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Pennsylvania Association for Career and Technical Education Spring 2012 Newsletter


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High School Woodworkers Turn Covered Bridge Into Popular Furniture

Students Make $6,000 Selling Tables Made From Historic Covered Bridge 

Where most saw kindling, John Cressman saw an opportunity for woodworking students that would not only provide skill practice, but also generate some funds for the class.

Cressman, chair of the Bucks County Covered Bridge Society and a retired carpentry teacher, contacted Michael Kennedy, cabinetmaking teacher at Upper Bucks County Technical School, to give his class the oak boards they were taking off the Pine Valley Covered Bridge that was being restored.

“This project is a great idea for my students because the construction of the tables is a good fit to the curriculum, which creates a good learning experience on so many levels for my students,” said Kennedy.

But the benefit for these students went beyond classroom practice. The popularity of their furniture made from pieces of the old covered bridge will bring in about $5,800 for the students.

“This has just been huge,” said Kennedy of the response to the furniture. “It has been a great fundraising project, particularly when you compare it to candy sales or any of the other standard fundraising projects.”

The project, which started this fall, involved all of Kennedy’s students. First-year students work on the smaller tasks and preparation, while the upper classmen build the tables.

For example, Brandon Cramer, a 16-year-old junior and third-year cabinetmaking student, helped build the first trestle table that is now on display in the West Rockhill Township Building. “I loved doing this. It helped out the whole class with practice. And selling the pieces is cool because you know people wanted it and are using it.”

Fellow classmate Tarik Zemalis agreed about the sale of the furniture. “It was a great opportunity to get my name out there and to work on something historical.”

The Shaker-style trestle tables the students are building sell for between $1,400 and $1,600 for six-foot and eight-foot tables. Kennedy said that the class receives $800 to $1,000 for each table, and the Pennsylvania Covered Bridge Society gets $600 each. The Shaker-style side tables sell for $150 each. A plaque is affixed to each piece, stating that the wood was part of a covered bridge and is signed by the students who created it.

PA-ACTE Spring 2012 Newsletter - Covered Bridge

Kennedy said his students were “real enthusiastic after they started working. They really liked the look of the pieces. And we have received a lot of publicity for it with a spot on local television and a piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The kids enjoy seeing themselves and their work featured.”

For more information about the furniture made from covered bridges, visit the Web sites of the Upper Bucks County Technical School and the Bucks County Covered Bridge Society. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s story on the furniture is available on their Web site.

Kennedy said that the class will use the money for various expenses, including materials, tools and shop shirts. It has also helped pay for two students to compete at the district level in Skills USA and a trip to the nearby Wharton Esherick Museum, a famous local woodworker.

The majority of the funds will go to pay for a field trip to Colonial Williamsburg. Kennedy and his students go to learn the history of woodworking. The students have the opportunity to work with the master cabinetmakers, carpenters, coopers and wheelwrights in Williamsburg. “This hands-on learning experience brings the history of woodworking to life for the students,” explained Kennedy.

Kennedy is currently working with Cressman to get more wood for the backorders. They have a waiting list of about 50 people from all over the state. Because of the interest, they want to continue making the furniture and are trying to get materials as bridges get refurbished.

PA-ACTE Spring 2012 Newsletter - Table

Outreach Program Marries Industry and Education to Foster New Crop of Engineers

Company Graduates 15 Students from Inaugural Session of Program 

Combine the expertise and passion of a tool manufacturing company with the interest and desire of high school students, and you end up with a win-win for the company and the school.

The Young Engineers Program started this fall at Greater Latrobe Senior High School. Kennametal Inc., a leader in manufacturing tools for various industries, joined innovators at the company with 15 Latrobe high school students for 13 weeks of in-depth classroom time at Kennametal offices, tours of their facilities, and a culminating team project.

Cindy Pompelia, teacher advisor for the program and AP calculus and chemistry teacher, said that Kennametal proposed the program to the district a year ago. “We wanted to do it and spent the summer working out the scheduling issues so we could start in the fall.“

Erica Clayton Wright, public affairs manager at Kennametal, explained that there were several reasons CEO Carlos Cardoso wanted to start this program. One was the impending retirement of their intellectual talent. “In our recruitment process, we are not finding people who can take on these valuable positions. At Kennametal, we want to be part of the solution. In addition, our CEO is passionate about manufacturing. He wants to reintroduce manufacturing to the public. Today’s students do not consider manufacturing as a career even though manufacturing jobs earn 25 percent more than the service industry.”

One of the participating students, 18-year-old Austin Faddish, was originally interested in the program for the insight he would gain about what he wanted to do, but “the main thing was being able to learn what an engineer really does,” he said. “At first, I thought it was sitting at a desk and working on CAD, but there is a lot of problem solving, math and working with a variety of tools.”

