Magazine article Techniques

Industry as Teacher: Internships, Business Advisors Put the Real World in CTE

Magazine article Techniques

Industry as Teacher: Internships, Business Advisors Put the Real World in CTE

Article excerpt

In labs, studios and shops, students floss the teeth of a typodont; roll curlers into the hair of a mannequin; and take apart and put back together an engine. Within the confines of a school, hands-on learning is a vital part of their career and technical education (CTE). But while it's a great simulation for teaching and learning, it's not real. CTE students only experience the realities of their chosen career when industry becomes the teacher.

"We can teach them. We can do the hands-on. But they have to experience the real deal," said Dr. Sally Downey, superintendent of Mesa, Arizona's East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT), a public school providing CTE programs to high school students and adults in the suburbs east of Phoenix.

Business and industry add some 'real' to EVIT's CTE programs in a variety of ways. They serve on advisory councils helping teachers to develop curriculum and training that meet the latest industry standards. They come into the classroom as mentors and guest instructors. They provide job shadowing, internships and apprenticeships at actual work sites.

"We're educators. We don't know 24/7 what it takes for each workforce," said Downey. "That's why we need the involvement of business and industry."

Three businesses operate on EVIT's Dr. A. Keith Crandell (Main) Campus: Adelante Healthcare, a community health clinic that provides guidance and clinical experience for health science students; Landings Credit Union, which operates a branch office on campus where banking and financial services students work with the public; and Bright Ideas Childcare, which operates a preschool where aspiring early childhood educators gain experience in working with young children.

"We play a tangible role in the students' education," said James Workman, practice administrator at Adelante. As we are active participants, we're able to make sure their training is current and up to date." And, most importantly for Adelante, the health-care provider is able to cultivate a pipeline of job candidates who meet its standards and qualifications. Some EVTT alumni currently work for Adelante. "Each time we have externs from EVTT, we try to hire one or two of them," Workman continued. "There are always stars that shine in that group. Hiring them makes our team stronger."

The Extended Classroom

A 2013 report by the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University identified a lack of work-based learning opportunities as one of several challenges impacting the quality of the state's CTE programs. According to the report: "Integrating work-based learning and apprenticeships in high schools has been proven to be beneficial for both employers and youth in Europe and Australia. Yet internship programs involving high school students are not systematic in the United States. This makes it more difficult for students to connect with potential employers and more likely to lead to a disconnect between the skills students learn and the skills that employers actually need" (Gupta, 2013). With Arizona and the nation facing a growing gap between the skills students learn and the skills employers want, employers and trade associations need to be more engaged in creating work-based opportunities (Gupta, 2013).

Downey maintains internships and other work-based opportunities start with a robust industry advisory council at the CTE program level. "If you don't have that, you're operating in a vacuum," she said. "Industry becomes an extension of the classroom."

Mike McAfee, director of education for the Arizona Auto Dealers Association, agreed. McAfee has advised EVIT's automotive technologies, collision repair and diesel technologies programs for many years. "We've had to knock on a lot of doors," he said of efforts to recruit industry for advisory councils and work-based learning.

The result is a comprehensive system created by industry and EVIT instructors over the years to immerse automotive students in job shadowing opportunities and internships. …

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