Posted by: Tom Ross | April 7, 2014

Millennials: Where Are They Now?

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A new Pew Research Center survey finds that 55% of Millennials have posted a “selfie” on social media. 81% know what one is. (The ‘selfie’ has been around since 1839…but that’s another story.)

EllenSelfieBestThe making of this year’s best-known selfie to date

selfieGraphic(And you thought I was making this up.)

This is just one of the findings of the new study by Pew titled Millennials in Adulthood: Detached from Institutions, Networked with Friends.

Today’s Millennials (born after 1980, ages 18-33) are more often than not single (only 26% are married), politically independent (50% feel no political party affiliation), progressive, tolerant, and diverse (43% are non-white). Despite the fact that they are burdened with financial hardships–student loan debt averaging $27,000 for a bachelor’s degree; an unemployment rate of 13% for ages 18 to 24–they remain optimistic about their economic future.

Economic Optimism

And hopeful about America’s future as well, 49% of Millennials say this country’s best years are still ahead; for Gen Xers it was 42%, Boomers, 44%. Listen to Pew Research Center’s Paul Taylor, executive vice president and one of the authors of the report, expand on this and more on the PBS Newshour.

Another survey from Pew, The Rising Cost of Not Going to College, finds that among employed Millennials, college graduates are significantly more likely than those without any college experience to say that their education has been “very useful” in preparing them for work and a career (46% vs. 31%). And these better-educated young adults are more likely to say they have the necessary education and training to advance in their careers (63% vs. 41%).

A report from the U.S. Public Interest Group (PIRG), A New Direction, finds that Millennials are driving less. This is due both to their desire to live in urban, walkable neighborhoods and the way they connect with the world through technology. Car manufacturers are responding by designing new cars that connect. But Millennials are smart–they also shop for value, style, and fuel economy.

Thanks to our colleagues at California Career Café for the lead on these reports. Check out their Career Briefs page for the latest information, books, and reports on how to inspire student success in the classroom and in the workplace.

Posted by: Tom Ross | March 27, 2014

Quirky Boots

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With Quirky, it’s all about product design and development. Quirky is an online forum and shop for “unique and functional physical consumer products that make our lives better, faster, and funner.” If you haven’t been to yet, have a look. It’s a great site for smart and innovative new products.

Quirky’s motto is: ‘We believe the best ideas in the world aren’t actually in the world… they’re locked inside people’s heads. We exist to solve that problem.’

In an article in PRWeb by Karen Fraser-Middleton, Marketing Consultant for the Sierra College STEM Collaborative, Garett Van der Boom, the head of Quirky’s International Distribution, adds, “Quirky wants to nourish students’ creativity and get them excited about inventing. Through evaluation, they get feedback from consumers and professionals so they can make improvements. We’d like to lift up a community of students unafraid to fail quickly and keep coming back with new ideas. Quirky removes the difficulties of turning an idea into a product for inventors, and we want to do the same thing for schools so it is easier for students to experience the design process.”

ltoR Autumn Hailey Alec Colfax Quirky Fast Forward student team PR

Three Colfax High School students—Autumn Turner, Hailey Elias, and Alec Cobabe (see photo above)—took this to heart and began work on a new invention for skiers called “Fast Forward.” It is a sensor that attaches to a ski boot and vibrates to signal when the skier needs to lean forward to maximize control. You can see the product on the Quirky site, and watch a video that shows you how it works.

skiInventionThingThe Fast Forward

The Sierra College STEM Collaborative and the Center for Applied Competitive Technologies at Sierra College made a 3-D printer accessible to the students for the project. Combined with companies like Quirky, Sierra College provides creative and innovative learning environments to high schools in the region by working with high school teachers like Jonathan Schwartz (who teaches engineering design at Colfax High and provided these photos) to help students see their idea through to fruition. Schwartz also works with students in the Colfax Inventeam, which coordinates with Habitat for Humanity to study and improve on building construction.

