Career and Technical Education (CTE) was the main topic of October’s Jeffco Board of Education meeting.
Seen as a pathway to career and college readiness, CTE has been a component of Jeffco schools for more than 30 years.
Aside from three Warren Tech campuses, the district’s elementary, middle and high schools offer CTE classes to provide students with exposure to career-related curricula focusing on academic, technical and employability skills.
Marna Messer, Jeffco’s choice programming director, and Heather Keeton, Warren Tech principal, spoke about where CTE is currently and what needs to be done to grow the program for coming generations.
Messer said CTE career pathways allow students to apply academic skills while learning technical skills and develop employability skills while experiencing authentic situations. Career pathways classes are designed to align to industry standards so graduating students can be immediately employable. She said students who concentrate (take two or more credits) in a discipline are also more likely to graduate on time, enroll in post-secondary education and (still) be employed eight years after graduation. Therefore, each career pathway in Jeffco CTE programs offers students the opportunity to take two credits.
Industries are connected to CTE programs through advisory boards and each career pathway program must articulate to a post-secondary program in Colorado.
Jeffco has 142 high school programs including programs at neighborhood, option and special schools in addition to programs offered at Warren Tech which just opened its third campus, adjacent to Dakota Ridge High School in South Jeffco. There are also 27 Middle School Combined Exploratory programs throughout the district.
Courses in Health Science, Aviation, IT/Cybersecurity, Welding, Vehicle Maintenance, Theatre, Multimedia, Manufacturing Trades, Hospitality and Food Management, Business Management, Biotechnology, Construction Trades, Drafting/Design, Engineering, Education and Fashion/Interior Design are just some of what’s available for students to take.
Jeffco’s CTE programs are funded, in part, by 2018’s 5A Mill Levy.
Keeton spoke about the connection between the district’s home high schools and Warren Tech.
“As many of you know, Warren Tech is a designated Career and Technical Education school and we have 37 different programs. And we just won the Colorado Succeeds prize and we just yesterday, talked to them about the incredible support we get from our district,” she said. “Jeffco is so progressive and forward thinking in putting resources toward a designated Career and Technical School and it makes all of the difference.”
She said the District is always looking at carer pathways and how they tie into home high schools — the goal being getting students started in home high schools, preparing them to finish up at Warren Tech if they choose to do so.
Staffing in CTE programs has been a challenge, but the district is also hoping to benefit from its Jeffco Root program which allows them to “grow their own teachers.”
Keeton said almost every Warren Tech program offers concurrent enrollment opportunities, allowing students to earn college credits while still in high school. She said on average, Warren Tech students have earned 13,000 college credits, which adds up to almost $2 million in college savings for students.
“It makes college credits more accessible and affordable for students,” she said. “Many of our Warren Tech students are college-bound. And other students use those credits to get certifications and then go straight into the workforce.”
Messer also spoke about Jeffco Career Links, a district-wide program that helps all Jeffco students with things like industry interviews, resumé support, a career expo, Capstone mentorships, internships and apprenticeships.
She said the Career Links team also helps students connect with industry and career partnerships.
Some of the program’s partners include Habitat for Humanity, Frontier Airlines, Marriott, the Action Center, Denver Botanic Gardens and Ball Aerospace.
Despite the success of Jeffco’s CTE programs, Messer said there’s still work to be done to build a more thorough system of career and college readiness that ensures all students are ready for post-secondary success.
“We have to consider career-connected learning opportunities for our younger grades,” she said. “We have to support our middle school students in exploring careers through systemic practices such as virtual job shadows for all students, industry speakers and connecting with organizations such as Junior Achievement.”
She said in high schools the district needs to support students in career pathways rather than just letting them think of (those courses) as electives they can take.
Jeffco students can learn more about post-secondary opportunities via a searchable database by visiting the Career and College Pathways link, in the “programs” section of the Jeffco Schools website: https://jeffcopublicschools.org/programs/career_college_pathways/career_technical_education