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Today's adult students.

Who are the adult students in career and technical education (CTE) today? There isn't one simple answer to that question. According to former ACTE Postsecondary, Adult and Career Education Division Vice President Harry Snyder, "Today's students conic from different, venues. They may be students leaving high school or college who have decided that college is not their pathway, but who have an interest in a specific vocation. Or they may be students who have tried 'work,' are still working, and realize their future is limited without extra training that leads to certification and/or credentials. They may also be older students who have become unemployed or displaced in a field that 'will not be returning and want to develop new skills that are still needed."



A National Effort through ACTE

Educating adult students is an important part of the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) mission, and the Postsecondary, Adult and Career Education Division (PACE) spearheads that mission by providing leadership it developing a competitive adult workforce through postsecondary education and training. Previously known as the Adult. Workforce Development Division, the new name was adopted in March 2011 to better reflect its membership. The division is composed of educators, teachers, counselors, administrators, placement officers, economic developers, adult basic education instructors, sex equity coordinators and literacy instructors, and it focuses on:

* serving transitional workers

* creating and developing community workforce pools

* providing comprehensive career services

* customizing training for business and industry

* developing entry-level skills fir employment

* upgrading employee skills for Future technologies

* providing skills-gap remediation

* developing employability skills

* providing the bridge for individuals to maintain economic viability and independence

* inspiring an appreciation for lifelong learning

Snyder is the adult workforce development supervisor at Great Oaks Career Campuses in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he is helping to develop career pathways for specific industry sectors, including health care, advanced manufacturing and construction. But during his term (2011-2012) as ACTE PACE vice president, he noted of the division's mission, "The goal is to bring incumbent workers back into the higher education and postsecondary, fields, and this will help increase their economic value to themselves and their communities."

A Gateway to Success

Workforce development at two-year colleges is the fastest growing area of college services in many states, according to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), and education and training will he required to fill job openings that arise due to growth and net replacement. When OVAE issued its projections for 2000-2010, it noted that 69.8 percent of jobs will require work-related training (ranging from short-term or moderate on-the-job training, to long-term on-the-job training, as well as work experience in a related occupation); 20.9 percent will require a bachelor's degree or higher; and 9.3 percent will require an associate's degree or postsecondary vocational award. CTE plays an important role in all these areas, with its elements of classroom and laboratory instruction, apprenticeships, internships and advanced technical training, as well as customized training for business and industry.

Community colleges are a vital part of the postsecondary education delivery system, and according to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), they serve almost half the undergraduate students in the United States, providing open access to postsecondary education, preparing students for transfer to four-year institutions, providing workforce development and skills training, and offering noncredit programs ranging from ESL to retraining.

AACC describes community colleges as the gateway to postsecondary education for many minority, low-income and first-generation postsecondary education students, and since 1985, more than half of all community college students have been women. AACC notes that community colleges provide access to education for many nontraditional students who are adults and working while enrolled. AACC statistics show that the average age of a community college student is 29 years old, and two-thirds of community college students attend part time. While these schools are providing access for adult students, it is important to note that they are also serving an increasing number of traditional-age and high school students who take specific courses to get ahead in their studies. According to AACC, half the students who receive a baccalaureate degree attend community college in the course of their undergraduate studies.

Career and technical programs are among the most frequent offerings at community colleges, with business, health professions, and computer and information sciences topping the list. Students at these schools most often earn associates degrees and certificates, but some community colleges have begun offering bachelor's degrees in certain fields of study.

In Kentucky, the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) is made up of 16 colleges on 68 campuses, and although some of these schools have been in existence for many decades. they have evolved to meet the decades, needs of today's students. KCTCS offers two-year associate's degrees as well as certificates and diplomas in more than 600 credit program offerings, and as part of meeting today's workforce needs, KCTCS is expanding its focus on CTE. According to KCTCS, in the past 10 years it has become the largest provider of postsecondary education and workforce training in the state, and that includes providing workforce services to thousands of businesses and their employees.

Toyota and Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC) have formed a partnership, and a January 31, 2012, news release from KCTCS tells the story of Christina Partin, who in the summer of 2010, alter graduating from high school, began working as an intern for Toyota. Staff of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc., and BCTC in Georgetown had begun a new effort: the Advanced Manufacturing Technician Program. In the fall, Partin began classes that were specifically geared to teach multiple skills, equipping students not only for Toyota but also for most other manufacturing firms.

