymond said. “Just because it’s always been done that way – is it the best way? [I want to do] anything I can to help the local directors to make sure they aren’t so overwhelmed and they don’t have to put things on their teachers, who are overwhelmed. I want to help them free up more time for teachers to teach and focus on their students.”

Raymond said she hopes to find more ways to tell the story of CTE in Arizona by better leveraging the data of student’s successes including and beyond graduation rates.

For the past decade, Raymond has served as the CTE director for Marana Unified School District, which is located near Tucson, Arizona. The district has the largest land mass of any in the state – 550 square miles.

Andrea Zimmermann, Senior Associate for Member Engagement and Leadership Development

Welcome to Alaska’s New State CTE Director, Deborah Riddle!

March 28th, 2017

Deborah Riddle was born in Glennallen, Alaska, and raised near Bristol Bay, on the western coast of the state. When she made her way many years later to southern Utah to be a teacher, there was one problem – it was just too hot.

So Riddle and her husband began looking for jobs back home in Alaska, and as a back-up plan, “as close to the Canadian border as possible,” she said.

That led her to Simms, Montana, to teach middle school math and science. When the school district also needed someone to teach Career Technical Education (CTE), Riddle stepped up. What first began with teaching traditional home economics classes then grew into robotics classes and even helping start and support related Career Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) at the local high school.

After 15 years in Montana, home was still calling, so Riddle took a position with the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development. She started at the State department five years ago doing school improvement focusing on mathematics. For the past year, Riddle has managed the state’s federal funding under Title 1 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The state department recently reorganized, and with those changes, Riddle’s responsibilities expanded, including the title of State CTE Director and responsibilities of managing another source of federal funding through the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins).

Riddle said she is excited by the prospects of making connections across the federal education laws to maximize funding and other opportunities for Alaska’s students. Since being named the State Director in February, she has been learning all that she can about CTE in Alaska, and said she has been so impressed by the depth and diversity of the stakeholder support she sees for CTE at the local level, especially the connections to employers, community colleges and workforce development.

“I knew there were partnerships, but I didn’t realize how many and how varied there were and what (stakeholder engagement) can really add to a program,” she said.

Riddle said she is also looking to bolster CTSOs in Alaska and continuing to strengthen and overcome the unique challenges to offering CTE for the state’s most rural schools.

Andrea Zimmermann, Senior Associate, Member Engagement and Leadership Development

Getting to Know… Missouri

March 7th, 2017

Note: This is part of Advance CTE’s blog series, “Getting to Know…” We are using this series to help our readers learn more about specific states, State CTE Directors, partners and more.

State Name: Missouri

State CTE Director: Dr. Blaine Henningsen, Assistant Commissioner, Office of College and Career Readiness, Department of Elementary & Secondary Education

About Missouri: The issue keeping state leaders in Missouri’s Office of College and Career Readiness up at night is figuring out how to ensure quality in Career Technical Education (CTE) programs across the state. Missouri is home to 57 area career centers, 450 comprehensive high schools, 12 community college districts and one state technical college that provide CTE courses to more than 244,000 students combined. As in other states, quality varies from district to district. That’s why, in 2013, Missouri worked to identify the menu of indicators that best reflect high-quality CTE programs. Eventually, the Office of College and Career Readiness settled on six criteria to guide and promote quality, called the “Common Criteria and Quality Indicators,” which were launched publicly in 2015. The indicators describe necessary components related to curriculum, instruction, assessment and more.

At the moment, the Quality Indicators carry no weight in the state’s accountability or funding structure, though Missouri is redesigning its CTE funding formula to better integrate and promote the six criteria. The plan is to roll out an updated formula in the 2018-19 school year to ensure state funds go to support quality programs. In the meantime, the Quality Indicators framework is available as a self-evaluation tool for local programs.

Programs of Study: Missouri’s programs of study follow the national Career Clusters framework and are further organized into six content areas:

  • Agricultural Education;
  • Business, Marketing and Informational Technology Education;
  • Family Consumer Sciences and Human Services Education;
  • Health Sciences;
  • Skilled Technical Sciences; and
  • Technology and Engineering Education.

Agricultural education and business are two of the most popular programs in the state, though manufacturing has enjoyed increased popularity as the sector has grown in the decade since the economic crisis.

Students enrolled in CTE programs are also encouraged to participate in work-based learning opportunities and take industry credentialing examinations. Schools earn additional points toward their “college and career readiness” score for these students. Additionally, the state has an Apprenticeship USA grant to support Registered Apprenticeships. To encourage vertical alignment between secondary and postsecondary CTE programs, Missouri offers dual enrollment opportunities for students to begin earning credit toward a postsecondary degree while they are still enrolled in high school. There is also a representative from the postsecondary system on the state’s CTE Advisory Council (more on that below).

Noteworthy in Missouri: The state legislature recently made two significant changes to the Missouri CTE system. First, it established a CTE Advisory Council, which includes four members from the general assembly and 11 other individuals appointed by the Commissioner of Education. The Council meets four times annually and provides guidance and recommendations on strengthening Missouri’s CTE programs. The Council was convened for the first time in January, 2017.

Another new and notable policy in Missouri is the adoption of a Career Education Certificate that students can earn in addition to their high school diploma. The policy was adopted by the state legislature in 2016, and the Office of College and Career Readiness, with support from the CTE Advisory Council, is in the process of defining the certificate requirements. Under the current proposal, the certificate will be available to CTE concentrators who pass a technical skill assessment or earn an industry-recognized credential, complete work-based learning experiences, and meet certain GPA and attendance requirements. The Office aims to implement the certificate beginning in the 2017-18 school year.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

 

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