Watson Chronicle


Education Updates and Features

Growth in CTE is Topic of Recent Forum

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Career and Technical Education forum on Feb. 27

The Watson College of Education Dropout Prevention Coalition hosted a forum Feb. 27 to learn more about Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs and discuss the future of CTE in school districts in the region.

Educators across the nation are rethinking college and career readiness and are placing a renewed emphasis on CTE to provide students with the foundation needed for a successful career. Last year, the North Carolina General Assembly passed Senate Bill 14, which paved the way for a significant expansion of CTE offerings in the state. The bill, the first legislation signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, calls for more access to CTE teachers in public schools and a partnership between the State Board of Education and State Board of Community Colleges to increase the number of students enrolled in CTE education in high need employment areas.

Amanda Lee, vice president of instruction at Cape Fear Community College and a speaker at the forum, said passage of Senate Bill 14 was a significant development for North Carolina “because it added momentum to efforts already underway in school districts, community colleges and universities to expand and enhance CTE programs.”  Data supports an increased emphasis on CTE in the future because graduation rates are much higher for students with CTE concentrations, Lee added.

“Taking a national perspective, students with a CTE concentration have a 90% graduation rate, compared to 74% who do not,” she said.

CTE directors from five area school districts presented at the forum. They were John Shannon, Onslow; Laverne Pickett, New Hanover County; Darrell Cheers, Brunswick; Robby Cauley, Pender, and Rod Likens, Columbus.  Jerry Smith, coordinator of Brunswick County Schools and Brunswick Community College Center for Advanced Studies, and Francisca Gray, career development and youth programs coordinator in Onslow County, also participated in panel presentations and discussions.  WCE professor Robert Smith served as moderator.

Career and Technical Education forum on Feb. 27There was consensus among panelists and presenters that CTE will play a significant role in secondary education in the future. School districts and community colleges are taking different approaches to expand opportunities for area students.  Onslow County has created career academies. This year, about 1,800 eighth graders explored CTE course offerings at seven high schools as they prepared to select high school pathways.

Brunswick County has focused on developing strong partnerships with Brunswick Community College, local businesses and Future Farmers of America. The partnership earned the county national recognition in 2012. New Hanover County has aligned course offerings to state and national career clusters. The county now offers 65 CTE courses in 13 of the 16 clusters that make up career pathways, said Laverne Pickett, New Hanover County CTE director.

Among other programs under development, Pender County will add firefighting technology to CTE offerings next academic year in an effort to reduce the high school dropout rate and capitalize on strong local volunteer participation in fire and EMS. In Columbus County, recent work has focused on creating a school for 250 students that offers intensive concentration in fields including audio and video, culinary arts and masonry, with a focus on job shadowing and other activities that provide real world experience.

Area CTE directors were enthusiastic about new programs and future opportunities. However, they also acknowledged challenges.  Among those challenges is the perception of CTE as vocational training for students who struggle academically.

“CTE is not limited to home economics and shop like it was 30 years ago,” said John Shannon, CTE director for Onslow County.  “Unfortunately, not enough people know that and we need to do more to align kids with career pathways for the future.”

Students often ‘Chinese menu’ select courses when they don’t understand career pathways, Shannon added.  A better avenue is to choose a career cluster and earn a nationally recognized Career Readiness Certificate credential (CRC).  These credentials are important for students’ future careers because they can lead to higher wages, Shannon said. Employers are increasingly asking job candidates, “Do you have your CRC?”

Currently, students must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.0 in core courses to participate in the career pathways, said Amanda Lee, vice president of instruction at Cape Fear Community College.

 “Today CTE is at least as academically rigorous as the college ready track,” she said.

Representatives from area districts and community colleges said there is still work to be done to raise awareness of “the new CTE” among students, parents, educators and the broader community. Educators hope to extend career pathways to middle school and actively engage businesses and other future employers in CTE programs offered in the region.  The Watson College of Education and the Dropout Prevention Coalition will continue to follow the important developments occurring in CTE.

The CTE Forum was planned by Dropout Prevention Coalition co-coordinators and WCE professors Janna Robertson and Robert Smith, and DPC co-chairs of the professional development committee John Shannon, CTE director for Onslow County Schools and Deloris Rhodes, outreach liaison for the Watson College.

For more information see: Career Clusters

District Offerings can be viewed at:

For information about the Brunswick County Schools/ Brunswick Community College Partnership, view 2012 PortCityDaily.com article online at: http://portcitydaily.com/2012/10/26/brunswick-county-schools-bcc-receive-national-honors-for-partnership/