In the PRWeb article, Carol Pepper-Kittredge, Director of the Center for Applied Competitive Technologies at Sierra, summed it up by saying that “with Quirky breaking down the barriers,” and Sierra College STEM teachers engaging students in the design process, “we are building a future workforce of innovators who will be assets to employers and our nation’s economy.”

As for Hailey, Autumn, and Alex, all ardent skiers, moguls may have a whole new meaning. They watched online as Quirky reviewed their product before a live audience and panel members.

“It has been a great experience working with Quirky, and I was so excited when it went to the next stage of evaluation,” said Hailey. “When Bill Nye the Science Guy clapped for it, I screamed out loud!”

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In President Obama’s last State of the Union address, he stressed the importance of redesigning high schools and partnering them with colleges and employers “that offer the real-world education and hands-on training that can lead to a job and career.”


Sheila M. Harrity, who was named National High School Principal of the Year for 2014, is the principal at Worcester Technical High School (Worcester, MA) where 24 career and technical programs partner with businesses, industries, and universities to create hands-on learning experiences for its students.

President Obama has just announced that he will give the Commencement Speech at Worcester Technical High School on June 11. It’s the only high school speech he will be giving this year.

“We are honored that President Obama has chosen to address the graduates of Worcester Technical High School,” said Harrity. “As a preeminent leader and advocate for Career and Technical Education (CTE), the President’s work and commitment to promoting equality of opportunity for all, will inspire the class of 2014.”

SheilaHarrityPrincipal Sheila Harrity

(Photo: Ashley McCabe/Providence College)

Principal Harrity turned the low-performing school around by implementing the Early Career and College STEM Innovation Plan and working with 350 industry advisors. “The result is a saturation of project-based learning, real-world application, and authentic assessment” to help their students thrive in the 21st Century. With this program, Principal Harrity implemented small learning communities, improved the school culture, and empowered her teachers.

Worcester Tech was also named a 2014 Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.

For more background on Worcester Technical High School, see the President’s Press Release on the upcoming Commencement Speech. (I will add a link to the speech itself when it happens.) And check out this great video to hear Principal Harrity tell her story in her own words.

Posted by: Tom Ross | March 6, 2014

Rocket Science

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Speaking of career development activities, what’s the difference between an apprenticeship and an internship?

An apprentice is a person who is learning a trade from a skilled employer, having agreed to work for a fixed period at low wages. Remember the verb ‘apprendre’ from your French class? It can mean both to learn and to teach.


An internship, by comparison, is exploratory in nature. An intern is a student or recent graduate undergoing supervised practical training. It is on-the-job training with no strings attached either to the student or the employer.  A student can intern in any number of industries or locations to see what feels right. The added bonus is that employers often do offer them jobs if they are interested.

The U.S. Department of Labor describes an internship as a hands-on extension of the educational experience in which a student or recent graduate gains real-world immersion into a chosen industry under the direct supervision of not just an employer but an effective internship manager.


Students think internships provide realistic learning experiences. 58.9 percent of students think gaining experience and building a portfolio is the most important aspect of an internship experience, according to a report from InternMatch.

InternshipCom, a division of CareerArc Group, is also a resource for students that helps them through the whole process of finding the right internship with guidance in marketing themselves, preparing for the interview, creating resumes and cover letters, and what to do once they’re in the workplace. Students can explore internship opportunities by industry, company, or by location.


And for an out-of-this-world, Southern California example of internship opportunities for high school graduates, you can go just south of Los Angeles to Hawthorne, home of SpaceX. Here the internships really ARE rocket science. (If you haven’t seen what the Grasshopper can do, prepare to be amazed.) SpaceX’s goal is “to enable people to live on other planets.”  How cool is that?

For more information on internship opportunities for high schools students, check out Biocom and the Scripps Research Institute as examples. For internships in your area, go to’s guide by location.

And for further reading, go to Pro Publica Journalism, the Huffington Post articles by Ashley Mosley of InternMatch, and the New York Times for the latest on summer interns as well as both sides of the story.

