Posted by: Tom Ross | May 15, 2014

No Matter Where You Go, There You Are

 Click on the title above to view on the CTE Central Blog website.

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High school students have a lot to think about. And a lot of choices to make. If they decide that college is the next step, a recent Gallup Poll shows that it’s not so much which school you pick but what you do once you get there.


In March of this year, Gallup polled 30,000 college graduates who had completed a bachelor’s degree or higher. The survey showed that making the most of the college experience was closely aligned with graduates’ sense of well-being and engagement at work.

Caralee Adams at Education Week sums it up: “Finding a mentor, caring professors who excited them about learning, having an internship, and being involved in extracurricular activities on campus were all strong indicators of satisfaction later in the workplace. The type of institution—large, small, public, private, prestigious or not—was not as much of a factor.”


Gallup concludes:

“The data in this study suggest that, as far as future worker engagement and well-being are concerned, the answers could lie as much in thinking about aspects that last longer than the selectivity of an institution or any of the traditional measures of college. Instead, the answers may lie in what students are doing in college and how they are experiencing it. Those elements — more than many others measured — have a profound relationship to a graduate’s life and career.”

You can download the full report, Great Jobs, Great Lives, here.


Posted by: Tom Ross | April 30, 2014

Tough Love?


“Kid, college may not be the answer. Let’s explore your other options.”

Is this what we should be telling some high school students?

Michael Petrelli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, research fellow at the Hoover Institution, and executive editor of Education Next, thinks it is (see his recent article in And he’s raised some eyebrows.

If you are a student whose reading and math are at a 6th grade level in 9th grade, the likelihood of being college ready in three years is slim, according to Petrelli. “Nor have you had much of an opportunity to develop the ‘non-cognitive skills’ that would help you to remediate the situation. You are foundering, failing courses, and thinking about dropping out. In community college you will need to take remedial classes before you can do anything. You need another pathway, one with significantly greater chances of success and a real payoff at the end—a job that will allow you to be self-sufficient.”

This in spite of evidence that people who graduate from college earn more money and have healthier, happier lives? What about the PEW report, ‘The Rising Cost of Not Going to College”?

Petrelli believes it’s a “false choice,” that the odds are against some students ever getting beyond remedial classes to a degree, especially if they are from lower-income families. And that encouraging them to go to college “does them more harm than good.”

“The decision is whether to follow the college route to almost certain failure, or to follow another route to significant success.”

CautionSign-150x150Mr. Petrelli is responding to a recent white paper from Express Employment Professionals, the nation’s largest privately held staffing firm, challenging the conventional wisdom of the four-year college option in today’s economy and exploring the benefits of CTE. The paper is titled “Caution: College May Not Be For Everyone.”

“Let’s defy conventional wisdom, “ the report begins. “It’s time to break a taboo: College isn’t for everyone. For many, there’s a better—but much less advertised—option: Career Technical Education (CTE). Let’s be more specific. A four-year stay at a traditional university won’t be the best fit for everyone. College is right for many people—but certainly it’s not right for everyone.”

The report finds that:

  • CTE-trained workers are in high demand. The 20 fastest growing occupations require an associate’s degree or less.
  • CTE can lead to high paying jobs. Many workers with a certificate earn more than college graduates.
  • CTE is affordable—especially compared to a 4-year college; college debt averages $30,000.
  • CTE is good for the economy and the workforce and keeps this country globally competitive.

The paper makes three recommendations to students:

  • Weigh the costs and benefits of a four-year university and a CTE credential.
  • Consider the growing CTE-related careers available to you.
  • Explore the business-education partnerships in your area.


The National Association of State Directors of CTE Consortium (NASDCTEc) thinks Petrelli sells CTE short. Kate Blosveren, Associate Executive Director, writes in the NASDCTEc blog:

“I believe Petrilli did CTE a major disservice with his piece. By setting up CTE as the option for students who are not “college material” he ultimately undermined the value CTE has for all students. And, perhaps more importantly, he reinforced the image problem the CTE community has to deal with every day: CTE remains the place you put kids who just can’t make it to college.”

“Students taking CTE sequences are more likely to graduate high school (at rates upward of 90%, well above the national average) because they find value in the authenticity and relevance CTE brings to their learning.” And they have the skills to be both college and career ready (ADP).

In the discussion that followed Mr. Petrelli’s article, Ms. Blosveren expanded on her reaction: “Ultimately, I believe that this piece fails to put forward the right message parents need and want to hear. If over 90 percent of parents want their children to go to “college,” it doesn’t really do CTE any good to frame itself as being the option other than college, but rather a pathway to a broader set of college options (since upwards of 75 percent of CTE concentrators go on to some postsecondary education within two years). By perpetuating the dichotomy of CTE vs. college, it still keeps CTE as “lesser than” rather than an equally viable (and more reliable) option.” You can follow this discussion on the Fordham Institute’s comments page.

