Career and technical-oriented classes could be offered to high school students in Moscow as soon as next fall, largely because of a push from a local coalition.
Jim Miller, director of development and projects analyst for the University of Idaho’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said is one of the five members of the Moscow CTE Coalition pushing for the classes. Miller described CTE programs, often referred to as vocational programs, as a more direct, hands-on approach to instruction with an orientation on establishing professional technical skills. While classes like metal and woodshop fall within that realm, he said CTE classes also include leadership and business training. Miller said CTE training can lead to a professional career on its own, but it is also common for students to go on to a four-year university.
“It also engages the student in a little bit different way and makes them active learners a little bit more, so that helps in all their classes,” Miller said. “If you look at students that are in CTE programming nationwide, the graduation rate is about 90 percent. If you look at non-CTE students nationwide, the graduation rate is about 75 percent.”
Miller said graduation rates for CTE students in Idaho is 3 percent higher than the national average.
Miller said early courses would be agriculture-related if support from the community and the school board is strong. If the program is successful, it could be expanded to include other subjects. The coalition has sent two surveys to parents and students with a list of possible classes they may offer to determine the level of interest and allow the students to help dictate what courses will initially be offered.
Miller said attitudes regarding vocational training are shifting to see such programs as a supplement to traditional education. However, he said, stigma surrounding these programs persists, with many in the public under the wrong impression that CTE programs are for struggling or apathetic students.
While agriculture classes may seem like a narrow focus, Kim O’Neill, associate vice president for development at the UI and another member of the coalition, said the field includes training in a broad set of skills applicable in almost any career path.
“The really great part about career and technical education now is that it’s applied science, technology, education and math,” O’Neill said. “The concepts that you would typically learn in a math class, if you will, can be applied to real-life examples using your hands — building something, creating something — and then those skills are transferred into the workforce.”
Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.