Energy Industry Powers CTE Program

Article excerpt

Michael Fields is a recent graduate of Buckeye Union High School in Buckeye. Arizona. Fields is enrolled in the Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) Get Into Energy program, which means he is well on his way to a promising career. Specializing in power plant technology, in two years he will earn a certificate that will all but guarantee a job in the energy industry, where skilled workers are in extremely high demand.

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Fields has taken several of the program's required courses, including career and personal development, energy industry fundamentals and algebra. The first course introduced him to the basic skills necessary for success in any job, including resume preparation, interview skills, conflict resolution and professional work habits. The course also gave Fields the opportunity to evaluate his core career interests, skills and values to ensure their alignment with a career in energy.

"Through the Get Into Energy program, I've learned a lot about myself," explains Fields. "I've discovered my goal, and I won't allow anything to keep me from that."

In 2000, EMCC began a partnership with Arizona's major energy employers to develop a program to provide students in the 11th grade and up with a seamless pathway into skilled, well-paying energy careers. EMCC, twice named among the nation's top-ranked community colleges by the Aspen Institute, is proud of its progressive energy program, and rightly so; many say it is on its way to becoming a national model.

"As the energy industry's objectives have become more defined, [EMCC] has been at the table developing curricula to meet their changing needs for both secondary and postsecondary students--their future workforce," says ICC's Vice President of Occupational Education Clay Goodman.

Energy Career Readiness

In 2008, the Arizona State Board of Education approved Education & Career Action Plans (ECAPs) as a requirement for students in grades 9 through 12. An ECAP reflects a student's plan of coursework, career aspirations and extended learning opportunities in order to develop individual academic and career goals. The mandate prompted EMCC to look for ways to assist high school students in narrowing down potential future careers and coining up with a strategy for planning its career and technical education (GTE) curriculum around students' ECAPs.

Goodman says EMCC found a solution in an online education and career planning system by Kuder, Inc. that includes a four-year education plan built specifically for the ECAP. EMCC provides its local feeder schools with free access to this system, which helps students identify programs of study that match their career interests through a series of career assessments, and build their ECAPs accordingly (Chart 1). The system includes a database that gives administrators the ability to view aggregate data on students' tentative career interests (Chart 2).

CHART 1:

EMCC Feeder High School Kuder[R] Career Interests

Top Five Assessment Rankings

#1 Health Science

#2 Natural Resources/Energy

#3 Finance

#4 Hospitality & Tourism

#5 Government & Public Admin.

CHART 2:

EMCC Feeder High School Kuder[R] Career Interests

Top Five Assessment Rankings

#1 Architercture and Construction

#2 Health Science

#3 Science & Technology

#4 Engineering & Mathematics

#5 Education & Public Training.

The system, called Kitder[R] Nauigator, helps middle school and high school students explore job and training options. "It gives EMCC insights that help us plan our GTE programs. It also lets us keep a close eye on the numbers of students whose assessment results point to energy-related careers," explains Goodman.

Fields admits he was-surprised when the system returned results that were spot-On for my interests. …