Learning That Works

by Becky Hayes
When she was a sophomore in high school, Kaitlyn Bouchard took countless quizzes and surveys to find her “perfect career match.”
Bouchard settled on graphic design and enrolled in her local Career and Technology Education program, a decision that led her to a full-time job in a career she loves.
“CTE was an excellent stepping stone for me in getting me where I am now,” Bouchard said. “Hands-on experience can be so much more rewarding than just hitting the books.”
CTE offers a complete range of career options for students, helping them discover their interests and the educational pathway that can lead to success in high school, college and their chosen profession. 
The combination of traditional and technology-based learning allows students to do better, according to the Southern Region Education Board.
“The perception is it’s for the kids that can’t enter the world of work, but we are working very hard to change that perception,” CTE coordinator Jay Ramsey said.
“We want students to know that those who take advantage of CTE can and do go to college,” he said.
For students who don’t know what they want, four years in college building up student loans isn’t always the best option, Ramsey said. By figuring it out earlier, CTE can set these students up to be successful.
“Everyone is coming to realize that four-year degrees aren’t necessarily required,” he said. “A high cost of student debt is an important part of the conversation. Why spend the money? The labor market has been shifting.”
To exemplify how difficult it has become for people to find jobs, Ramsey said to think of it this way: In 1970, most cab drivers in New York City barely had a high school degree. Today, more than half of the drivers have a least attended some college. 
“We have a great interest in making sure students think about what they want and need to be successful,” he said.
In the 2011 to 2012 school year, 3,318 Vermont students were enrolled in CTE programs throughout the state, but Ramsey said they would like to see that number increase.
Bill Sugarman, director of the CTE center for Randolph, said that what was nice about CTE is students get to earn industry certifications from emergency services to nursing while they are still in high school.
“Kids tell me all the time, ‘this is amazing,’ Sugarman said. “They get to go to school and work on something they’re actually interested in, instead of getting pigeonholed into high school requirements.”
Bouchard said she could have skipped every other high school class she attended simply to spend more time in the digital arts classroom.
“Being around people who are creative and like-minded builds such a strong bond,” she said. “By the end of the program we were more like family than peers.”
Bouchard encourages high school students to look into the programs CTE has to offer because it can save a lot of wasted time and money later on.
“If there is a program you are interested in than go for it,” Bouchard said. “It is so much cheaper to have hands-on experience and figure out what you want to do while still in high school.”
The CTE program is available for students in the 11th and 12th grades. The easiest way to get involved is to talk to your school’s guidance counselor or visit http://education.vermont.gov/new/html/pgm_teched.html.