CTE is a win-win-win

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple was recently asked why his company moved its production to China. “It’s skill”, said Cook in response to Charlie Rose on “60 Minutes. “The U.S., over time, began to stop having as many vocational kind of skills” he said. “I mean, you can take every tool and die maker in the United States and probably put them in a room that we’re currently sitting in. In China, you would have to have multiple football fields.” Okay, so the CEO of the most profitable company in the world moved production out of the U.S. because American workers don’t have enough vocational skills.   Surely, that makes alleged “pro-business” legislators stand up and take notice, right? You would think, but this is Arizona.

In our state, the public high school districts charged with offering these tuition-free “vocational kind of skills” or Career and Technical Education (CTE) are Joint Technical Education Districts (JTED.) These JTED offer a variety of programs in fields such as business, computers and media, health science; and industrial technologies just to name a few. Students in JTED programs earn high school credit, and in some cases, may earn college credit, industry certifications, and/or a state license through combination of hands-on training and classroom instruction.

As the Pinal County Chair for the Arizona School Boards Association, I toured the Central Arizona Valley Institute of Technology (CAVIT) in Coolidge this year.   This district has a partnership with eleven area high schools and offers aesthetics, cosmetology, dental assistant, fire science, law enforcement, massage therapy, medical assistant, nursing assistant, and veterinary assistant training programs. I was very impressed with what I saw at CAVIT. Engaged students were learning not only valuable trades skills that will earn them certificates and jobs when they graduate from high school, but also how to be valued employees. I left CAVIT thinking “this is exactly what we need in Arizona.”

Unfortunately, the AZ Legislature obviously doesn’t agree or just doesn’t “get it”. In 2011, they cut CTE funding for freshmen to the tune of $29 million. In 2017, another 7.5 percent cut takes affect. That may not sound like much, but on top of previous cuts it will devastate the program. In fact, JTED aren’t the only districts impacted since about 70 percent of the funding they receive is passed through to regular school districts where many of the classes are taught. JTED keeps the other 30 percent for operation of their central campuses. Jeremy Plumb, superintendent of Mountain Institute JTED in Yavapai County, said: [As the] programs continue to grow and expand critical partnerships; business and industry leaders are mind-boggled by the recent statewide program cuts.” Plumb also confirmed that Arizona is beginning to see epidemic employment shortages in industries such as health care, power and electrical systems, and aviation just to name a few. David Jones, president of the Arizona Construction Association, likewise confirms that quality carpenters, welders, electricians, plumbers and landscapers are in high demand adding: “There’s a stigma attached to going to a vocational school in the U.S.” Perhaps, but this stigma hasn’t extinguished student demand in Arizona with over 90,000 students enrolled in one of the state’s 13 JTED. After all, college is expensive and job opportunities aren’t what they used to be. JTED offers an alternative with less risk and at least as much promise for a secure future.

Truth is, although Americans love to tout “college for all” fewer than one in three young people achieve that dream. Some can’t even make it to college, but the real problem is our drop-out rate which is the highest in the industrialized world. There are a variety of reasons, to include that many college students (as with high school students who drop out) can’t see a direct connection between their studies and future employment. In fact, 81 percent of high school dropouts say relevant, real-world educational offerings would have kept them in school. This matters because the average dropout will contribute about $300,000 less to society than their high school graduate counterpart. CTE participation has proven to help. In Tucson Unified School District, students who took three or more CTE classes saw as much as a 60 percent decrease in the likelihood of dropping out of high school. In the Mesa Public Schools, students taking just two CTE classes were 79 percent less likely to drop out. Of this type of “applied learning” Richard Condit, Chief Administrative Officer, Sundt Corporation said: It is clear that when students see application of content, they are more engaged in and committed to their education.”

Not only does JTED/CTE provide skilled workers to eager employers, and keep students in school, it often provides young adults higher paying jobs than if they had gone to a four-year college. This is especially true when the avoidance of student debt is considered. A 2011 Harvard study showed that 27 percent of people with post-secondary licenses or certificates—credentials short of an associate’s degree—earn more than the average bachelor’s degree recipient. In today’s tough economy, the percentage is probably higher.

So, CTE is a win-win-win program. And yet, our Legislature seems intent on killing it. Yes, I know it is a budget issue. Yes, I know Governor Ducey is determined not to raise taxes (at least not directly), but this is a choice! This is HIS choice! This is inspite (or maybe in SPITE) of the fact that a recent poll found 66 percent of Arizonans would pay higher taxes to improve public schools.