Program Nuts and Bolts
Students attended classes twice a week at the Kennametal headquarters about a mile away. The classes were taught by innovators, engineers, scientists, project managers, chemists and public affairs staff at Kennametal. The classes covered everything from the different types of engineering and optimization in manufacturing to corporate and social responsibilities and marketing practices.

“It was a serious dedicated effort on the part of the company to be able to engage the students effectively,” said Wright. The lessons were taught by a team of staff chosen as innovators by company leaders. Lesson subjects and who taught the classes rotated throughout the 13 weeks. “It generated a lot of enthusiasm among the employees since they could share their expertise. They were truly involved and created their own lesson plans,” said Wright.

Learn more about Kennametal. 

The Greater Latrobe Senior High School maintains the program details.

The Pittsburgh Tribune wrote an article on the program’s graduation ceremony. 

According to Pompelia, the cross-subject matter lessons the students learned were incredibly valuable. The engineers at Kennametal explained their processes at the company from idea generation to product development and what would cause a project to get the green light or be stopped.

“All of the innovators were very excited. They had all this expertise and knowledge,” she added. “They created lesson plans and objectives. They were a little apprehensive because they were not used to 18-year-olds, but the students were more engaged with the hands-on lessons.”

Senior Jonathan Skoloda’s favorite part of the program was working with the experts in the field. “These guys really know what is going on. They worked one-on-one with us and we got to ask them questions.”

Taking the Tours
Pompelia also spoke highly of the two facility tours incorporated into the program. Students toured the Bedford plant that makes tools for mining, paving and drilling. They also travelled to Solon, Ohio, to see the aeronautics and aerospace plant.

“The staff members at the facilities were so prepared,” said Pompelia. “They would split us up and some would go to the floor, some would watch the design team and customer relations, and others would go see the CAD machines and software designs of some of the tools. It was great because the students got to see the robotics involved in manufacturing. Most kids think of a traditional assembly line when they think of manufacturing, but now they have seen the computers and software involved and just how fast it goes.“

The Big Project
The students put their knowledge into action with a culminating project designing a backpack for the future that incorporates different technologies. Pompelia explained that they went through the various procedures and check points that engineers go through at Kennametal when designing a product. Their projects were reviewed by the same panel of Kennametal staff that reviews the company’s projects.

According to Wright, the culminating project brought together “the engineering expertise the students learned with the disciplined business processes students would need to know to succeed in the marketplace.” As the students went through all the checks any innovator at Kennametal would go through, they got to experience how different representatives from finance, legal, engineering, research and development, and other departments become involved in a project.

Senior Paul Trumbetta’s favorite part of the program was the final project because it inspired a lot of creativity, particularly with the marketing, design and presentation. The project made him realize that “engineering is all about what is in your mind and having it come out and become a product.”

Final Impressions
The program overall gave Trumbetta a greater insight into engineering as a whole. “It inspired me to continue my engineering interests and go on to college and get a degree,” he said.

“The advantage of a program like this,” said Trumbetta, “is when you take what you learn in class to the program and vice versa. You get to explore a real-life situation and it drives you in class because you know why you’re doing the classwork. It keeps you on track.”

The program definitely confirmed for Faddish that he would like to be a mechanical engineer, but he now wants to also concentrate on computer science. “I know what I want to do, which a lot of high school students don’t. I know what the expectations are in a real work place and not just a high school setting.”

For Skoloda, the program helped push him in the direction of aerospace and aeronautical engineering. “I now have some background knowledge and know what I want to do in college. Some people spend a lot of money trying to figure that out.”

“This was really beneficial for my students,” said Pompelia. “I can teach them and show them it is important, but it is forcing the issue and not realistic. It pales in comparison to what they did at Kennametal, seeing the engineers and what they do.”

Wright explained that this year is the program’s pilot year. They are defining the program and tracking student outcomes after completion. Kennametal will develop a toolkit for their other facilities to replicate the program. They have already changed around the subject order for the 11 students enrolled in the program’s spring semester. “We knew the program was good, but now we can make it better with the students’ feedback."

PA-ACTE Spring 2012 Newsletter - Young Engineers

A Better Image With Better Communication

Directors Discuss Their Tactics for Improving the Image of CTE 

The role of public relations manager is becoming increasingly necessary for career and technical educators. However, this does not mean that it must take up considerable amounts of your time away from teaching.

Sandra Himes, executive director at the Lehigh Career and Technical Institute, has been in career and technical education for 32 years. Thomas Allen, administrative director at the Eastern Center for Arts and Technology in Willow Grove, serves 461 students at his campus. Both are actively involved in promoting the benefits of CTE and believe it can be done without over-extending yourself.

