Pennsylvania ACTE Newsletter - Spring 2013
Bridging Together Industry and CTE
Working With IEPS in the CTC
CTE Makes Students Out of Academic Teachers
Bridging Together Industry and CTE
Grant Brings Together Four Lehigh-Area Partners to Strengthen Manufacturer Pipeline
Manufacturers in the Lehigh Valley and elsewhere are finding it difficult to find trained machinists and technicians able to operate and trouble-shoot the increasingly high-tech and computerized equipment that their factories rely upon to crank out products.
Four organizations involved with manufacturing in the area understand how creating a strong pipeline of talented workers is important to keeping industries in the area. And that is why they developed a partnership initiative to do just that.
The initiative is a collaborative effort involving the Manufacturers Resource Center (MRC), the DaVinci Science Center, Lehigh Career and Technical Institute (LCTI) and the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board. They were just awarded a $298,500 grant to help invest in training more students from Lehigh and Northampton counties in the technical skills required by area employers.
The grant will be used to educate students, parents and educators on the opportunities available in manufacturing and the training needed to advance in manufacturing careers, said Jack Pfunder, president and CEO of MRC.
That is likely to include the creation of educational videos, workshops with manufacturers, student tours of local manufacturers and visits to schools by manufacturing employers. In addition, the partners will be bringing pieces of the federal program, Dream It Do It to the state. Pfunder explains that he sees companies talking to after-school groups, setting up apprenticeship programs and internships.
“We are working on this issue from two fronts, the skills gap and the knowledge gap,” Pfunder says. “The skills gap we know about. Twenty five percent of those in manufacturing are over 55. A lot will retire in 10 years. Currently 65 percent of manufacturing jobs need to be filled. The knowledge gap is fixing the negative image of manufacturing to bring in those talented students and upgrade the pipeline.”
Working on Manufacturing’s Image
Pfunder said the grant will allow the partners to reach out to ten different school districts. They will be explaining the manufacturing options to superintendents, school counselors, and others who can help direct students onto the career pathway.
“Many sending schools do not understand the talent-base involved with these jobs and the aptitude these companies are looking for when it comes to machinery and electronic jobs,” Pfunder says.
Out in the community, many still hold on to the image of the old steal manufacturing that used to be in the area. “They think of manufacturing as dirty, heavy, and hard to transfer the skills somewhere else. Now, a career in manufacturing means you have life-long skills and you can go anywhere and it is well-paying,” he says.
“Our students do extremely well,” Sandra Himes, LCTI’s Executive Director says. “We can handle more students, but manufacturing is hard to market. The public does not understand the capability of the money that can be made and the skill set required. We need to get more people knowledgeable about the career pathways into manufacturing.”
Himes says about $32,000 of the grant money has been earmarked to use with the LCTI’s sending districts. LCTI will be developing workshops with middle-grades counselors, as well as parents, to show them what is involved in the manufacturing program and the careers that are out there.
She also explained that LCTI will be working with the DaVinci Science Center on their year of manufacturing exhibit. “This will be geared toward elementary children and their parents and will help bring in the younger audience,” she says.
Pfunder says that manufacturing jobs are some of the highest paying jobs in the state, averaging 55 to 60 thousand dollars without benefits. “In a couple of years, students in these manufacturing programs can be making more after high school than with a four-year degree. They can stimulate the economy buying homes and cars and they can do it all with no debt. There is just a need out there and a much better road to go for some students,” he says.
Working With LCTI
Pfunder says LCTI is an excellent choice for this project because they are a “leader in career and technical education. They have the best equipment and they are not at full capacity. They need to have a waiting list.”
Himes also raves, “We have an exceptional manufacturing program and a strong adult education program. We have also customized training with manufacturers. Our program is state-of-the-art and companies say we have more equipment than they do. We have excellent teachers and resources. We have everything needed to get potential workers and students into the pipeline.”
Pfunder says they are looking at LCTI as the high standards they would like other career and technical centers in the area to work towards, making sure credentials are consistent, and equipment is upgraded. And the industry can make sure it is. “They can help with hiring appropriate teachers, approving curriculum, and be involved in the day-to-day talking about the careers the students can have when they leave the school,” he explains.
“Schools are critical to solving the problem of finding the talent for these manufacturing jobs,” Pfunder says. “It has been exciting talking to superintendents these past four months about this grant. There is no one who isn’t excited about this program. The right time to fix this is perfect. Everyone wants it solved and we are going to get it done.”
Himes agrees, “The schools are really interested and ripe to breathe life into this program. The sending schools now see themselves as part of the picture and see workforce development as their job as well.”
And Himes says that the schools will benefit as well. “As school districts come to understand these careers, the students will be better prepared academically because of the requirements for these manufacturing jobs.”
Beyond the Grant
Part of the grant is to create materials so that the program can be replicated across the state. Pfunder sees this possibly being a series of templates for the different situations like what to say to superintendents, schools, counselors, etc.