As the news release points out, "Having been the first person of her struggling family to graduate from high school, Partin now has more notable firsts: going to college and being among the first students of the program." Partin represents some important characteristics of today's student, not just in those "firsts" but as a woman pursuing what has been considered a nontraditional career. The adult student in today's CTE is not limited by the stereotypes of the past--so that student may be a man in a nursing program or a woman in a construction trades program.
69.8%  of jobs will require work-related training

20.9%  of jobs will require a bachelor's degree or

9.3%   of jobs will require an associate's degree or
       postsecondary vocational award

Note: Table made from pie chart

Renewal and Recognition

President Obama, in his January 2012 State of the Union Address, noted, "Model partnerships between businesses like Siemens and community colleges in places like Charlotte, Orlando and Louisville, are up and running. Now you need to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers--places that teach people skills that local businesses are looking for right now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing."

Among those seated as guests in the box of First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the vice president and a community college professor, was Jackie Bray. Bray, a single mother from North Carolina, who was laid off from her job as a high-speed packaging mechanic, enrolled in a Siemens pre-hiring program at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte. She finished the course, passed the test and was hired by Siemens in August 2011. She now works as a process operator, combining her machinist background with new skills she has been trained on since working at Siemens: laser and robotics training, penetrant inspection training and product orientation. As the White House noted in its press release, this is exactly the type of partnership between businesses and community colleges that President Obama hopes will continue to strengthen to maximize workforce-development strategies, job-training programs and job placements.

Another guest, Bryan Ritterby, had been in the furniture manufacturing industry for more than 25 years when he was laid off in February 2009. He then went through the Grand Rapids Community College Composite Technician 'Training Program in conjunction with a new startup company, Energetx Composites. After completing the program, Ritterby was hired by Energetx as a composite technician in April 2010 and now is a lab technician for the company, conducting material tests verifying materials to be used in wind turbine blades as well as working on blade validation tests for all the community-scale wind blades Energetx Composites is manufacturing.

Growing and Improving

The 16 colleges of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS) also offer degrees that help people move directly into the world of work, as well as retraining people who are changing jobs or have lost their jobs and need new skills. In addition to providing general education and workforce training curricula, the colleges provide training and/or retraining for Louisiana's employees through the Incumbent Worker Training Program.

The Incumbent Worker Training Program (IWTP) is a partnership between the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC), business and industry, and training providers. The IWTP is designed to benefit business and industry by assisting in the skill development of existing employees, thereby increasing employee productivity and the growth of the company. According to the LWC, "These improvements are expected to result. in the creation of new jobs, the retention of jobs that otherwise may have been eliminated and an increase in wages for trained workers." IWTP not only represents another type of adult student, but it also demonstrates the way in which CTE assists business, industry and local economies.

In Missouri, St. Louis Community College (STLCC) has addressed community workforce needs through its Accelerated job Training Partnership, which was recognized with a 2010 Innovation of the Year Award by the League for Innovation in the Community College. STLCC has issued its third annual "State of St. Louis Workforce Report" with the results of a survey to better understand how employers, education and training providers, and job seekers can collaborate for accelerated recovery. The survey found that, "While the regional labor pool has sufficient numbers and technical skills, employers report having a hard time finding 'work-ready' applicants with the personal-effectiveness competencies necessary to adjust to the rigor of professional environments."

With regard to job seekers, the survey found that workers are less willing to relocate to find new employment, and the housing crisis further complicates such moves. As a result, "... job seekers are requesting assistance from career services to find employment and/or receive affordable training that is necessary to improve job prospects."

The report recommends, "Employers must continue to partner with area education and training providers so that developed curricula packages technical expertise with academic competencies to ensure quality of future talent. Job seekers must understand the value employers place on professional fundamentals in addition to the technical skills needed for success at the workplace."

Communities like St. Louis need the assistance of community colleges and technical schools, and the state of Missouri Division of Workforce Development has asked the college to operate a Chrysler Regional Transition One-Stop Center focused on the needs of 'laid-off Chrysler employees. STLCC is well prepared to assist in times such as these, and its Workforce and Community Development Program includes initiatives such as the Metropolitan Education and Training (MET) Center, which offers short-term training courses and other resources. STLCC describes the MET Center as a starting point for unemployed and underemployed area residents to brush Up On their skills, experience hands-on training and then enter the workforce. It includes skills training for specific trades, as well as training in improved work habits and job-retention skills.