Posted by: Tom Ross | February 27, 2014

House App Challenge for High School Students

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In 2013, members of the U.S. House of Representatives created the House Student App Challenge, a competition for high school students nationwide to create a new software application or “app.” The challenge is designed “to engage student’s creativity and encourage their participation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education fields” as well as “promote the importance of  STEM education for our nation’s long-term economic competitiveness.” This year the competition began on February 1 and ends on April 30, 2014.


In each district, your members of Congress must confirm that your district will participate in this competition. You can check to see if you are eligible by going to the Challenge Registration page. In San Diego, for example, Representative Scott Peters has opted in for the challenge in the 52nd Congressional District.

“Throughout the completion period, participating students will be provided opportunities to engage with various STEM educational partners located within the community to mentor and assist them with their app development, “ Representative Scott Peters adds.

To enter, students must create an account on the Challenge Post site and then register for the challenge. This page also presents information on eligibility, requirements, and judging.

Students have the opportunity to compete to create the best app, as judged by a panel of local technology and innovation leaders. The winner will be chosen based on two videos they create to show what the app does and how it was developed. And they will have their app idea featured on their local Representative’s website and on display in the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. See more on this under Requirements.

Resources for Students and Teachers:

Tell your students!

Posted by: Tom Ross | February 17, 2014

The Importance of Career Development Activities

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How important are career development activities for high school students?

A recent study by a collaboration of Millennial Branding—a Gen Y research firm—and, the world’s largest internship marketplace, shows just how important such activities are. Internships and volunteering actually do help students get into better colleges and find better jobs.


For the study—High School Careersthese companies surveyed 4600 college students, 170 high school students and 326 employers across the country.

“From both the student and corporate perspectives, the study examines why students are focused on their careers, what professional activities they are participating in, their entrepreneurial ambitions, and how they search for internships. It also discusses the criteria that companies are using when recruiting and the importance of high school internships when it comes to college admissions and employment,” sums up the Boomer Workers blog post (which is the report) from Millennial Branding.

Some of the reports’ conclusions:

  • High school students today are more focused on careers than college students.
  • High school students are more willing to volunteer than college students.
  • High school students are more entrepreneurial than college students.
  • In 2014 half of the companies surveyed are creating high school internship programs.
  • Interview performance, grades, and references are the top indicators for employers when recruiting interns.
  • Most companies (70%) are likely to offer a college internship to successful high school interns.


“High school internships are a win-win for both employers and students,” said Robin D. Richards, Chairman and CEO of  “For students, work experience is the key to ensure they make a good career decision and build their professional network.  By employing students, companies get exposure to talent early in their career journey and help support the well being of the local community” says Robin D. Richards, CEO, at

Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding and author of “Promote Yourself,” and Robin Richards, CEO of, list these reasons why it’s important for high school students to start thinking about careers early:

  • High school students will have a head start on networking;
  • Their job or intern experience will make their college application more competitive;
  • They will start making career decisions earlier and smarter; and
  • Interning—and even just applying for an internship—will build their confidence for when they are ready to look for a job in the real world.

“It’s never too early to start to think about your career,” writes Miriam Salpeter in U.S. News & World Report in reference to this study. “And the sooner the better.”

For more information on student career development activities, visit the California Career Cafe’s ‘Experience’ page.

Posted by: Tom Ross | February 10, 2014

A Bridge to Somewhere

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What does GED stand for? Is it Graduate Equivalency Diploma or General Education (Equivalency) Diploma or General Education Degree (Diploma). Everyone I ask gets it wrong. The GED Testing Center has a strong opinion about it.  But it is most commonly called the high school equivalency diploma. In California students receive a California High School Equivalency Certificate.


For Educators

GED stands for General Educational Development tests and refers to a battery of examinations administered by states to measure skills and knowledge comparable to those learned in high school.

There are many reasons why a student can no longer attend high school. The GED is more than a lucky option—it’s a second chance.

The economic impact of students dropping out of high school is staggering, including the loss of $1.8 billion in tax revenue annually. The GED test has helped more than 19 million students reach their goal since its inception. Almost 800,000 adults took the test last year alone.