Ultimately, Pfunder wants this to become a sustainable model. “I see this five years from now that companies will pay if the pipeline is working. It is that important. The growth of the Lehigh Valley depends on this. The companies will come where there is a trained workforce.”
Himes believes this program will become self-sustaining because it will, “become entrenched in what we are doing. All the stakeholders will be knowledgeable about jobs and manufacturing and everyone will always be thinking about the careers and the pathways to meet those goals.”
Working With IEPS in the CTC
For many students with individualized education plans (IEP), moving to a career and technology center (CTC) can represent a huge cultural change,” says Bob Piccirillo, learning facilitator at Indiana County Technology Center.
The loss of some resource and support time at their home school, as well as an increased independence and self-reliance in both academic and technical tasks means that a well-written IEP, including the career and technical education staff, can help students with special needs better transition into career and technical education.
“CTC teachers should expect an ‘Aha Moment’ when picking up a well-written IEP,” says Piccirillo. “Instead of the, ‘Oh-no, another identified mystery student’ there is an ‘Aha. I know what to do with this student. The choice to be in this program was carefully thought out, and there is information here that I can use to construct an appropriate support structure for this student.’”
What the IEP Should Do
According to Piccirillo, the IEP process should identify gaps between the skills needed to succeed in a CTC and the current level of student performance. “If there are gaps, the IEP needs to define their extent and identify strategies to bridge the gap. With an IEP in place, teachers at the CTC are not only ready to deliver content, but also to provide the support structure necessary to foster student success."
The IEP should also help determine a student’s placement in a CTC program. “The IEP also becomes the main document to support the ‘hard conversation’ in the event a program choice is questioned. This conversation can come before placement at the CTC or at any point after enrollment,” he says.
“Many students and parents don’t understand what really happens at a 21st-century CTC,” he says. “Our experience has been that most inappropriate placements—for students with and without IEPs—are the result of this misunderstanding. The IEP process provides all stake holders with a chance to clarify the truth about what is expected at the CTC. Correct information often leads to better choices.”
For every student considering enrollment at a CTC, the question becomes, “Is there a reasonable expectation for success in the Program of Study and transition into a career that will follow?” The IEP process opens up this discussion for the students with an identification.
Benefits of a Well-written IEP
Piccirillo has seen many benefits from a well-written IEP, but the key advantages include a smooth transition into career and technical education, the valuable data collected on the students, and the collaboration between academic and technical instructors.
“A well-written IEP provides the foundation to prepare the student for successful transition into post-secondary work or a career,” explains Piccirillo.
He adds that the IEP provides an honest snapshot of a student and will include:
- Transition assessments that support the chosen area of study.
- Honest reports of students’ strengths and areas of need.
- Information on how areas of need, including behavioral needs, are addressed and what are the accommodations needed to help address these areas of need.
- Present educational levels written clearly in a way that all stakeholders can understand where the student is and where the student is heading. Present educational levels should include information pertinent to the area of study.
Another key piece that stems from a well-written IEP is the data that is invaluable to the CTE instructor. Before one word of the IEP is ever written, the IEP process requires data collection – aptitude assessments; interest assessments; academic assessments; behavioral assessments.
“The goal is successful transition,” explains Piccirillo. “The IEP team has the responsibility to produce a plan that supports that transition. Whether or not that transition includes time at the CTC is a decision that must be made based on relevant data.”
The IEP also allows for greater collaboration between the CTE instructors and the academic instructors at the sending school. “The team can use the IEP process to collaborate in order to individualize or create a program for the student that will complement one another,” he says. “For example, a student attending the culinary program that has difficulty in math could have remedial instruction at the sending school to address the specific math skills required to be successful as a chef. Without collaboration and planning between the sending schools and CTEs, the student does not get the full benefit of an individualized program based on post-school outcomes.”
What CTEs Should Look For
IEPs are very comprehensive depending on the student’s needs. What career and technical educators need to make sure they understand includes:
- Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Present Levels Related to Current Post-Secondary Transition Goals—When properly written, present education levels should give a clear snapshot of the student academically, vocationally, and behaviorally. The present education levels need to give the reader a sense of empowerment. The reader needs to be able to say, “I understand why this student is in my program, I understand what the student’s special needs are, and I know what scaffolding I need to put in place to support this students’ movement through my curriculum.”
- Transition Grid—The transition grid is the place for the student to identify and state personal post-secondary goals, including school, career, and life goals. These statements give everyone involved in the delivery of services—sending school, CTC, parents, outside agencies—the opportunity to state what services and activities will be provided to support the student in achieving those goals.
- Specially Designed Instruction—The IEP tells us the student will need a structure—scaffolding—to support full access to the curriculum. The Specially Designed Instructions identify what the specific pieces of that scaffold are.
Piccirillo advises that CTC staff must be involved in the IEP process. “They can provide valuable input to the present education levels and the specially designed instruction, as they are the ones that work in the CTE environment daily.”