What do you think?


Posted by: Tom Ross | April 23, 2014

Finding a Job Thru CalJOBS and the CACareerCafe

 Click on the title above to view on the CTE Central Blog website.

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Our colleagues at California Career Cafe have organized a series of three webinars with Geosolutions, Inc on the Find A Job (CalJOBS) Portal on the CACareerCafe to better understand the value of the CalJOBS Portal and the resources there that are available for students searching for jobs.
Be sure to mark your calendar and register for each webinar. The dates below are links to the registration pages.




The Inside Track: Mastering the Find a Job (CalJOBS) Portal on the CACareerCafe


Friday, May 2 from 12:00 noon-1:00 pm

Part 1: The first webinar will introduce the Career Cafe and all the tools and benefits that make this system unique. Participants will have the opportunity to see how students can find the perfect job, how an employer can land a fantastic candidate, and the many staff tools that help bring these two worlds together. Each one-hour webinar will include a question and answer session at the end.

Friday, May 9 from 12:00 noon-1:00 pm

Part 2: After having reviewed staff tools available for students and employers, we will now dig in deep to see why the Career Cafe is such a useful resource for both students and employers. We will take a look at the importance of the resume and the job order and how the two can easily find each other.

Friday, May 16 from 12:00 noon-1:00 pm

Part 3: Over the last two weeks we will have reviewed the nuts and bolts of the Career Cafe, including the inherent benefits for students looking to start a new career and the reasons why employers should pick the Career Cafe to find talent. Now, we will take a look at staff accountability options. This webinar will review reports and staff tools that allow staff members to track the success of the system. The presenter will review each of the reports available, how they work, what information they track, and how they will make your life easier. Other accountability options will be presented as well.
Register for the webinars today!
Posted by: Tom Ross | April 14, 2014

Youth CareerConnect

 Click on the title above to view on the CTE Central Blog website.

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Last November President Obama announced a new grant program to encourage America’s school districts, colleges and universities, and employers to work together to transform the high school experience by combining academics with career-focused learning and job skills.

ObamaYCC2013P-Tech High School in Brooklyn

The President originally outlined the program in his budget request for the Department of Education for 2014 as well as in his State of the Union Address in 2013:

“Let’s also make sure that a high school diploma puts our kids on a path to a good job. Now at schools like P-Tech in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York Public Schools, City University of New York, and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in computing and engineering. We need to give every American student opportunities like this.”

The grant program is called Youth CareerConnect, and it emphasizes:

  • Robust Employer Engagement & Work-Based Learning: to provide students with the education and training that combines rigorous academic and career-focused curriculum to increase students’ employability skills. Employer partners will provide work-based learning, job-shadowing, and mentoring opportunities to ensure students’ learning is relevant.
  • A Focus on High-Demand Industries, Including STEM:  to create a pathway for students to enter high-demand industries such as information technology, healthcare, and other STEM-related and manufacturing fields. Grantees will ensure recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups including girls and minorities to expand the talent pool for these high-demand occupations.
  • Integration of Post-secondary Education and Training: to enable high school students to participate in education and training that leads to credit toward a post-secondary degree or certificate and an industry recognized credential, where appropriate.

This week President Obama announced the winners of the Youth CareerConnect grants during a visit to Bladensburg High School in Maryland.

Obama_bladensburg_labPresident Obama meets with students at Bladensburg High School.

The Los Angeles Unified School District will get a $7 million grant to build out new career academies in six high schools that will focus on healthcare, biotechnology and other technology-related industries. The program includes 10,000 summer internships.

Innovative Frontier Arizona (IFA) in Pima County Arizona, a regional STEM career-pathway initiative focused on Southern Arizona’s border counties, received $5.4 million. “IFA works to align education, workforce development and economic development with the needs of Southern Arizona’s industries. The funds will be used to replicate promising sector strategies that have emerged as a result of direct industry involvement in the delivery of education at the high school and community college levels.”

A complete listing of the grant recipients can be found at the bottom of the Youth CareerConnect Fact Sheet.

Posted by: Tom Ross | April 7, 2014

Millennials: Where Are They Now?

Click on the title above to view on the CTE Central Blog website.

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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

Click on the title above to view on the CTE Central Blog website.

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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!”

Click on the title above to view on the CTE Central Blog website.

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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

Click on the title above to view on the CTE Central Blog website.

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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

Click on the title above to view on the CTE Central Blog website.

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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

Click on the title above to view on the CTE Central Blog website.

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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.

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