Businesses are looking for employees with the skills their businesses need to grow. Schools want to prepare students to succeed in their chosen career fields. Both sides get what they want when they collaborate to ensure what is being taught is what the marketplace is looking for.
“Employers are looking at workforce development differently today,” says Todd Bingham, president of the Utah Manufacturers Association. He says there is currently a talent shortage among the 1,100-plus manufacturing companies his organization represents within the state of Utah. “Many companies that used to just rely on the education system to get their future employees ready to enter the workforce are now looking for ways to get involved to ensure that those candidates are prepared with the right knowledge and skills.”
Many businesses don’t have the resources to invest in large-scale workforce development and training programs. Most employers, however, are eager to participate in existing programs that result in better prepared candidates for employment. Innovation is commonly equated to invention, or being the first to market with a new idea. Some of the best innovations, however, are simply enhancements and modifications to already sound ideas and concepts. This coalition is formed around the concept of engaging with students where they are, and supporting existing Career and Technical Education efforts to prepare students for career and post-secondary pathway opportunities that lead to a better prepared workforce.
The Impressive Impact of CTE
The CTE Career Skills Certification program has proven very successful largely because industry partners provide feedback on the standards that guide teacher instruction and then engage students who earn certifications as interns or employees because they have the skills the businesses need.
Graduation rates among students who engage in CTE courses are, on average, 12 percent higher than their counterparts who don’t. The reason is relatively simple: students have a better understanding of where the skills they are learning will lead them on their career path. Essentially, CTE answers the question students have asked in frustration for decades: “When am I ever going to use this?”
According to Career Tech, the national association of state leadership on all things CTE, there are sixteen national Career Clusters:”
Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources
Architecture & Construction
Arts, A/V Technology & Communications
Business Management & Administration
Education & Training
Government & Public Administration
Hospitality & Tourism
Law, Public Safety, Corrections & Security
Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics
Transportation, Distribution & Logistics
Teachers provide their students with the most current instruction based on Industry Recognized Standards. These standards are shaped based on input from industry and education subject matter experts.
“Industry talent needs change so quickly; how else would teachers know what to teach to best prepare the kids in middle school and high school if we didn’t collaborate with the existing education system?” asks Cahlan Sharp, CEO and Founder at DevMountain
The Benefit to Employers
David Halls, vice president and general manager at Amcor Masonry Products in North Salt Lake says one of their most pressing needs revolve around hiring the right people. As the leading architectural masonry, hardscape and retaining wall producer in Utah, Amcor already has challenges like every other large manufacturer in hiring and retaining qualified talent.
“With the addition of a new plant set to be completed by the end of the year, we will double our capacity in anticipation of current demand and future growth,” says Halls. “Working with the state to connect with the right students provides us with a vehicle to identify candidates that have demonstrated the aptitude and desire to succeed in our specific work environment.”
There are multiple ways employers get involved, some provide work-based learning and internship opportunities that lead directly to jobs for students. Some of the most simple and meaningful ways employers can engage, however, only take a few minutes to give feedback on the skills, knowledge and aptitude that are most important to each employer in their respective industries.
The Career and Technical Education department of the Utah State Board of Education is constantly striving to deliver and administer programs that provide tangible value to our students, says Thalea Longhurst, Utah State Career and Technical Education director at the Utah State Board of Education. “The Career Skills Assessment program, administered through Precision Exams, is one that provides us with valuable outcomes and data and is fully embedded within the Career and Technical Education program statewide. By adding local industry input and recognition, we believe these certificates carry even more value as the knowledge and skills earned by students when earning a certificate will provide them with a clear pathway into high-demand roles with local employers, and your involvement ensures this local recognition of earned competencies.”
The industry engagement program has been created to provide maximum flexibility for participating employers, that yields meaningful results to employers and students alike.