If your 10 year high school reunion has come and gone, high school is definitely not the same as you remember. Gone are the days of basic metal shop and home economics. Classes have become more focused on preparing students for future careers. For the past decade, Texas schools have worked with Federal guidelines to improve the opportunities secondary students have to learn practical skills that will help them as they enter higher education and the workforce.
Closer to home, ISDs in the Houston area are putting career curriculum to work in positive ways for middle school and high school students. Courses for secondary education range from Aviation Operations at Sterling Aviation High School in the Houston Independent School District to the International Business Academy at Klein Forest High School in Klein ISD, Veterinary Medical Applications to Law Enforcement and Fashion Marketing.
All school districts in the state of Texas are required to offer at least one Career Technical Education endorsement. These endorsements include: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), Business and Industry, Public Services, Arts and Humanities and Multidisciplinary Studies. Underneath each of these endorsements are career clusters that relate to the general field of study. For instance, under Arts and Humanities, the cluster Arts, A/V Technology & Communications exists. Within that cluster, classes include Career Prep, Animation, Fashion Design, and Professional Communications. Before the CTE Program, students could earn dual credits with Lone Star College in Science, Fine Arts and Math. They now are able to not only do that, but earn career licensing in advanced CTE classes. After 2 years of additional vocational training and certification after high school, these students are ready to enter the job field into high-paying mid-skill careers.
At the start of their freshman year, students select an endorsement, and plan their additional courses around their endorsement and career cluster choice. English, Math, Science and Humanities are still required core classes. Many students appreciate the opportunity to explore different areas of employment to gain a better understanding of what they eventually wish to dedicate their working lives to.
The CTE program allows students to see how math, science and reading are important to real-world careers. Students can earn college credit in these classes, and also be better prepared for advanced education through extra curricular activities and UIL competitions. A hands-on environment in these classes accelerates learning and comprehension, as well as practical experience that can be taken directly to the job. If students continue to a 4 year college, they have already had training and exposure to materials that give them a leg up in their school work. They also develop soft skills and experience that employers are looking for, and most people don't gain until later in their employment experience.
The Klein ISD website, www.kleinisd.net, states, "CTE allows students to see the relevance of their academic preparation to their future career goals. Our programs of study include coherent and rigorous content aligned with challenging academic standards and relevant career technical content." JobSparx spoke to graduating seniors at Klein Oak High School as well as Deborah Bronner-Westerduin, Assistant Director of Career and Technical Education Programs (CTE) at Klein Independent School District about the CTE program and how it is positively affecting students in the district.
Klein ISD is unique because they have all 5 CTE Endorsements available to students. There are more than 100 courses available in 15 different Career Clusters. The district uses Workforce data in their program planning, so it is changing constantly as the workforce needs change in Texas.
There are 4 clusters in High School where a student can earn their state license as a senior:
- Family / Consumer Sciences
- Pharmacy Technician
Students may also receive certifications upon graduation from High School so they can gain potential employment while continuing their education. Courses include Pharmacy Tech and Cosmetology.
There are 3 programs available at the Intermediate School level. These classes include: Professional Communications, Principles of Human Services and Tech System Data Entry (TSDE).
One of the largest growth industries in Texas is healthcare. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Houston area employment in the Education and Health Services supersector added 17,700 jobs between 2014 and 2015. This is a 5% increase overall. Nationally, employment in this industry was only up 2.6%. The largest job growth in this sector occurred in ambulatory health care services and hospitals. Because of this trend, another CTE category was added in 2015. The new World Health classes include: Medical Microbiology, Pathological Physiology and Anatomy / Physiology. Anatomy/Physiology is also an advanced dual credit course, earning college credit.
As part of the career education path for Klein ISD Students, HOSA (Health Occupation Students of America) has groups on each of the four Klein campuses that are very involved in competitions and advanced healthcare education. As we talked, Ms. Bronner-Westerduin explained, " Klein ISD is deeply entrenched in HOSA. 111 KISD students in HOSA advanced to national competitions, including a National winning team. 41 additional students TSA/HOSA/FHA received silver medals (equivalent to 2nd place) at these events." There are multiple types of events that HOSA participants can compete in, including knowledge tests, medical spelling, pharmacology, medical innovations and the HOSA Bowl.
Bronner-Westerduin also spoke about the hidden career paths within the medical cluster. For art students, "there is a high need for medical illustrators," she stated. In addition, she said, "There are so many jobs in the medical industry - the business behind the scenes." Some of the careers she mentioned included Hospitality, Finance and Transportation.