CTE Makes Students Out of Academic Teachers
York County School of Technology Brings Teachers Together to Open Communication
York County School of Technology Academy Principal, Michelle Anderson, found an interesting statistic. Eighty-seven percent of her school’s students perform at the advanced or proficient level on their NOCTI exams. However, PSSA scores at area schools are at 39 percent for both math and reading.
“If students have the written skills to be successful on their NOCTI exams, then they have the skills to be successful on the PSSAs,” says Anderson. She wanted to help academic teachers recognize the students’ ability levels and raise the bar.
This year, the York school began having academic instructors from sending schools attend a class as a student at the tech school. “The academic instructors participated in mini-lessons our technical teachers designed to provide the academic folks with an understanding of some of the content and experience our students have exposure to during their technical classes,” says Anderson.
The center established 24 technical groups with three academic teachers per group. Academic teachers met in technical classrooms where they were able to hear a brief summary on the major concepts covered in the course in addition to examining the POS task list and textbook or other resources material.
“The purpose of this activity was to allow academic teachers the opportunity to determine possible links with their content area and the technical area they were in,” explains Anderson. Academic teachers were then able to “be the student” and experience a lesson which included hands-on activities.
“The day was designed to allow academic teachers to experience two different technical areas, one in the morning and one in the afternoon,” says Anderson. “Academic teachers were placed into technical areas that we felt would allow them to fully benefit by being able to identify their content area in a particular technical area. For example, having Geometry teachers participate in our construction area and being able to identify the use of the Pythagorean Theorem.”
After the morning and afternoon sessions were complete, content area teachers took their form that listed their lesson ideas, etc. and collaborated with other similar content teachers to identify five possible integrated lesson ideas that will be further developed in phase two.
Benefits for Technical Teachers
“Technical teachers enjoyed having the opportunity to discuss and discover the content embedded in their curriculum,” says Anderson. Additionally, the academic teachers were able to provide additional information to enhance the technical instructors’ alignment between POS task lists and content specific standards.
One of the resounding take-aways from the day, according to Anderson, was the ability for technical teachers to show academic teachers that they can indeed really teach. Academic teachers were impressed with the various teaching strategies and rigor the technical teachers hold students accountable for in their classes.
In surveys conducted after the training day, teachers told administrators that they enjoyed gaining a more in-depth understanding of what the students do in their technical classes and what those students are capable of doing.
Benefits for the Academic Instructor
Anderson saw many benefits for the academic teacher. Academic teachers valued the time to spend with both technical and academic peers to gather information to determine similar content in technical areas. This will allow the academic teacher to create lessons that are more meaningful to students. Having the teachers experience real hands-on activities that the students perform on a daily basis provides the academic teachers with opportunities to use technical analogies and make content connections to real-life applications.
“Teachers had the opportunity to spend time understanding what happens in a technical area,” added Anderson. “With that information they are then able to start a collaboration effort with technical teachers to develop integrative lessons and a common language with overlapping content. Additionally, this experience should provide academic teachers with an opportunity to develop new connections with their students.”
Benefits for All
From surveys of the lesson day, most teachers agreed that opening the lines of communications and the collaboration between academic and technical teachers was the greatest benefit. Teachers were able to discuss common terminology and practices, as well as student weaknesses. One participant in the day said in their survey that it was “interesting to learn how similar instructional strategies are used in technical areas. It was also a great discussion among peers to address concerns, needs, perceptions, etc. about vital topics that span the curriculum.
Beyond the benefit to the teachers is the ultimate benefit for the student. Through professional development sessions focused on integration, students will have the opportunity to experience authentic learning in which content meets technical within their classrooms,” says Anderson.
The academic teachers who participated said that they, “now have a conversation starter with students from those technical programs. It will help establish a connection and relationship with the student. Now the students know that I have completed some of the skills they have in their technical classes. I have a new appreciation for all the difficult things the students learn and practice daily.”
Continuing on the Path
The second phase of the project occurred this spring. More than 120 teachers worked together in small groups to identify specific common content and develop integrative lessons during a professional development day. There are a number of lesson examples that were used in the spring.
The success of this integration strategy can be attributed to a few key points:
- Pre-planning and development. Anderson advises that this must begin the year prior to implementation. “Detailed planning is essential to the success of the day,” she says. Planning time was provided prior to the professional development day to give technical teachers time to prepare their lessons.
- Buy-in from all parties. York developed a small committee of academic and technical teachers to assist with development and design of the in-service day and to encourage buy-in.
- A hands-on experience. “The teachers really enjoyed the hands-on experiences and were more receptive to learning as a result,” says Anderson. The success of the hands-on lessons has Anderson changing the format for the next presentation. Only half of the technical teachers will provide lessons for either the morning or afternoon instead of having all technical teachers conducting two lessons for the day. This would allow for larger groups and would allow for technical teachers to experience other technical areas along with the academic teachers.