Katy ISD preps students for workforce

District career center offers real-world experiences

In response to Houston's growing job market, Katy ISD has added several new programs and courses aimed at preparing students for the professional world.

By giving students a jump start into college and the workforce and providing them with opportunities to earn professional certifications, students are able to better focus on their particular field of interest as they near graduation, said Steve Stanford, KISD director of communications.

The district has offered different programs through the Career and Technical Education program as well as within the Miller Career and Technology Center by incorporating hands-on curriculum and allowing students to earn or prepare for various certifications and obtain specialized skill sets.

"All of our programs at the Miller Career and Technology Center meet the needs of the Houston-area job market in some way," said Anna Webb-Storey, principal of the MCTC. "For example, there are several car dealerships along I-10. We have a phenomenal automotive technology program. The health care field continues to grow, and we believe we are meeting the needs for this particular job market."

CTE courses

The National Career Clusters Framework defines 16 pathways recognized by the Texas Education Agency that students can choose, which range from architecture to construction to marketing. The National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium defines them as an "organizing tool for curriculum design."

CTE courses provide students a way to receive career training and skill development in a public school setting, and courses are grouped together by correlating industries to serve two purposes: to allow students to explore different careers and to begin training students in their field of interest.

"Each cluster provides multiple career pathway options that incorporate all of the various career fields within the cluster," said Ron Whitson, Texas Education Agency CTE coordinator. "By offering a wide variety of courses, local education agencies are able to best provide for the workforce needs of the business and industry, which serves their communities and provide course options [to] meet the interests of their students."

KISD offers courses in 15 of the 16 CTE clusters and established the MCTC as a KISD campus to facilitate students' needs when preparing for their career. Juniors and seniors within the district are able to enroll in up to two courses per semester in any of the 11 academies.

"At this age, the students may not know exactly what career field they want to enter, but they do have a pretty good idea," Webb-Storey said. "Our programs are extremely valuable in that they provide students the opportunity to experience a certain career field of their choice."

Several of the MCTC academies and CTE courses offered at high schools award certifications to students, while other curriculum aims to prepare students for certification following graduation. Students enrolled in cosmetology at the Human Services Academy, for instance, are able to accumulate the 1,000 hours required to take the written exams associated with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation to become licensed cosmetologists.

Certifications and internships

Last year, KISD awarded 395 certifications. Although several courses prepare students for these certifications, others require student's be certified prior to enrolling. In the Hospitality and Tourism Academy, students must pass a Serve Safe certification exam before handling any food products, said Linda Calvi, vocational administrator within the district's CTE department.

"Most of our courses have a certification process at the end," she said. "While others require it as a prerequisite."

Enrolled students are able to take CTE courses in addition to their regular courses. Students can be transported by bus between their parent high school and the MCTC, but certain courses and internships require students to provide their own transportation. There is no tuition to attend MCTC, but there are fees and different charges for equipment and uniforms associated with each course and certification.

Several new courses, such as audio engineering, pharmacy tech, computer maintenance, civil engineering and architecture, and engineering design and development, were added in 2008. Courses in veterinary medicine as well as a mentor program were added in 2010.

Academies that offer internship programs—such as veterinary medicine, pharmacy tech or hospitality to name a few—have a 100 percent placement rate.

"The hands-on experiences and the internships associated with some of our programs give the students real-world opportunities so they can make informed decisions about their future," Webb-Storey said. "The networking opportunities are phenomenal.[Students] have the opportunity to meet and work with mentors in business and industry, which later could provide the student a paid internship or a job after college."

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