Magazine article Techniques

The Other Four-Year Degree: Ohio's Miami Valley Career Technology Center Is Connecting Education with Apprenticeship and Postsecondary Training

Magazine article Techniques

The Other Four-Year Degree: Ohio's Miami Valley Career Technology Center Is Connecting Education with Apprenticeship and Postsecondary Training

Article excerpt

It all began as a matter of "respect." In the mid 1990s, the media and many educators were telling parents that the only way their children could be successful was to be "on the college-prep track." There was little respect for skilled trades, and they were certainly not thought of as part of the high-tech future. The belief of the day seemed to be that a good future, filled with financial success, had to contain a four-year degree.

Because of this belief, fewer students were applying for building trades programs. Industry leaders were calling for skilled workers who might otherwise be college bound. Miami Valley Career Technology Center (MVCTC) knew that in order to attract capable students into the skilled construction trades it would have to prove that the college-prep track wasn't the only option for career-minded students.

If career and technical education could be connected with apprenticeship programs and offer postsecondary education, it could provide its own college track. MVCTC set out to promote the construction trades apprenticeship program as the "other four-year degree." The concept was developed where registered apprenticeship programs would be put in a career/technical high school setting.

Connecting career and technical education to apprenticeship programs required planning and cooperation. MVCTC wanted its apprenticeship program to be registered with the Ohio Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training (BAT), so MVCTC's building trades apprenticeship students would be registered while still in high school. This had never been done before (the average age of apprentices in Ohio is 28).

Planning and Partnership

MVCTC needed support from its partners in both non-union and union companies to get the school-to-apprenticeship program under way. The Associated Builders and Contractors and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) were the first to work with MVCTC in its early planning stages, with others following their lead. They changed their apprenticeship guidelines, allowing students who had not yet graduated from high school to participate in registered apprenticeship programs. The new guidelines were taken to Ohio BAT, which gave approval.

The modifications to MVCTC apprenticeship students' studies were minimal, since the MVCTC curriculum was already in line with the new higher, more rigorous standards. A math curriculum was developed to prepare all students, no matter what trade, for the highest standard in industry. A physics class was added to the students' schedule during their junior year before they would qualify for the school-to-apprenticeship program.

MVCTC then set out to develop better work-based learning experiences through an innovative scheduling redesign. Students qualifying for the school-to-apprenticeship program in their junior year were scheduled together in a two-week block format in their senior year. Employers accept two students at a time who rotate schedules. While one student learns in the classroom, the other trains at the jobsite. By the time they graduate high school, the students have second-year apprenticeship status. Upon successful completion of high school and their post-graduate apprenticeship training, the students earn their journeyman's certificate--a fact that adds merit to the program.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training and the Ohio State Apprenticeship Council approved the school-to-apprenticeship block scheduling, with the agreement that, before a student is accepted at the end of his or her junior year, he or she must have a teacher recommendation, a 95 percent attendance rate, a 2.5 GPA, and be passing all subjects. The standards must be maintained through the senior year.

Because the school-to-apprenticeship program is an employer-sponsored training program, all employers hiring MVCTC school-to-apprenticeship students are required to register with the Ohio BAT for a four-year program that includes a schedule of pay increases. …

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