The Career Clusters Initiative: Three States Outline Implementation Progress: Career Clusters Prepare Learners of All Ages for the Information Age as Schools, Colleges and Employers Strive for Higher Achievement in Science and Math, Technical Skills and Communication Skills

Article excerpt

THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) continues to drive the career clusters initiative--one that began as several federal projects in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Rich Katt, Nebraska career education director and president of NASDCTEc, said the association plans to continue the development of curricula and assessments for each of 16 broad occupational groupings known as career clusters.

Career clusters represent a nationwide effort to help learners obtain the knowledge and skills they need for career success, mobility and advancement by aligning what is taught in the classroom to business and industry expectations. Pam Kirk, career clusters director for the states' Career Clusters Initiative, defined career clusters as "tools used to organize instruction and learner experiences (Pre-K through career) in community and technical colleges, career academies, work-based learning programs, small learning communities, magnet schools, charter schools and high schools that are restructuring around career themes."

In this article, Bonnie Sibert, Nebraska Department of Education; Anne Rowe, Virginia Department of Education; and Paggie McSpadden, Alabama Department of Education, will explain how their respective states are implementing career clusters that impact business education teachers and students with whom they work.

Why Nebraska Implemented Career Clusters

Nebraska's public schools are doing their part in building the foundation for the state's workforce, said Doug Christensen, Nebraska's commissioner of education. The mission of Nebraska's public schools is to ensure that all students graduate and are prepared to take three steps: continue learning throughout their lives; enter a career field; and contribute to our democratic society. In other words, schools prepare students for learning, earning and living.

Many Nebraska schools are helping students explore jobs, career fields or occupation opportunities that complement their individual talents and interests. In the near future, Nebraska is planning to have all students have personal learning plans which will be in both policy and accreditation rules. Personal learning plans are developed in seventh and eighth grade to help students plan the coursework they should take to meet their education and career goals and to pursue their interests and talents. Personal learning plans help students meet high school graduation requirements and encourage them to take rigorous classes to develop their literacy. The real strength of a personal learning plan is the conversation that it starts between students, their parents and counselors.

The Nebraska State Board of Education created an "Essential Education" policy; this was defined as providing equitable opportunities for an essential education for all students in Nebraska's public schools. Through a series of public forums, career and technical education (CTE) emerged as a topic of discussion within the essential education policy. The policy outlines that all students must have access to career education as defined in the Nebraska Career Education (NCE) model (See figure 1).

The NCE concept starts with core foundation knowledge and skills that each student is expected to learn. This includes ethics, systems teamwork, problem solving, critical thinking, information technology application and communication, in addition to fundamental academic skills.

The NCE model then surrounds the core foundation and knowledge and skills with six different career fields:

* Environmental and Agricultural Systems

* Communication and Information Systems

* Industrial, Manufacturing and Engineering Systems

* Health Sciences

* Human Services and Resources

* Business, Marketing and Management

Each career field contains career clusters, 16 in all. …

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