But adult students at STLCC are not just displaced workers or those in need of remedial education. Its Center for Business, Industry and Labor is the largest provider of training and consulting services in the St. Louis metropolitan area, training 23,000-plus employees from more than 100 local companies each year.

An Education for Life

When ACTE recognized Massanutten Technical Center (MTC) as one of its promising programs and practices, the Association noted that MTC is an award-winning career and technical school that offers 19 different career programs for high school students in Virginia's Harrisonburg City and Rockingham County, and that MTC has been recognized by the Virginia Department of Education as a "Creating Excellence" school for five consecutive years for its innovative programs. Among those programs is a partnership with Rockingham Memorial Hospital to teach employees Spanish.

MTC certainly is providing the high school students in the county with many opportunities, but this award-winning school also offers one of the largest adult and continuing education programs in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Adult and Continuing Education Department at MTC covers a broad range of adult training options. They include courses in the trade and industrial areas, nursing, dentistry, cosmetology, business and computer technology. There are more than 75 courses that train more than 1,500 adults annually. MTC notes that it is dedicated to preparing adults for employment in an ever-changing job market.

MTC is also a regional center that offers apprenticeship training and currently works with more than 50 different companies in sponsoring apprenticeship training. Alter completion of one of its state-approved apprenticeship programs, an individual will receive 21 journeyman certification, which is a nationally recognized credential. 'Ilk is yet another example of today's adult CTE students. They are often already working in a particular career, perfecting their craft and earning the credentials that will help them earn more and move into positions such as foreman, jobsite superintendent or perhaps even owning their own businesses.

Adult students in today's CTE range from young to older workers, and from those who must first earn a GED to those seeking managerial training or master's and sometimes even doctoral degrees. 'they may be working on a master's in CTE from California State University in San Bernardino, or a master's degree from Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas, with a major in CTE that provides emphases in family and consumer sciences, college teaching, technology education and technical teacher education. A student may have started in a high school agriculture class and in Future Farmers of America TEA). and as an adult be earning a Ph.D. from Ohio State, studying in the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. There is simply no one category into which we can place adult CTE students. There is too much CTE has to offer, and there are no limits to where it can lead.

It is also worthwhile to note that in community colleges across the nation, older retired adults are taking classes to enrich their lives, learning new things like computer skills, sewing, carpentry, cooking and others that will help keep their bodies and minds active. You are never too old for CTE, and research continues to demonstrate that the benefits of lifelong learning are not just economic but extend well beyond the workplace.

While the young adults of the Millennial Generation have the advantage of growing up with technology, older adult students have their own advantages, not the least of which is life experience, and these different generations often find themselves in the same classrooms if they are studying CTE. But in the classroom and in the workplace, different generations can build a mutual respect for what they can offer one another, especially because teamwork and cooperation are built into CTE.

As former ACTE PACE VP Snyder notes of today's students, "Across all programming we have seen more serious students who have somehow been affected by these economic times. The students seem more focused on instruction; attentive to 'soft skills' requirements such as attendance, dress and conflict resolution; and excited and motivated about their future prospects of employment."

As it has done throughout its history, CTE has worked to adapt to the new realities of today. "CTE has worked with business advisory groups to gain a better understanding of industry needs and has worked with vendors to provide the latest in curriculum, experiential-training devices and 'real world' activities that replicate business environments," explains Snyder. "CTE has worked with incoming students on understanding their needs by utilizing assessments, communicating a clearer understanding of the programming and matching the students' expectations with the outcome. By bringing all these factors together, CTE students can begin career pathways that benefit the companies they work for, the communities they live in and the families they support. CUE also instills in students the ideas of lifelong learning--that no matter what your vocation, to continually reinvent yourself is part of the journey in life."

Explore More

The following organizations are good places to begin learning more about the adult students in CTE today.

ACTE Postsecondary, Adult and Career Education Division

American Association of Community Colleges

U.S. Department of Education Office of Vocational and Adult Education

Pick up for adult student success at CareerTech VISION 2012--register today at!

Susan Reese is a Techniques contributing writer. She can be contacted at
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Title Annotation:Today's Students--Part 2
Author:Reese, Susan
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2012
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