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Vermont looks to expand CTE programs

(WCAX)
Published: Aug. 7, 2018 at 8:18 AM EDT
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A push to attract middle school students is the next step in making sure Vermont's students have the skill set to hit the ground running after high school.

Officials say high school may be too late for Vermont's students to start focusing on vocational programs. They say Vermont students are falling behind because they are learning some skills too late. They're hoping middle students can start building a strong foundation, including in computers.

"In cybersecurity we need to start teaching students in foundational courses in computing, networking and internet. So they can choose to continue with engineering courses through their high school days," Career Pathways Coordinator, Oscar Aliaga PhD said.

Another program they would like to expand is advanced manufacturing. But what courses are available to students, depends on a vote from their community. Every two years, communities give their input and decide if certain CTE programs are needed and wanted.

"If a center wants to open a center in career technical education in automotive program, that has to be done through a student that says the region needs an automotive program,” Aliaga said.

Even with a declining student population, Vermont still maintains a consistent rate of about 30 percent of its students enrolled in CTE programs. That number is above the national average which is at about 20 percent. The state says the workforce could still use more programs. But officials told me they are encouraged by what they see.

"I am noticing there is more interest in students in this area," Aliaga said.

The Vermont Legislature isn't the only one pushing for a strong CTE program. The Trump administration has just granted $1.2 billion for CTE programs around the country.

Officials from the department of education say any new money is great but the state likely won't see much of an increase.

In fact, Vermont won't see an increase in funds until 2020. They are hoping part of that money will help keep track of students after they complete CTE programs to figure out how successful the program is.

Currently, all the date they have is self-reported so officials don't actually know how many students end up in trade careers after they graduate. They call the data they have "inconclusive."

They would like to change that but there's something they need to start doing to make that happen.

"We need to get the plans for career and technical education to be in compliance with Perkins Law," Aliaga said.

Perkins Law is the bill that the president signed to strengthen career development for middle and high school students. The state has two years to fully comply with the law to receive money.

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