The GED as we know it today is administered jointly by the American Council on Education (ACE) and Pearson Education, a collaboration that began in 2011. This year, they are launching an updated version, the GED 2014 Testing Program, summed up in this video. The new GED tests four content areas: reasoning through language arts (which combines reading and writing), mathematical reasoning, science, and social studies as part of their list of career and college readiness expectations.

Why update the GED? John Pulley, former senior editor and reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education sums it up this way for ACE:

“The GED test, until now a relatively discrete examination, will become a vehicle for assessing where people are, where they want to go, and how they can get there, say the initiative’s architects. Formerly a pass-fail test, it will evolve into a diagnostic tool with three or four levels of outcomes and specific information about the test taker’s abilities in various areas. That data will help test takers, colleges, and employers determine the best path for reaching mutual goals, whether a course of study or a potential career field, testing service leaders say.”


LaGuardia Community College in New York is taking it a step further, linking the GED tests to “the skills needed for some of the most in-demand jobs.”

La Guardia CC did this by contextualizing the curriculum. If a student is seeking a job in the health field, math problems make more sense if they are in the context of the workplace. For example, a math problem can involve the amount of medicine to administer adjusted to the patient weight, rather than typical math problems that involve “two trains going at different rates at different times.”


As Gail Mellow, the president of La Guardia CC, said in an interview for NPR, “…[I tell my students] ‘yes, you need to learn at a high school level, but you are an adult now. And you need to think about how your learning will be applied in the world of work.’ And that seems to really motivate the folks who are coming back for a high school equivalency exam.”

She also suggests that GED programs need both professional teachers–unusual in most such programs–and the kind of support services that include soft skills, survival skills, and basic job interview skills, including how to write a resume.

Dr. Mellow feels that the link is the community college, and “teaching as if the whole person mattered–as if they have lives…you can’t separate out…the affective, the emotional, the social aspects of learning.” “Let’s make…everything a student learns in preparing [for the GED] really relate to work.”

For more information on what La Guardia Community College is doing, refer to their Pre-College Academic Programming (PCAP) web site as well as the NPR interview above.

Posted by: Tom Ross | January 30, 2014

Hearts and Hands

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This blog post is being published simultaneously on the School Climate Connections Blog.

When states reduce funding for CTE—like here in California—Career Technical Education people are bewildered. In light of all the attention given to career and continuing education—as well as the need for skilled workers—this would seem to be the last place to cut funds.

The school climate people are concerned as well.


Knowledge and skills aren’t learned in a vacuum. As students focus on their own interests and aptitudes–through career technical education–they are developing the non-cognitive skills, the mindsets (or mindfulness), and the dispositions (see slide 3 here as well) that will make them both college and career ready. In the SCANS Report (2000) employers identified the non-cognitive skills that they find to be foundational to their needs; these include responsibility, self-esteem, sociability, self-management, integrity, and honesty. These are skills that may be learned in school but not explicitly taught. They come from that intangible thing called school climate.

School climate refers to the quality and character of school life, based on patterns of people’s experiences of school life, and reflects the norms, goals, values, interpersonal relationships, teaching, learning and leadership practices, and organizational structures of a school. Schools with good climate provide healthy, positive learning environments where students feel safe and respected and can grow and reach for goals they feel are meaningful to them and relevant in the real world. Ideally, schools provide students a safe space in which to learn, make mistakes, try new things, and develop both their knowledge and skills with the support of grownups who care about them.

Children often enter school feeling insecure, nervous, alone, and unsure of what to expect and what’s expected of them. Interventions and strategies that support positive school climate can make their experiences a lot less stressful.

What’s this got to do with career technical education? Well, it turns out that CTE is a powerful school climate tool – providing students a strong connection to their schools, creating relevance for their educations, and allowing educators opportunities to see their students in a whole new light. We often see CTE, academics, and school climate as disparate things, inhabiting different worlds of thought, in separate silos. In a healthy and positive learning environment (school climate), CTE and academics work together.