It is OUR choice whether we continue to let our elected officials act counter to our wishes. Guess what? We ARE the boss of them! We grant them their jobs, we pay their salaries, and we should be giving them performance feedback. Click here for the Governor’s feedback form, and click here to find and email your legislative district’s representatives. And, if you want to make a difference real-time during the next legislative session, click here for the form to sign up for the Legislature’s Request to Speak System where you can engage from your home computer and have your comments become part of the public record. You CAN do something and what you do will matter. As Nike says, “just do it.”

16 thoughts on “CTE is a win-win-win”

  1. people need a well rounded education other wise you get educated idiots like ben carson. this will deal with ignorance ;but not evil as kavenaugh and huppenthal demonstrate here.

  2. Thanks, Linda, for another well written and thought provoking article. We absolutely need more funding for education. My representatives are already big supporters of education but I did contact them this morning just as reinforcement. You not only provided insightful information, you gave us a course of action. Keep up your good work on the education front!

  3. Great discussion, glad to see we all agree that vocational education is important! I also am a product of vocational training. I was a drafting student in high school and then earned an Associate’s Degree in Design Drafting. This degree got me a “Technical Assistant” job at Halliburton in their Research and Design department and went to school at night to finish my Bachelor’s degree. We should be doing whatever we can to encourage kids to stay in school, especially when it is ALSO the smartest option for the future of our state.

    Just signed an on-line petition to save CTE. Here’s the link so you can do the same: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-cte-funding/?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=button.

    • Thank you for providing that link to sign the petition! Every opportunity to speak out in favor of Vocational Training is a good thing.

  4. I and my brothers grew up in machine shops, operating vertical boring mills, engine lathes and turret lathes by the time we were five years old. These days they all operate completely computer controlled equipment of incredible sophistication selling consulting service, manufactured parts, and complete machines. Paradise Valley had one machine, a computer controlled milling machine and an incredibly good vision for integrating education with business. Wilcox was in the game with a great leader but
    without the needed machine sophistication. Yet, in all my tours, i never saw an installation that was prividing the education i znd my brothers received. The difference? I and my brothers were making and selling product as we went, learning with every sale. Sometimes it was a brutal education. One time my brother bid wrong and we had to work hundreds of hours without making a penny. Even before the budget cuts, how many computer controlled lathes, vertical boring machines, mills, grinding machines did we have to show for the hundreds of millions spent on Career and Technical Education? Ten computer controlled machines in the whole state? Machines that cost less the 100 grand each. EVIT does a lot of programs insanely great we need to extend that to tool and die. Manufacturing education needs a complete revamp. We need to put a rocket behind Paradise Valleys leadership, Wilcox and EVIT.

  5. Linda,

    I suggest you run for cover because when I said that everyone does not need a college degree and vocational skills were best for some students two years ago, I was pummeled by your colleagues on the left. You need to either leave the state or change your name.

    • No, Senator, they will accept it from her. If you say it, however, they are convinced that you have a complex and nefarious scheme to further destroy education in Arizona. There isn’t anything you can suggest that will not be subjected to attack. Because you are a Republican Senator, you are assumed guilty and incapable of constructive thought or participation. Sorry…

      • Hmmmm, I think it has more to do with Senator Kavanagh’s public education voting record than his party designation. Actions speak louder than words.

    • As usual, John is full of baloney. Disingenuous at best.

      What can we expect from someone who’s mission in life is to promote mass incarceration for fun and profit?

      John wants to starve (cut funding for) Arizona’s public universities. That’s a FAR different idea than this blog puts forth.

  6. I have long espoused vocational training at the high school and Community College level as an alternative path to a college degree. When I was in High School, college prep was just another option you were offered in addition to Auto Shop, Metal Shop, Drafting, Construction, and a half dozen other vocational areas. Many of friends took the vocational route and when I saw them again at reunions, they were the owners of successful businesses and happy they had done so. And that was here in Arizona down in Yuma County. What happened to that investment in students that worked so well for them? Today it seems like every high school student is assumed to be on the college path, and many of them have no desire to do that. If you are not going to college then why stay in school if it isn’t going to lead to a job when you finish?

  7. You are absolutely correct Linda. Arizona’s JTED districts provide very cost effective career and technical training. This training is essential to the economic development future of this State. As just one example of many, I just attended an award program for some of our CTE students who trained and then received multiple auto technology ASE certifications while attending JTED funded programs. They have multiple automotive technician job offers from Countywide auto dealers while still in high school. All were trained in satellite programs in local high schools. Around the State of Arizona our JTEDs are producing immediately trained employees in numerous technical programs in both satellite and central campus venues. The largest number of CTE students in the entire State are in satellite (local high schools) programs, the most cost effective delivery systems. The legislature must act on this budget issue, and no excuse should be accepted. Our economic development future is at stake.

    Tom Duranceau. WAVE JTED board member, Mohave and LaPaz Counties

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