Career programs for college-bound students

Career and Technical Education isn’t just for students bound for blue-collar jobs, reports the Raleigh News & Observer. CTE “courses include bioscience, finance, television production, computer programming and . . . clothing design.”

What about the kid who wants to be an auto mechanic?

“Most people recognize that maintaining a car isn’t something that can be done under a tree anymore,” said state Superintendent June Atkinson. “It requires complex equipment and a very high reading level, and CTE prepares students for that kind of career path.”

OK, mechanics do need good reading and math skills. But marketing CTE to college-bound students seems to put the kids with blue-collar ambitions in second place once again.

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  1. SuperSub says:

    On the car mechanic issue (or in most subjects)… it only requires a high reading level if you make it that way.
    Are there cars that are significantly computerized? Yup. Do you need a computer to change a car’s oil or a tire? Nope.
    There’s still enough equipment in cars that isn’t computerized that they could at least teach an introductory course without a significantly high technical skill or reading level.

  2. There is a common assumption among educators that when a task is “computerized” it automatically requires more knowledge/skill. This is far from universally true. Sometimes, computerization means de-skilling.

    Regarding auto mechanics: Does it really require more knowledge to use a diagnostic computer than to do the diagnosis yourself?

  3. The Evolution of CTE is interesting. I personally am a former CTE teacher who took wood shop, metal shop and computer application courses in college. There are no more metal shops and very few metal shops left in NC and most of our school systems – why? Many reasons, liability is one, but enrollment is a bigger issue. Students simply weren’t taking our classes. Vocation Tech needed to evolve to meet the needs of not just the “blue collar students” but all the students at the high school. To decide that 21st century skills such as computer programming and video production were more worthwhile skills.

    Now where does it lead your “blue collar bound?” The community college system has stepped up to the plate for technical skill training. Some schools still have the wood shops and the auto shops – but in Wake County (the county in Raleigh) there are only 2 auto shops in the high school system. I don’t see this as bad. High school should be about a well rounded education. We stopped “tracking” students (college bound track vs. work track) in the 70s and 80s because students not only found it degrading – they had problems escaping their “caste.”

    CTE has had to change with the times – the research on its evolution, especially in Technology Education on the Higher Ed level is fascinating.

  4. greifer says:

    Huh??? Car maintenance requires what?

    No it doesn’t require higher reading or math skills. It requires a computer which attaches to the car’s RS 232 port. So it doesn’t matter if you can read or not, you’re not going to fix your car’s fuel injection system by reading.

    The mechanics at a car dealership need to read LESS than ever before. Why? because software does all of the diagnostics now. Complicated programs lead a mechanic step by step through a flow chart that has incredibly simple steps on it to fix what the computer software diagnosed based on the data it read from the car’s computer.

    I might want a mechanic with good reading skills or good math skills. But the need is not there.

  5. About your last point about how marketing the classes this way puts blue-collar goals second place again: it may be true that is what happens, but my experience is that in many communities you can’t get funding and support for good tech-prep, vocational, or career prep classes because no one wants to envision their kids doing anything other than going to college.

    So it really does become a question of marketing the classes so the community thinks of them as something open to everyone, even the college prep, so that you can the support you need to offer them at all.

    And college prep kids with open elective time can and do take the classes which creates enough interest and funding that you can have good programs to serve the kids who really are taking that career path either straight out of high school or planning on a two year technical college.

  6. My old post the suppression of shop addresses some of these issues.

  7. One of the problems with teaching auto mechanics (which my HS used to teach, and which is a good idea) is that there are fairly expensive start up costs compared to other areas. You need a largish garage, with either a garage jack or underfloor access. You need an engine hoist, and you need lots and lots of tools. You also need a lot of power to run the place. (You need cars, too, although they are commonly donated).


  8. On the subject of being an automotive technician these days, it’s much more complex than in years past, a lot of programs at the community college level are 2 year programs which prepare students to take and pass ASE certification exams in electrical systems, HVAC, engine and powertrain, etc. The local dealer I have my car serviced at has told me that the work is challenging, and they need employees who can employ logic, critical thinking, and analysis (which are important to diagnose intermittent problems, the toughest to solve).

    Anyone can be trained to change oil, swap parts, etc, it takes much more to learn the art of troubleshooting, problem solving, and repair.

  9. “…but in Wake County (the county in Raleigh) there are only 2 auto shops in the high school system. I don’t see this as bad. High school should be about a well rounded education.”

    Auto repair skills don’t make the cut for a well rounded education?