Magazine article Techniques

REINVENTING the Image of CTE through Sustainability

Magazine article Techniques

REINVENTING the Image of CTE through Sustainability

Article excerpt

Career and technical education (CTE) carries a long-held image misconception - an outdated observation harbored by students, parents and the general public that CTE lacks academic rigor and only leads students to low-skill jobs. Despite these misconceptions, CTE is often a perfect option for many students to discover their passions, and to develop skills to enter the workforce or to continue on to college.

There is a growing body of research that suggests CTE is gaining mainstream acceptance among students and the public at large. Prime examples of this shift include data from a 2010 study at the University of Nebraska in which Nebraskans noted that they place equal importance on both CTE courses and traditional academics; in 2005, Western Michigan University research revealed that 80 percent of high school seniors believe CTE programs are suitable for students of all abilities and levels of achievement.

Rooted in project-based learning, CTE offers learners the skills necessary to enter the 21st century workplace. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills identifies skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration as vital skills for the future. The hands-on approach to education in CTE equips students with all of these skills. Indeed, the CTE community has made excellent strides toward image change, but how can it become more prolific? How can CTE enhance its image so as to attract new students? One solution is through sustainability. Sustainability in education is about teaching students to be environmentally and socially responsible, therefore protecting the planet for future generations.

The Case for Sustainability

For the first time in history, humans have reached the capacity to overwhelm our natural life-sustaining systems. The escalation of global environmental challenges provides the perfect storm to unleash CTE's full potential. The following represents a sample of environmental concerns that we are facing:

* World's energy demand is increasing

* Increased levels of pollution

* Escalated carbon emissions

* Climate change

* Water scarcity

* Product and building toxicity

Public awareness about the need for sustainability has led to a growing demand for more energy-efficient and environmentally responsible products and facilities. Bill Coburn of PricewaterhouseCooper states that "the growing demand for environmental products and services could translate into one of the biggest new markets in recent memory." The Apollo Alliance predicts that the United States could see as many as three to five million new green jobs in the next 10 years. These statistics translate into huge opportunities for young people about to enter the workforce. In general, the younger generation is concerned about the environment and therefore they are attracted to programs that promote sustainability. The 2006 Cone Millennial Cause Study suggests that young people are more likely to work for and buy products from companies that are socially and environmentally responsible. CTE has a unique opportunity to not only set an example for all students, but due to the application-based nature of CTE programs, there is a direct opportunity to apply these sustainable practices.

By utilizing sustainable practices to create a green image, CTE facilities can position themselves to attract new students and change public perception. This image is comprised of internal practice and external projection. To reach maximum potential, sustainability must be carried through both CTE's programs and its facilities.

Program Greening

The most obvious method in bringing sustainability to the forefront at a CTE facility is to introduce new programs that focus solely on the new green economy. These programs lead to jobs such as solar panel installer, wind turbine technician, energy auditor and biofuel technician. But the greatest potential (often overlooked) lies with greening existing programs. …

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