Link Crew (in yellow) at El Capitan High School, Lakeside, CA

Career Technical Education prepares students for the real world of work and careers by teaching them workplace competencies and making academic content accessible to students in a hands-on context.

In order for students to want to go to and stay in school—and keep them from dropping out—there has to be something in it for them. It needs to engage them.  They need to want to learn and to come to school (attendance is a major indicator in school climate evaluations).

Nothing is more engaging for students of all ages than a lesson that puts something new in their hands and shows them how to use it, a skill that is useful and that helps them create something or solve a problem or provides training they can build on. And it should be something they enjoy doing and that they find to be relevant in the world.

And nothing is more engaging for teachers than students who are learning and growing; students who take the lead and apply what they have learned to new situations and problems. When students become leaders, they are engaged.

campleadcutout2bCamp LEAD at Grossmont Union High School District

Leadership programs—often part of a character education program—are a major part of school climate. Mt. Miguel and El Capitan High Schools (in the Grossmont Union High School District in San Diego County), for example, offer programs like Camp Lead and Listening Circles as well as Link Crew. These leadership activities promote meaningful, rigorous learning, personal and social growth, and civic responsibility as well as career development. (The School Climate Index for both schools has improved annually since 2011.)

Which came first, school climate or student engagement? It doesn’t matter, as long as they are connected.

Student engagement occurs when “students make a psychological investment in learning. They try hard to learn what school offers. They take pride not simply in earning the formal indicators of success [grades], but in understanding the material and incorporating or internalizing it in their lives.”

“Along with mastery and application of essential content as typically prescribed and monitored in state standards, assessments, and accountability systems, it is necessary that students cultivate higher-order cognitive and meta-cognitive skills that allow them to engage in meaningful interaction with the world around them.” (From Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions, CCSSO, 2012)

 “For children to learn to their full potential, and for us to make inroads in reducing dropout rates, students need to feel safe at, supported by, and connected to their schools. School climate is very much connected to student success.” Tom Torlakson, California Superintendent of Public Instruction (from CA Safe and Supportive Schools).

Heads, hearts and hands. Engaged students use their heads. Students who are not engaged “sit on their hands.” We engage them with “hands-on” activities. Engaged students “put their heart” into their work.

COC_Summer_InstituteCollegeCanyonsCollege of the Canyons’ Summer Institute (Photo courtesy of the Santa Clarita Valley Signal)

Are your students engaged? Are they putting their hearts as well as their hands into their work? Let us know how you are integrating CTE and school climate in your school.

Posted by: Tom Ross | December 24, 2013

New Webinar Series from the California Career Cafe


New Webinar Series for 2014

Brought to you by the

CA Career Café Team and

Presented by Rita Jones

“Join us to learn how our new Career Action Plans can create accountable measurable results for students when completing the new outcome oriented lessons on the”


Friday, January 10, from 12 noon – 12:45pm:
START with insights and tools to help students identify a Career Direction
Friday, January 17 from 12noon -12:45pm:
EXPLORE and connect a career direction to a career goal and program of study
Friday, January 24 from 12noon -12:45pm:
EXPERIENCE Try out and validate a career goal
Friday, January 31 from 12noon -12:45pm:
PREPARE and get the skills needed to land a job and complete a job search
Register Now
Posted by: Tom Ross | December 19, 2013

Holiday CTE Reading List

In the last few weeks there has been a flurry of new reports relating to CTE. Here is a reading list to help fill the time during the holidays.


Reflect, Transform, Lead: A New Vision for Career Technical Education, from the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc). This five-part series dedicates an issue brief to each of NASDCTEc’s core principles for CTE:

NASDCTEc also released The State of CTE: An Analysis of State Standards, a state-by-state study of the CTE benchmarks standards. And CTE is Your STEM Strategy, which suggests that “STEM must not be viewed as a separate enterprise from CTE. While a state’s CTE programs may not encompass everything within a state’s STEM strategy, high-quality CTE programs can provide a strong foundation for and serve as a delivery system of STEM competencies and skills for a broader range of students.”

christmas_Bulb_Green_lightThe Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s presents their findings in the international Survey of Adult Skills, summarized on the DOE’s blog site.

