The best way educators in CTE fields can demonstrate career connections to students in/outside the classroom is to get students to industry and industry to students. Instructors need to provide job shadowing opportunities to CTE students, and business owners/employees need to be solicited by instructors to come in and be visible in the shops and classrooms. Networking needs to be strong in terms of internships and work-based learning opportunities that are offered to students. By actually connecting our students with real, tangible opportunities in their chosen fields, we demonstrate career connections in real time, allowing students to explore, build, decide and experience.
Employability and marketability: those are the two next big trends in college and career readiness, and our 21st century learners, whether they are college bound or career bound, will benefit immensely by being well versed in both. Students need to be employable, not just in terms of their trade-related skill set, but also in terms of the intangibles like work ethic, punctuality, professionalism and workplace etiquette. Students also need to be marketable, both applying to colleges and applying to jobs, because the applicant pool is stronger now in the 21st century more than ever. Thousands of applicants all share the same admirable resume fluff -- community service, computer proficiency, strong GPAs -- and the question the students need to ask themselves is: What makes you more marketable than your competition vying for the same spot you are? What sets you apart? My advice: Start early and build a professional portfolio that highlights what you can actually produce, not just who you are on paper.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do career-wise until my second semester of my freshman year in college. Truth be told, I went to college to play basketball on scholarship, not to figure out what career I would have afterwards; I didn’t even like school, but it was my vehicle to college hoops. I realized what I wanted to do when one of my English/poetry professors pointed out that I was linguistically skilled and should pursue a literature degree (who, me?? I didn’t even like to read). I realized that up to that point I had been so athletic and sports minded, that I completely overlooked the gift I had with the English language. So, I took the two things I knew best: coaching/athletics, and English, and I landed on teaching/education. 10-plus years later, I sit as one of the youngest high-school assistant princpals in the state of Connecticut, all because an instructor dared to pull out of me what I had failed for years to pull out of myself. The takeaway is this: Don’t pigeonhole yourself into a single definition or a single talent. View yourself as a multitude in and of itself, a myriad skillset with talent that is forever untapped. Listen to those around you, your coaches, peers, instructors, friends and parents. Listen to what they see in you, and capitalize on what you already know. The combination is a winning mentality that only results in success.
Jayme Beckham is the assistant principal at Henry Abbott Technical High School in Danbury, Conn. This blog post is a content collaboration with ACTE and the Educators in Action blog.
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