Enhancing a CTE Program to Boost Student Readiness

By Tammy Hyatt

Working and learning go hand in hand when a student is on the path to mastering a specific skillset or subject material. For students in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, this couldn’t be truer as they work to complete their regular coursework while also pursuing practical work experiences outside the classroom.

As an educator at the Lapeer County Education and Technology Center, I work tirelessly alongside my colleagues to enhance the quality of our CTE program. Our goal is to provide opportunities for students in the local area to train for viable career pathways following graduation. Our education center is not a school in the traditional sense; we serve students from five school districts across the county. Students can elect to spend up to half their school day at the education center to take CTE courses that are not available in their schools.

With so little time with our students, we needed another avenue to teach the curriculum in a way that was engaging and worthwhile. Implementing comprehensive training materials through an online learning platform more than exceeded our expectations and has bolstered lessons in both a classroom and lab setting – creating ample opportunity for students to use their skills in the field and for us to continue helping them find success in their chosen career path.

Encouraging Student Learning

There is a mandated curriculum we need to follow in order for students to meet certain academic standards in their program. However, by encouraging them to pursue subject areas and training opportunities that interest them, we’re both challenging students and setting them up for success after graduation.

There are all types of students in today’s classroom, and there’s a shift in how they want to learn and access the information that’s presented to them during lecture. As technology advances, we find that students are looking for more visual learning opportunities through video and interactive assessments so that they not only learn the material but also understand it before their next lesson or work experience. Our digital learning platform does just that.

With any new lesson, we frequently introduce students to the subject material in the classroom through digital resources. After a few lessons of viewing video and interacting with content online, we transfer that knowledge into a hands-on atmosphere. This helps students take what they learned in the classroom and translate it into a real-world scenario that mirrors what they are likely to see in their careers.

For example, students who work in our animal center frequently help with animal births. Before we allow them to participate in this process, they view videos and resources related to livestock so they know what to expect and what is normal. From taking the time to learn the intricacies of that process to applying what they learned in the field, we set our students up for success in both their education and future career path.

Real-World Experience

On top of classroom instruction, earning industry-backed certifications plays a large role in encouraging students to master a certain subject area. The certification program through our online learning platform puts a student’s skills and knowledge to the test on a specific subject and gives them the confidence and motivation to do well in their respective CTE program. By earning an industry-backed certification, students build their resume while showcasing the skills and knowledge they learn through their regular coursework.

Our instructors meet with students every day to help them map out their personal and academic goals. Being able to sit down and have an honest conversation about what their career goals are further helps us target career-specific certifications that will help them learn as much as they can about their prospective career – and help them stand out in a pool of applicants after graduation. Incorporating certifications into our curriculum gives the CTE program a fresh start, and motivates students to take control of their own education and career training.

As educators, our ultimate goal for Lapeer Center students is to take the knowledge they learned in the classroom and confidently put it into practice in real-life situations. The transition can be daunting, but through our online learning resources and hands-on learning experiences, we can bridge the gap between the classroom and real-world job situations.

The Lapeer County Education and Technology Center is an overwhelming success. As our program grows and we release new training materials, we’ll continue to assist our students in finding everything they need to be successful in school, career and life. We want to be an essential part of their education and instill in them a sense of pride in their work. Moving forward, offering a comprehensive training platform with industry-backed certifications will continue to be an excellent option for our students and our community.

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Tammy Hyatt is an agriscience teacher of 26 years, CEV Multimedia coordinator and head teacher at the Lapeer County Education and Technology Center. Like them on Facebook: Lapeer Education and Technology Center.

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