Career and technical education classes diversify to meet industry needs in Chandler

Image description
Image description
The number of students enrolled in career and technical education courses has steadily increased over the years in Chandler, and in response partnerships with businesses and industry professionals are leading to more opportunities for student internships and the creation of talent pipelines for companies looking to fill trade positions.

Career and technical education, known more commonly as CTE, is the practice of teaching specific career skills to students in middle school, high school and postsecondary institutions. Students in Chandler high schools are able to take classes during their typical school day as electives and work their way toward earning a certification that can get them into a career immediately after graduation, if they so choose.

Chandler USD has 19 CTE program clusters that each have a variety of classes. Students can take classes in automotive technology, bioscience, business, cabinet making, culinary arts, digital photography, drafting, early childhood education, engineering sciences, fashion design and merchandising, graphic and web design, marketing, film and television, network security, nursing, plant systems, software development, sports medicine and technical theater.

In Maricopa County, according to the Arizona Department of Economic Services, construction, administrative and waste services, information technology, health care and social assistance, finance and insurance, and manufacturing are the top in-demand industries.

Comfort Systems USA Southwest President Joe Nichter said he is seeing a significant labor shortage in filling positions at the heating, ventilation and air conditioning business.


“It is not a quick path to fill this shortage,” Nichter said, noting he is waiting for students to get out of school and workers to get out of apprenticeships.

He said in order to fill the positions he needs, he needs technicians and leaders.

“I don’t want to see schools teaching a kid to turn a wrench; I want them to learn about technology and customers so they are better prepared for the future,” Nichter said.

Changes in CTE perceptions

About a decade ago, longtime Chandler educator Ken James said he saw a shift in the way career and technical education courses were talked about.

“It used to be these classes were for the kids that weren’t going to college,” James, executive director of educational programs, said. “There was a stigma on ‘those kids’ who took those classes; it was expected they’d get blue-collar jobs. Now CTE is seen as really for all students.”

With a mentality shift and a change in programming over the years, enrollment in CTE courses has increased, according to CUSD officials. About five years ago enrollment across the district’s six high schools in CTE programs was at 5,858. In the 2019-20 academic year, that enrollment was 7,391. James said much of that growth is due to the opening of Camille Casteel High School in 2015. James said that while Casteel is the biggest contributor for enrollment growth, he hopes "additional promotion of CTE programs and families understanding the value of taking CTE classes has contributed to some of the growth."

“It used to be called ‘vocational education,’ and classes were limited to agriculture and auto and cabinet making,” said Lindsay Duran, assistant director of CTE for CUSD. “Then we looked at trends in our community and added more options and made adjustments over time. Chandler stands out because we look at what is happening and what is coming up and what we can add for students.”

In the 2019-20 school year, CUSD added its network security CTE program at Basha High School. The program is designed to teach students cybersecurity skills.

“Students can start as freshmen and continue through their senior year in these classes, and by the time they finish, they can come out with multiple certifications preparing them for a job,” Duran said.

Duran and James said CUSD is continuing to look at expanding CTE offerings based on industry needs, but also based on student interests. The district is in the early stages of looking at a first responders CTE program.

“I see CTE only getting bigger and better,” James said. “And we are always looking at new programs here in Chandler.”

What CTE offers students

Classes in CTE programs offer hands-on training for students, Duran said. It is required that at least 51% of class time is spent doing hands-on training, she said.

“They learn the content and then can immediately apply it,” Duran said. “Sometimes it’s project-based, like making a marketing or business plan. Or in nursing, students will go to clinicals. It’s all about learning the content and applying it in the real world.”

In addition to the courses available at CUSD schools, students can take CTE classes through the East Valley Institute of Technology, which offers more specialty CTE classes, such as 3-D animation, aviation and cosmetology, that many schools do not have the ability to offer. In the 2019-20 school year, 620 students were enrolled in EVIT courses, according to CUSD officials.

But it is more than just training students for a career, though career training is the main focus of CTE.

“They will learn leadership; they will learn how to work with someone else,” James said. “You have to work together as a team a lot of times. Those are just some of the soft skills you don’t get in a traditional classroom.”

Looking to the future of CTE

Gov. Doug Ducey proclaimed February as Career and Technical Education Month in 2019 to recognize the importance of preparing students for college or a career after graduation.

Ducey’s fiscal year 2019-2020 budget invests $10 million to expand CTE offerings across Arizona. Through a grant program, high schools with CTE programs will receive up to $1,000 for each student who graduates with a certification in specific industries.