Getting Started
For both directors, it starts with understanding what people believe about CTE. Allen said that, in his years of involvement with CTE, “the biggest misconception is that you cannot go to college if you are a CTE student. That myth has been around since I was a CTE student, and I feel it will take many more years until we break the myth.”

Himes explained further, “I always hear the comment, ‘let’s face it, not everyone is cut out for college.’ What we are trying to get across to people is that more students are going on to postsecondary education from CTE schools. If they do not go immediately after graduation, they typically do go within a few years. Also, the careers today require higher levels of academics than ever before. Many career fields will require some level of postsecondary education, although it may not be a four-year degree. In addition, students may be brilliant and quite capable of going to a four-year university, but simply have a strong interest in CTE. Why should that student be denied access to a career field taught at a CTE school? “

Who to Talk To
According to Himes, dispelling these misconceptions takes effective communication.

“I think we all need to be in the public talking about the advantages of our schools to parents, sending districts, and business and industry. The days of quietly going about your business are over. It is the only way we can increase enrollment, increase support for our schools, and make more connections with business and industry. But first, you have to make sure you are selling a good product. Your school and your programs must be the best they can be.”

For more information, check out the Lehigh Career and Technical Institute and the Eastern Center for Arts and Technology.

Philly Burbs also did an article about the director’s legislative meetings.

The April 2011 issue of Techniques was on revamping CTE’s image.

Allen added that most directors talk about the value of CTE all the time as part of their job. “I talk about the value of CTE every chance I get. I have presented to service organizations like Rotaries and Lions Clubs, participating school districts' school boards, parent-teacher groups, chambers of commerce, manufacturing groups and advisory committees. I even discuss it with people I stand in line with at the supermarket. It is never enough.”

Himes does the same things: “I do attend parent nights at the sending schools. I talk about certifications our programs and students get. I talk about salaries students can earn while they are still in school.“

Himes also has a marketing committee to offer suggestions on how to market the school. “We have a marketing individual who gets our name in the area newspapers a lot, highlighting many activities occurring at the school,” she said.

Communication is also key with sending schools and at various levels. Himes recommended having regular meetings with principals, assistant principals, guidance counselors and special education staff.

Recently, both Himes and Allen have been meeting with legislators. Himes has invited legislators to her school and goes to their offices to meet with them. “We also made strong connections with the workforce investment board and the Economic Development Corporation,” she added. “They helped us make connections with the business and industry leaders in our area.”

What to Tell Them
All of these different audiences require a different type of pitch. School data, personal anecdotes, school visits and other presentations help bolster CTE’s image to a variety of audiences.

“It depends on the audience and what you are trying to convey,“ said Allen. “For example, if I am conducting a recruiting presentation, my presentation should be short and I better get students talking about the things they love about CTE in a hurry. Students highly value the opinion of their peers. Conversely, a presentation at a public meeting on student success rates would be better organized using data. If you want to have impact, first consider your audience, and then determine how your presentation can best be received.”

Himes believes that “it is a combination because what impacts people varies. I like data, and it always impresses me when someone can show their improvements through data. I also see how many people are impressed by what the students say. But, if you use students, you have to prepare them carefully to make sure their message is the message you want to get out there.“

Learning the Skills
Allen does not believe that it takes anything more than the skills of great teaching to develop media savvy or public relations techniques. “I believe that individuals that have good public relations skills are also good teachers. The skill sets are very similar. Both require planning, delivery of a clearly developed message, checking for understanding and reflecting about the impact of the presentation. Teachers do it every day. Directors were once good teachers.”

Himes said it is all about a little preparation. “I think you have to do your research and you have to prepare for your audience. If you are going to meet with a legislator for the first time, go onto their Web site first. Find out about their involvement with initiatives or committees. What can you say that will ring that bell for you and your school? When you are talking with parents, tell them their child can go on to college and will be successful if they come to you. Talk about your graduates’ successes. If you are meeting with business and industry professionals, you need to tell them what you can do for them. You cannot continue to hold your hand out to them all the time. You need to be giving back to them, or you will eventually lose them as a partner.”

And Himes said to remember that you do not need to reinvent the wheel. “I think you acquire the skills through experience. If you are just starting out, find a mentor to help you. Watch a master in action and take from him or her what would work for you.“

PA-ACTE Spring 2012 Newsletter - Allen

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The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) is the nation’s largest not-for-profit association committed to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for successful careers. ACTE represents the community of CTE professionals, including educators, administrators, researchers, guidance counselors and others at all levels of education. ACTE is committed to excellence in providing advocacy, public awareness and access to resources, professional development and leadership opportunities.

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ACTE is committed to enhancing the job performance and satisfaction of its members; to increasing public awareness and appreciation for career and technical programs; and to assuring growth in local, state and federal funding for these programs by communicating and working with legislators and government leaders.


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