Career and Technical Education could be growing due to COVID-19

You still need a plumber during a pandemic.

That’s why many say jobs come from lessons in Career and Technical Education, such as technology and childcare, will probably be in high demand in the coming years.

“It’s the kids who come out and build the bridges, build the roads — do the things that need to be done for the rest of society to live comfortably,” said Darryl Fox, who teaches welding at North Buncombe High School.

In 2019-20, Buncombe County Schools had its first increase in student numbers in CTE classes In five years. That year, the district had occupied 14,431 CTE classrooms, while in 2018-19 14,052, according to the NC Department of Public Education.

Before that time, number steadily declined.

During the 2015-16 school year, CTE classes were taught to 17,017 sixth through ninth graders. In 2016-17, the number shrank to 16,110. The following year there were 14,552 before hitting the low of 14,052 in 2018-19,

Students can be counted double in these numbers if they have taken more than one CTE class, said BCS spokesman Stacia Harris.

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The numbers dropped as a result of the pandemic, when teaching hands-on classes became increasingly difficult in a virtual environment. According to a BCS CTE newsletter, only 12,825 students were in CTE classes in September 2020.

While this is a drop, BCS director of CTE Taylor Baldwin said it wasn’t as bad as some other districts.

“CTE programs across the country have faced and overcome many challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Buncombe County Schools’ CTE enrollment overall continued to show a positive upward trend,” Baldwin said. “Despite a challenging year due to the pandemic, enrollment of BCS CTE students saw only a minor impact.”

Furthermore, many CTE proponents think that after the pandemic, students could opt for the atypical programming even more.

“Students are starting to see the value of career and technical education and so are their parents,” said AB Tech Director of Educational Partnerships Fairley Patton.

The emerging needs of the workforce after the pandemic, she said, will only increase the importance of these jobs.

“The pandemic has certainly led to the need for a skilled workforce. Anyone who has been housebound for a while knows the value of a plumber or the value of someone who has knowledge of heating and air conditioning or… has the skills to be a nurse or a nursing assistant,” Patton said. “The pandemic has brought the opportunity forward, even in a stronger way.”

AB Tech has partnered with Buncombe County and Asheville City Schools to offer dual enrollments for students to take college-level free classes in high school.

Fox, the only welding teacher in the district, said many of his students earn certificates or degrees from AB Tech.

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Baldwin said increased participation in CTE classes such as biomedical engineering, automotive services and agriculture benefits not only students choosing unusual educational and career paths, but also the community as a whole, especially as it recovers from the financial and employment turmoil it is causing. by the pandemic.

“CTE will play an important role in economic recovery and the development of the post-pandemic workforce,” Baldwin said. “This includes not only providing the education, training and retraining opportunities needed by young people and adults in high-paying, highly skilled and in-demand professions and industries, but also to help learners develop technical, employability and academic skills. that are important for increasingly technology-oriented workplaces.”

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For teachers like Fox, it’s less about educating students for jobs to heal the world after the pandemic, but more about teaching them that hard work, even if it’s unconventional, can lead to fulfilling careers and lives.

“That you may have guided a young student on a career path that they enjoy and earn a decent income – that’s why I’m there,” he said.

Fox said he is keeping up with his former students, one of whom graduated from college and is currently studying at AB Tech to study welding so she can become a sculptor.

Others, who have taken jobs with local contractors or traveling welding companies, often send him Snapchat videos while they’re at work that read, “Don’t you wish you could weld like this?”

The educator welcomes the playful trash talk, because beyond words are his former students working in the subject – finding their place – thanks to his teaching.

Shelby Harris is a reporter on education and other topics. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @_shelbyharris.

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