Renee Levin, community affairs manager at Intel who also served on the Chandler Chamber of Commerce Education and Workforce Development Coalition, said partnerships between businesses and schools to get students interested in CTE programs end up benefiting the community.

“The more training and education a student receives, the more employable she/he is,” Levin said. “The world is changing all the time, and the knowledge gained in high school is simply a foundation. The more solid the foundation, the better the chances that a student will be able to grow and learn as the world changes. All industries benefit from skilled graduates who are prepared for career and college. Making sure all students have the option to pursue a wide variety of areas is key to the success of Arizona—from technology to agriculture, health care to construction.”

Terri Kimble, president and CEO of the Chandler Chamber of Commerce, said it is integral that businesses and industries communicate their needs with educational institutions.

“Chandler has many technology-based companies, yes, but we are also home to manufacturing, electrical, HVAC, auto centers and many other trade-based industries,” Kimble said. “It is important for the chamber to keep its finger on the pulse of workforce development and help to find that balance between high-tech and trade-based jobs, which will continue to be important to the city’s economic growth.”

Duran and James said they are glad stigmas around CTE courses and programs have diminished over the years and that students continue to remain interested.

“CTE is for all kids,” Duran said. “It’s not just for kids who are planning traditional, vocational education careers. It is for all kids; it doesn’t matter if they are going to a university or a technical college; there is a place for every student.”•
By


MOST RECENT

Tessa Karrys will perform this week at the "Live at Lunch" concert series, which will now be held virtually. (Courtesy city of Chandler)
Downtown Chandler's 'Live at Lunch' concert series makes a comeback in a new format

Downtown Chandler is bringing back its lunchtime concert series, this time virtually due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Perry High School, a Chandler USD school in Gilbert, is turning on its stadium lights nightly to celebrate the senior class. (Courtesy Perry High School)
Perry High School finds a way to celebrate its seniors: turning on the stadium lights

Local high schools are looking for ways to celebrate the class of 2020.

Six candidates have qualified to run for Chandler City Council in the August election. (Alexa D'Angelo/Community Impact Newspaper)
Six candidates vying for three seats on Chandler City Council

Six candidates have qualified to run for Chandler City Council in the August election.

Coronavirus testing in Arizona has grown by the thousands week to week. (Graphic by Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Here's what coronavirus testing looks like across Arizona

Here is a breakdown of what coronavirus testing looks like in Arizona.

The city of Chandler headquarters is in downtown Chandler. (Alexa D'Angelo/Community Impact Newspaper)
Read 4 Chandler, Gilbert stories from this week

Get the latest Chandler and Gilbert News here.

The city of Chandler headquarters is in downtown Chandler. (Alexa D'Angelo/Community Impact Newspaper)
City launches Chandler Gives Week to raise funds for local nonprofits

The city is asking residents to give back during Chandler Gives Week.

Helluva Brewing Company got to work making hand sanitizer despite temporarily closing the doors of the business due to the coronavirus. (Courtesy Shawn Shepard/Helluva Brewing Company)
Helluva Brewing Company works to help community during coronavirus outbreak

Despite shutting down due to the coronavirus outbreak, the owners at Helluva Brewing Company are working to help the community.

O.H.S.O. Brewery & Distillery is delivering hand sanitizer it has made to Banner Health in five-gallon kegs. (Courtesy O.H.S.O. Brewery)
See what Chandler, Gilbert locals are doing to help stop the spread of coronavirus

See what area residents and companies are doing to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

People across the state are stepping in to make masks for health care workers. (Courtesy Mask Making for Arizona Healthcare Workers)
April 6: 4 coronavirus stories Chandler, Gilbert readers need to know

Catch up on some of the latest coronavirus updates for the Gilbert and Chandler areas below.

Here are the coronavirus updates to know this week. (Graphic by Community Impact Newspaper)
Here's the coronavirus news Chandler residents need to know this week

Here are the coronavirus updates to know this week in Chandler.

People across the state are stepping in to make masks for health care workers. (Courtesy Mask Making for Arizona Healthcare Workers)
Chandler woman starts statewide Facebook group to make masks for Arizona health care workers

A Facebook group has made more than 2,000 masks for health care workers. They still need to make more.

Denise McCreery is the owner of d'Vine Gourmet in Chandler. (Alexa D'Angelo/Community Impact Newspaper)
5 recent stories from the Gilbert and Chandler areas readers should know

Read local news from Community Impact Newspaper's coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.