The new paradigm of career and technical education (CTE) is that every student can benefit from it, whether they're chasing a well-paying career right out of high school or pursuing a postsecondary degree. Even the federal government's Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) signed into law a year ago recognizes that new reality. The Act adds CTE to the definition of a well-rounded education, bringing it into the spotlight previously reserved for traditional subjects like English and math.
One of the challenges for schools and districts is creating robust CTE programs that fulfill that promise. Programs need broad appeal for a diverse array of students and their varying interests. Likewise, CTE programs also need to fit the practical realities of students' ambitions and goals.
The Gold Standard
The best programs not only equip students with the essential training for their chosen career, but also ensure they earn the workforce credentials that open doors to opportunities.
“Students who want to enter the workforce after high school are more marketable if they have a professional credential,” says Dr. Ron Iarussi, superintendent of two centers that provide CTE services for 20 school districts in Mahoning County, Ohio.
Those professional credentials are like a gold medal awaiting students at the end of a well-run CTE pathway. Certainly many students, starting a CTE pathway in their freshman year of high school, are ready to run the four-year marathon that leads to an advanced credential by the time they graduate. But not every student is primed for that path. Some may switch career choices or get started later—they're more suited to the equivalent of a 10K race, while others may only need a 100-meter dash that leads them to gold.
With those variations in mind, Dr. Iarussi and Mahoning County have implemented Fuel Education's Career Readiness Pathways through the two centers he oversees—the Mahoning County Educational Service Center and the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center.
Career Readiness Pathways features tremendous flexibility that enables the Mahoning County districts to meet a wide range of student needs. The online and blended learning program offers 12 well-mapped, high-demand career pathways that lead to basic or advanced credentials in four major Career Clusters: health science, manufacturing, information technology, and business management and administration.
What's more, Career Readiness Pathways gives students that ability to earn their gold-medal credential whether they're a distance runner or a sprinter.
The program features three ways to earn credentials:
- Comprehensive four-year pathways that start freshman year
- Accelerated pathways leading to certifications in two years, so students can start as late as 11th grade and still earn a credential
- Short-track training that leads to certifications in as little as one or two semesters, which is a great option for at-risk students, among others
Additionally, Mahoning students are taking advantage of numerous career-oriented electives, world languages, and other enriching course options available through the FuelEd Online Courses curriculum, allowing them to further explore options and gather valuable skills and knowledge. The Pathways program also provides schools with support services such as career exploration, business skill development, and more.
“Our students love the variety of courses and flexibility we offer, which would be impossible without FuelEd,” says Iarussi. “I think our students were surprised by the amount of reading, thought, and attention to detail the online courses require. This level of rigor proves that online courses are credible, and that they will help our students prepare for the future.”