The transition from the familiar walls of high school to the unfamiliar greens of a college or university can be both an exciting and confusing/scary time for students. The excitement of new opportunities, new experiences, and new freedoms; the fear of the unknown that can come with those new opportunities, new experiences, and new freedoms. That said, I feel as though part of our job as educators is to reinforce as much of that excitement as we can, while at the same time minimizing as much of the confusion and fear, that surrounds this transition, as possible.
With this in mind, I think that the greatest opportunity in career tech education is clearly defining and communicating lifelong learning pipelines in CTE. While many of these pipelines from secondary CTE, into and through post-secondary CTE, and into the workforce already exist, my recent experience has come to show me that either they are not known or understood…and those who do know are often in the minority and/or are not student and parent facing…let alone students and parents themselves. By clearly defining and communicating these pipelines, this better bridge between secondary and post-secondary, can begin to clarify transitions instead of allowing it to become a puzzle that students and families are often left to navigate on their own, as best they can. Additionally, we as career tech education supporters can create a transparency of lifelong learning opportunities that can create a level playing field for all motivated learners, and provide equity of access for all.
In my opinion, the greatest need in bringing this opportunity to life is the inclusion and collaboration of most (if not all) of the partners that are involved in these pipelines. This contribution is vital to the success of this project as the transparency and communication of these pipelines is only as good as the efforts that are made to ensure that all entities involved are ‘speaking the same language’. I often find, as demonstrated by recent conversation with post-secondary partners, that while secondary and post-secondary entities often feel as though they are talking about the same thing there still remains some degree of disconnect, often due to a difference in perspective…and when plans are created in isolation, something gets lost in translation.
This disconnect was recently demonstrated during a college transfer fair that I attended at one of our schools. The premise of the transfer fair, as discussed and agreed upon by the secondary and post-secondary partners, was to help senior students identify the college credits that they have earned to date and where they fit into a pipeline that would allow them to get the most ‘bang for their buck’ in their journey through post-secondary and into the workforce. While the decision surrounding holding the transfer fair was collaborative, the planning and implementation turned out to be less collaborative. In the end, despite the goal, the students felt that the delivery ended up feeling more ‘sales pitchy’ than student benefit facing, and was therefore slightly less successful than the initial goal.
I truly believe that these collaborative, clearly defined, and communicated pipelines are vital to providing equity, diversity, and access to career tech education through the transparency of opportunities. Until the entire process becomes more collaborative, I fear as though we will just perpetuate any equity, diversity, and access gaps that currently exist…which is certainly not our goal in CTE. That said, I look forward to the opportunity for all of us to sit around the same table, and get to work!