Are You Competent? Prove it. The New York Times, Education Life section by Anya Kamenetz (who has authored many other interesting articles as well) writes about a movement to award college degrees based on demonstrable evidence of learning rather than credit hours. “College leaders say that by focusing on what people learn, not how or when they learn it, and by taking advantage of the latest technology, they can save students time and lower costs.”

christmas_Bulb_Red_lightThe Center on Great Teachers and Leaders at American Institutes for Research contributed 21st Century Educators: Developing and Supporting Great Career and Technical Education Teachers, a new special issue brief “focusing on the human capital management policies impacting CTE educators: certification, performance evaluation and professional learning opportunities.”

The Center on Education Policy issued Career Readiness Assessments across States: A Summary of Survey Findings, the result of a survey of 46 State CTE Directors on the range of assessments used in their states to measure students’ career readiness and how those assessments are used, which NASDCTEc.

The College Board in conjunction with Phi Delta Kappan published Toward a Common Model of Career-Technical Education,which “highlights the positive impact CTE programs had on three students who each took different pathways to academic and professional success. It later expands on their individual experiences and argues that these success stories are increasingly becoming the norm for students who choose to enroll in CTE programs— an encouraging trend considering 94% of all high school students in the U.S. take at least one CTE course.”

Christmas_firbranchA Fresh Look at Student Engagement from the National Survey of Student Engagement finds that “just 40 percent of college students say they turn to their adviser as their primary source of academic advice. About one-third of freshmen and 18 percent of seniors said they went to friends or family first for academic advice, and another 18 percent of seniors turned to faculty members for guidance.” This reliance on sources other than academic advisers is concerning given the importance advising plays in student learning and success, the report concludes.

Creating Sustainable Teacher Career Pathways from the National Network of State Teachers of the Year. Rick Hess at EdWeek states that it “is well-worth reading. It’s smart, thorough, and brings a sensible practitioner’s perspective to the whole question of how we might give teachers opportunities for growth, impact, and professional responsibility…”

christmas_Bulb_Yellow_lightA new report out of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research by Tamar Jacoby, President and CEO of ImmigrationWorks USA calls on the private sector to engage in Career Technical Education. Vocational Education 2.0: Employers Hold the Key to Better Career Training makes the case that “CTE can provide reliably effective pathways to skilled and well-paying careers, but only with strong engagement and support from the business community.” The policy paper “explores the role CTE is playing as more attention is put on middle-skill jobs, or those that require some education and training beyond high school, but less than a four-year degree.”

 The College & Career Readiness & Success Center at the American Institutes for Research has developed the CCRS Interactive State Map, which provides snapshots of each state’s key college and career readiness initiatives, including CTE programs of study, dual enrollment and early college high schools, progress on state longitudinal data system and many others.

The Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Family Assistance recently released Career Pathways: Catalog of Toolkits, an “online compendium of free resources available for use in planning a Career Pathways initiative. In an effort to better coordinate efforts by the Departments of Education, Labor, and HHS, the catalog seeks to serve as a directory for model Career Pathways programs and details strategies for implementation. Users are able to browse toolkits and filter results based on the indented audience, target population, career pathway element, industry, and publisher.”

christmas_Bulb_Purple_lightAnd finally, This is Not your Dad’s Vocational School, from the National Journal and Dalton High School in Georgia. “Seventy-four percent of Dalton High’s students are enrolled in career, technical, and agricultural courses. But this isn’t your father’s vocational ed. Here, training for particular careers is considered part of a well-rounded college-preparatory education.”

charlie-brown-christmas-tree-wallpapercharlie-brown-christmas-hd-wallpapers--1600x1200px--indiwall-h6soqwnzHappy Holidays from the CTE Central Blog Staff.

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