School year begins with added emphasis on career and technical education
Teacher T.J. Wilson has put modern components in his grandfather’s 1956 Ford F100. Students will work on the vehicle in Salem’s Career and Technical Education Center’s Auto Body and Repair Program, doing everything from body work to computer diagnostics. (Photo by Jake Arnold)
Two new programs await students when they start their school year Sept. 6 at Salem’s Career Technical Education Center: “Drones Technology and Robotics” and “Auto Body Repair and Painting.”
They join students around the state returning this week and next to schools looking for ways to answer Measure 98’s career and technical education challenges.
The Legislature appropriated $170 million for Measure 98 programs, and the Oregon Department of Education announced the amounts of the first grants on Aug. 21. Starting this year, districts and charter schools can receive funding for career and technical education, college preparation courses and dropout prevention.
Districts around the state are expanding efforts to get students ready for real-world jobs.
- The North Lake School District is bringing back a business curriculum class that also lets them maintain their Future Business Leaders of America membership.
- The Pendleton School District recently built a new facility for its career and technical education program, including a new food truck for its popular and growing foods program.
- The Astoria School District is placing more high school students with the Clatsop Community College CTE program while also planning a new CTE classroom.
Salem’s CTEC, which opened in 2015, uses an innovative approach to CTE. Students spend 2.5 days a week at the center, with math, science and English classes taught on site in a way that reinforces the technical skills.
“We teach those subjects through the lens of the CTE courses,” said Jim Orth, CTE director for Salem-Keizer Public Schools. “English is not going to be ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ It’s going to be technical manuals.”
The unique public-private partnership between Salem-Keizer and Mountain West Career Technical Institute already offered programs in manufacturing, construction, cosmetology and 3D design. It plans to add two programs a year, with a goal of 10 programs.
R.J. Hampton, teacher for the drone program at the Career Technical Education Center, says drones differ from remote-controlled craft in that their microprocessors allow the machines to compensate on their own for environmental factors such as changes in wind or air pressure. (Photo by Jake Arnold, OSBA)
Its drone program shows how much ideas are expanding of what CTE can encompass.
Students will learn how to design, build and maintain drones; plan and implement missions; and analyze and utilize data collected by the drones, according to Orth. Students will graduate with a commercial drone pilot license.
“My goal is to get people to understand the potential of these students and what they can bring to the workforce right out of high school,” said R.J. Hampton, teacher for the drone program.
Hampton, who is starting his third year of teaching, has been working with drones since the 1990s, when he worked for the U.S. Defense Department. His classroom has a dozen of his own drones in it already, including an underwater drone.
Students can fly drones they built in a specially designed warehouse space. The program will include land and water drones too. Hampton expects his students to help solve the field’s problems with controlling drones wirelessly underwater.
Instructors see many possibilities, both practical and fun, for their lessons on microprocessors, electronics and wearables.
“Even though they are leaning to build drones, they might design a Halloween costume,” said electronics instructor Jeff Kurtz.
Collision repair might seem like a staple of old-school CTE programs, but CTEC’s programs incorporate core learning subjects with English lessons such as comparing and contrasting different types of paints.
Orth said students are more engaged and less off task at the center because they are studying subjects they chose. Oregon Department of Education data show a strong correlation between taking CTE courses and graduating high school.
Kara McGuirk, the science teacher for the Career and Technical Education Center’s two new programs, has been bursting with excitement this week as she unpacked everything from high-tech calibrating equipment to routine classroom supplies. (Photo by Jake Arnold)
The two new programs’ science teacher, Kara McGuirk, will be starting with units on electricity. For the auto body students, the focus will be on how car batteries work, and for the drone students, it will be drones’ lithium batteries. McGuirk has been on site since Aug. 1 coordinating lessons with the other program teachers.
The auto body program also points up one of the problems districts face with the added emphasis on CTE: finding qualified individuals with industry knowledge who can also teach.
“It is hard to find an industry professional who will inspire our kids and impress our stakeholders,” said CTEC Principal Rhonda Rhodes. Schools know where to advertise for teachers but most teachers won’t have the knowledge and the passion, she said. Schools have to find ways to reach out to industries for people who might not know they want to teach.
Rhodes went through many applications before finding T.J. Wilson for the auto body program. Wilson used to invite neighborhood kids to his Texas repair shop, teaching them useful skills and keeping them out of trouble. Now he has a classroom with a garage door to bring cars right into the study area.
“I finally found my true passion,” Wilson said. “I get to take years of work and sweat and mess-ups and pass on what I’ve learned to the kids.”
- Jake Arnold, OSBA