Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Career and Technical Education for Youth at Park & Rec Agencies

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Career and Technical Education for Youth at Park & Rec Agencies

Article excerpt

Once known as vocational education, career and technical education (CTE) is the 21st-century version of preparing our youth for today's workforce and ensuring they have the skills necessary to become gainfully and meaningfully employed. Providers of out-of-school time (OST) programs, whether over the summer months or after school during the school year, have the opportunity to be at the forefront of this work, now perhaps more than ever.

OST programs are ideal places for CTE because they can be flexible in the type of learning environment they create for students. When provided with the space to explore interests and improve competencies, such as team work, communication and problem-solving, student employability and life skills can be vastly improved. In addition, through more hands-on activities, mentorships and internships, students in CTE programs have access to opportunities that will assist them in selecting a career path and setting goals for their future.

Career Development Through Community Service

The department of community services, Live Healthy Gwinnett in Lawrenceville, Georgia, hosts undergraduate and graduate student interns, primarily those obtaining degrees in the public health field, to develop, implement and evaluate the OST activities offered by its summer camps and contracted camps against the Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards. In addition to its in-house orientation, it uses community partners to lead additional trainings for the interns, including the group Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Strong4Life, which conducts a full-day training to teach the interns the importance of wellness guidelines, vending policies, healthy habits and about ongoing resources they can tap into throughout the semester. Since 2014, Lindsey Jorstad, outreach manager for Live Healthy Gwinnett, has supervised 14 interns from eight different colleges and universities. By the end of July 2017, combined service hours for all 14 students had reached 3,700 hours.

"There is a big difference between what you are taught in a classroom and what you find through working in the field," says Kamila Beer, a graduate of Georgia Southern University with a bachelor's of science in public health. "Being able to actually put the knowledge I acquired in school into action allowed me to improve my writing, planning and, most importantly, my public speaking skills. Interning with Live Healthy Gwinnett has given me the upper hand for the future and prepared me to become more confident and successful."

Building Technical Skills Through Hands-On Learning

Rec2Tech Pittsburgh was launched in September 2016 to demonstrate how municipal assets can be leveraged to address the digital divide. During a one-week demonstration, Rec2Tech Pittsburgh transformed five city-owned recreation centers into technology-enhanced learning centers, where youth learned to use technology to express their creativity, solve real-world problems and build job-ready skills. Examples of activities included youth combining art and drone photography to document their community, using engineering to create a self-watering greenhouse out of up-cycled materials and designing characters, building levels and making their own video game controllers.

"Rec2Tech demonstrated how we can use existing city resources to increase access to technology and provide young people with the 21st-century learning opportunities they will need to succeed in the innovation economy," says Pittsburgh Mayor, William Peduto. …

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