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February is Career and Technical Education Month

Written By Editor on 2/2/21 | 2/2/21

ALBANY -- February is Career and Technical Education Month — a time when school districts across the country celebrate programs designed to prepare students for the workforce or to further their education.

Once an education path for those students only seeking vocational skills, career and technical education is now a pathway for students looking to build career skills, get a start on their college education or just learn a life skill that will allow them pay for college. At Capital Region BOCES Career and Technical School (CTE), more than 70 percent of high school students pursue higher education, while many others directly enter the workforce with a highly technical skill set.

“CTE gives me a good opportunity and experience to see what it’s actually like working in a dealership,” said senior Leon Bhajan, who is taking part in work-based learning at Destination Nissan in Albany.

“I am working in the shop, doing whatever they need me to do. The other day I helped someone put a motor in a car. It is a lot of hands-on work and real experiences,” he said. “It’s great to get out of school and get this experience.”

For 2013 graduate John Broadus, CTE meant a guaranteed career in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC/R) field.

"There are a lot of possibilities in the trade. It’s recession-proof and I am doing quite well,” Broadus said.

Capital Region BOCES CTE offers approximately three dozen programs that prepare students for specific careers, but also give students such skills as communications, interviewing and time management that span the spectrum of careers.

Those programs are guided by input CTE receives from the business community. These professionals serve on nearly 20 different advisory panels that meet periodically at BOCES and guide the curriculum and planning, as well as provide work-based learning opportunities for students.

A key example of the BOCES CTE-business partnership is the Engineering Technician program that was launched in 2017 and was the result of a partnership between BOCES and GLOBALFOUNDRIES. The program trains students for careers at the high tech giant and other employers in the region and beyond.

"There's a demand among business leaders across the region and state to place an emphasis on college- and career-readiness," said Jeff Palmer, director of career and technical education at BOCES. "The programs we offer include everything from culinary and welding to electrical trades, auto body repair and internet application design. But they also prepare students with life skills that apply to whatever career a student pursues.”

“It’s about preparing students for life,” he added.

SUNY Cobleskill Outreach Instructor Ed Wallace concurred.

“Several students in recent years have come out of the BOCES program and entered the workforce as technicians and equipment operators, several others have gone on to secondary institutions like SUNY Cobleskill,” Wallace said.

Business officials said training high school students for careers in the skilled trades is crucial to keeping the industry alive.

“We need to create the connections for students early on. This is a way we can keep them in the pipeline as workers in our industry down the road,” said Jerry Skiff, director of service for Anderson Equipment Co.

More than 1,000 students from throughout the Capital Region take courses at the Capital Region BOCES campuses in Schoharie, Albany and at the Center for Advanced Technology at Mohonasen, as well as New Visions classrooms. Nationally, more than 15 million high school and postsecondary students are pursuing career and technical education, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

By choosing an education that includes career and technical training, those students are getting an education that is critical to their personal success, as well as the success of this region and the country.

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