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Meeting examines career, technical education in K-12, college courses


Havre Daily News/Tim Leeds

Holly Haas sits in an empty room while participating in a conference call during a Perkins V public hearing Monday at the Brockman Center on the Northern campus in Havre.

Educators from across Montana spoke on the importance of career and technical education and the issues facing the program as well as education systems across the state Monday in Havre.

Montana State University sponsored the second public hearing for Perkins V where educators from across the state communicated in a conference. Montana State University-Northern Montana Career Pathways, Dual Enrollment and Perkins Coordinator Holly Haas said the meeting was to ask questions and to provide input to the state about what the Perkins V program should look like on a state level.

Educators, administrators and members of the public were invited to the event, at the Brockman Center at Northern but no one appeared at the hearing.

The Perkins grant is a federal education program that invests funds and resources for secondary and post-secondary Career and Technical Education programs across the country. Perkins IV was reauthorized in 2006. The three focus points of Perkins IV were to provide an increased focus on the academic achievement of CTE students, strengthen connections between high school and careers and improve state and local accountability to CTE efforts and initiatives.

"You can get just as good of a job with an apprenticeship, a certificate, a two-year education as you can with a four year degree or better," Haas said during the teleconference. "There's opportunities out there for everybody. ... Not all trades fields are bad. We have opportunities that are available to you right here and now."

A representative from Billings said that administrators and advisors in high schools across the state are enforcing the negative stereotype the CTE program is primarily for troubled youth. She added that administrators use CTE as a "dumping ground" for students with behavioral issues rather than encouraging CTE to all students as a rigorous and effective way to have a skilled and knowledgeable workforce.  

She said that many of the issues facing the program is outside of what is covered in the Perkins V program.

A teacher from Billings added that the state is facing a shortage of qualified, trained teachers for CTE programs.

"It's nice to do all these things for the kids but if you don't have a teacher, you're going to have a problem," he said.

Haas said after the hearing that it had a lot more input than the previous hearing, with more discussion and exchange of ideas from other high schools and colleges from across the state.

"CTE or what people see for CTE - the trades fields - they're dying because most people are pushing four-year education," she said.

She added that students have a range of career opportunities that they are overlooking within the state and within their own communities.

At Northern, Perkins V keeps the school updated on technology and CTE fields and allows high schools and colleges to better prepare students to enter the workforce, she said. Perkins V will also be incorporating more STEM fields, and will be putting an emphasis on technical training rather than vocational, such as civil engineering technology and nursing.

Perkins V will also set up funds for dual enrollment programs so students can earn college credits while in high school, she said.

"They are getting the same content and the college knows that if they take the class at the high school, it's going to be what they need to know, the same objectives that they are meeting," Haas said.

High school students need a math, communication and writing course for most degrees or certifications, she said, and dual enrollment classes allow students to achieve their general education credits in high school that would fit in the CTE aspect.

"We are looking for this skill, this trade, working with business and industry not only post secondary but secondary collaboration between education and the workforce to provide students options," she said.

Perkins V can also reach students as young as sixth grade, she said. Students sixth grade and up will have the opportunity to shadow professionals in their field of interest and have other opportunities to explore career paths. The state has its own guidelines for Perkins V separate from federal guidelines, however, they have to work in tangents with each other, she said.

President Donald Trump last July signed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act - Perkins V - which reauthorized the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Educations act of 2006. The new law will go into effect July 1 with the first year considered as a transition year. Institutions which use the Perkins program will submit a one-year transition plan in the spring of 2020 that will be in effect from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2024.

Perkins V's goal is to build upon the program by also improving alignment to in-demand industries, putting a strong emphasis on quality by requiring measures of progress and focusing on equality by increasing federal funds that states have available - primarily in low-income areas.

Perkins V also works to encourage students of various backgrounds to look into CTE programs and integrates Science, Technical, Engineering and Mathematics programs to adapt to more technical industries.

The public hearing document says that when Perkins funding is re-authorized, each state receives guidelines for the grant, but are required to ask for stakeholder - or industry partner - input on the aspects of the implementation of the program.

"Career and Technical Education is an educational option that provides learners with the knowledge and skills they need to be prepared for college and careers," the document said. "CTE gives purpose to learning by emphasizing real world skills and practical knowledge within a selected career focus.

Haas said that funding from Perkins can be used for a number of items, with the majority of the funding allocated to secondary education. Some of the program's funding can be used for is purchase new equipment, provide guest lectures for students both high school and college, job shadowing and apprenticeship programs.


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