The advantages of providing high school students with career pathways.
A school leader’s job includes designing academic programs for all students. We frequently provide high achievers with clear pathways, including AP classes and college counseling, while other students are left to navigate their own high school journeys. We have deliberated about mapping courses for students that lead to careers and certifications at the high school where I am assistant principal. We have clustered courses around students’ interests in automobiles so that they can use that knowledge to prepare for careers.
In the past, trade and industrial arts included classes like woodworking and auto repair. Today, if they are taught in schools at all, they are referred to as technology and include courses in engineering, science, and applied mathematics. However, due to ongoing budgetary constraints, shifting state mandates, and standardized testing, STEM courses frequently surpass traditional industrial arts courses. Industrial arts classes are frequently eliminated first when school administrators are faced with difficult decisions.
My school has moved in a different direction: We strongly believe that we must serve all students, including those who do not intend to attend college, and as a result, we have made the decision to place a high value on and make investments in both industrial arts and STEM subjects, specifically automotive courses.
THE PROCESS OF PLANNING
A brand-new automotive career program marked the beginning of our institution’s journey. We offered a few basic car care and auto repair courses to students, but they were scattered: From those courses to jobs, there was no clear path. Automotive courses could be taken as electives by students, but there was no clear group of courses that would prepare them for certification and career requirements. Our automotive teachers and principal began to think more broadly about how we could assist our automotive students in making a career out of their passion for cars with the support of our superintendent and board of education.
What began as a brainstorming session in 2018 has developed into a career and certification pathway that will be fully operational for our first freshmen class in 2021–22. In the mediating three years, we teamed up with experts in the vehicle business to adjust our vision for a strong program with what abilities an understudy beginning a profession in the field would require.
Accreditation from the national automotive certification organization, the ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) Education Foundation, was a crucial step in the planning process. In order to accomplish this, we required internships for students to gain real-world work experience and local partners in the automotive industry (dealerships and repair shops) to provide insight into how our curriculum could prepare students for automotive jobs.
ERECTION OF A PIPELINE.
We needed to get the word out to freshmen and their parents about the program once it was planned so they would know it was an option. We produced a video to introduce our facilities, our instructors, and how our program would assist students in achieving career certifications in a field that is in high demand because we unveiled the program during the pandemic. We, as a regional high school, sent the video to our sending middle school districts, who shared it with eighth-grade students and notified parents via email. We also promoted the program through social media.
We facilitated a virtual open house for understudies and guardians due to the pandemic, yet going ahead, open houses will be nearby so we construct fervor about the offices and educators among planned understudies. Our previous classes made use of state-of-the-art automotive repair facilities at our school. After students expressed an interest, we scheduled interviews to get to know them and help them understand the program’s requirements, including the requirement that they pass all classes in order to stay in the program and receive their certifications on time. Because the transition from middle school to high school isn’t always easy, the program’s potential students and their parents need to know what to expect.
We made it a point to personally inform students that they had been accepted into the program. The students were excited and felt like they had accomplished something. I and a guidance counselor went to each of the students’ middle schools to present them with certificates of acceptance and a letter of congratulations from our principal.
The occasion was marked by making acceptance into the program an event: It had been planned for years and had taken into account students who had not always done well in traditional classes. It was a turning point for me when I realized that the program would have a direct and very positive effect on them when I saw how proud they were. I was told by one parent that their child gained a sense of purpose and excitement about high school that they had not previously experienced. That seemed to me to be the culmination of all the effort put into planning this new venture.
We will host an orientation for the students this summer so that they can meet their peers. Our students’ ability to remain in the program and graduate will greatly depend on their ability to establish relationships with one another.