CTE Delivery in Rural Ohio

By Huston, Pat | Techniques, January 2016 | Go to article overview

CTE Delivery in Rural Ohio


Huston, Pat, Techniques


The word "Appalachia" often conjures up a stereotype of ignorance, poverty, poor health and slow-moving, close-knit families living on farms or up in the hills. This perception of life along the winding roads up the spine of the Appalachian Mountains is not totally wrong or totally right. About the fairest statement is that this 405,000-square-mile area from New York to Mississippi does not have the same economic vitality as the rest of the nation.

That's where career and technical education (CTE) can and does have the most impact. And that's also where Ohio's Washington and Lawrence counties are breaking out of the pack. Both counties have few college graduates--15 percent compared to the 28 percent national average. Moreover, they are close to the nation's norm of 15 percent living below the poverty line. But for these two CTE regions, the numbers are more of a challenge than an obstacle, as each county devises its own economic-education solution.

At Washington County Career Center (CCC) in Marietta, Ohio, there is a new emphasis being placed on construction, manufacturing and engineering that is linked to a strong oil and gas industry partner. Further south along the Ohio River, Lawrence County's Collins Career Technical Center (CTC) in Ironton, Ohio, has expanded its health-care focus to meet the employment needs of five hospitals and other medical-related facilities. The keystone for Collins' solution is Ohio's first-ever state-designated STEM school that was launched within the center in the fall of 2015.

What strategic aspects are unique to this demographic? Typical of these areas is an abundance of work ethic and family values and a deficiency of job-type diversity and a willingness to relocate. Another common thread in these areas is that the leaders are typically home-grown.

Washington CCC and Collins CTC are continually redefining what it means to be successful in a rural environment. Their stories follow on these pages.

Washington County Career Center: Rural CTE Success

Why It Works

Pioneer Pipe has 600 employees and is one of the largest full-service construction, maintenance and fabrication companies in the midwest. Pioneer's Chief Operating Officer, Matt Hilverding, quickly and succinctly lists three reasons why rural Ohio produces quality workers:

* They know how to work--hard and on time.

* They know how to improvise.

* They understand safety.

Specific to teens who participate in CTE programs, he explains: "These are kids who grew up on farms, baling hay when they are hot and they ache. They know how to fix a baler in the middle of a field. And they're aware of the dangers of equipment since they have been around it all their lives."

These worker qualities, plus training and partnerships with secondary CTE instructors, are exactly what Pioneer wants. According to Hilverding, Pioneer's three-year relationship with three CTE centers is a "triple win:" schools get to place six (increased to eight in FY 2016) students each in apprenticeships each year, students get well-paying careers that allow them to remain in the area and employers get a larger pool of quality workers.

"When the oil and gas business started to explode four years ago, we knew we had to do something," Hilverding said. "The answer was right at our back door, starting with Washington County Career Center." Mid-East Career and Technology Center and Swiss Hills Career Center make up the southeastern Ohio triad.

According to Washington CCC welding instructor Keelan McLeish, teaching his roughly 50 students (25 juniors and 25 seniors) is something he loves, largely because of the strong work ethic and parental support. "These kids aren't lazy", he said.

For Washington CCC's welding students, McLeish has got their number, but in a good way. Like them, he grew up where they are (in southwestern Ohio), worked on a farm and graduated from a high school welding program. …

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