Education that does not incorporate career planning is a hollow promise. In the past, too often students were counseled and led to take courses that fit a learning or study model that had little relevance to their next step in life, especially if that step was toward employment. As Kentucky embarked on its comprehensive educational reform measures in the early 1990s, two key elements directed all students to focus on career choices and future plans. These two elements are planning and assessment.
In the first step of planning, each student, with parental involvement, must develop (1) an individual graduation plan (IGP). This resembles an academic roadmap that each student will use to reach graduation. The second element is assessment. To complete this element each student must participate in an assessment test that contains job-readiness questions. These two actions are particularly important for students who concentrate in Career and Technical Education programs like agriculture, where applied learning techniques can lead to skill certifications and job placement after graduation.
Nationally, Career and Technical Education programs are paying more attention to career preparation, which is required by the 1998 revisions to the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act. This 1998 Perkins revision sets the guidelines states and local districts must follow in implementing their Career and Technical Education programs. Therefore, it required more attention to career guidance and academic counseling so students were better able to choose a career path, understand the course of study and requirements to achieve that career, and develop a plan to meet their goal. In Washington State, Career and Technical Education was defined as "a planned program of courses and learning experiences that begins with exploration of career options; supports basic, academic and life skills; and enables achievement of high academic standards, leadership, preparation for industry-defined work, and advanced and continuing education." Much like the state of Washington, the emphasis of "planned program courses and learning experiences" is what Kentucky has as its goal.
Where the Jobs Are
Jobs are important to emphasize in the classroom setting. While the majority of all new jobs will require some level of postsecondary education, most will require a skill specialization rather than a baccalaureate degree. Career and Technical Education programs prepare students for those skill specializations, not only in Agriculture, but also in Business, Health Occupations, Industrial Education (now called Trade and Industry), Marketing, Technology and Technical Fields, and more.
Career and Technical Education programs also recognize that students learn in different ways. Many students learn best by applying what they are taught in hands-on environments. In the 215 Century, this is increasingly important as students can test theory on the technologically complex equipment that dominates the workplace. Career and Technical Education embodies hands-on, applied learning.
In Kentucky, beginning in middle school, students and their parents are provided materials and workbooks that detail 14 career clusters that individuals may pursue. …