Funk: Career technical education should be a requirement
The East Side Union High School District office is pictured in this file photo. Photo by Ramona Giwargis.

In East Side Union High School District (ESUHSD), we are committed to building capacity amongst all staff members to ensure equity and inclusion are essential principles of our school system. Specifically, we are building capacity to attain equitable ESUHSD communities where:

  • All students are welcomed as they are;
  • Strengths and areas of growth for all students are known and supported;
  • Adults positively respond to the social-emotional, wellness and academic needs of every student;
  • All students engage with tasks that develop the strategic thinking skills for full participation in their local communities and the global society.

This commitment to equitable communities also includes the focus on college and career. Unfortunately, the traditional approach to this is an “or” approach versus an “and” requirement.

Career Technical Education (CTE) has made great strides from the time I attended high school. Back in the day, we had the option to take auto class, wood shop or metal shop. Usually students were steered toward these classes based on some aptitude test or one’s GPA. It was part of the “or” — go to college or go learn a trade.

We know today that college and career not only mean mastering your content knowledge, but also developing the soft skills or what we call the Four C’s: Critical Thinking & Analysis, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity Skills. These are the skills the private sector seeks when interviewing candidates.

CTE is a pathway that creates a plethora of opportunities to develop these skills. CTE classes are built on the foundations of the Linked Learning Model (Linked Learning). Those foundations include:

  • Rigorous academics that prepare students for success in California’s community colleges and universities, as well as in apprenticeships and other postsecondary programs;
  • Career-based learning in the classroom that delivers concrete knowledge and skills through a cluster of two or more courses, emphasizing the practical application of academic learning and preparing students for high-skill, high-wage employment;
  • Work-based learning in real-world workplaces via job shadowing, apprenticeships, internships and professional skill-building opportunities;
  • Personalized support services that include counseling and supplemental instruction in reading, writing and math to help students master the rigorous academic and professional skills necessary for success in college and career.

In ESUHSD, we offer 14 unique CTE pathways, which include Advanced Manufacturing, Automotive, Business Finance, Computer Science, Engineering, Multimedia to name a few, which serves 3,700 students (Pathways).

We also send another 600-plus students to the Silicon Valley Career Technical Education Program (SVCTE) where students can take science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics offered in 24 courses that prepare them for college and future careers.

ESUHSD, in partnership with Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), is proud to support its students who are enrolled in CTE pathways. NFTE is a global educational nonprofit focused on bringing the power of indentureship to youth in low-income communities. NFTE students are supported by highly trained Teacher Corps and volunteers drawn from the local community.

Every year, NFTE sponsors the Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge and the World Series of Innovation competitions, which are a series of business and pitch competitions. NFTE ignites a passion for learning and re-engages students in school, preparing young people for college and career and a dynamic future of work. Most importantly, it enables students to own their futures by teaching them to think and act like entrepreneurs.

One of those amazing impact stories is Jyoti Rani, a senior at Oak Grove High School. Since she can remember, Jyoti has been thirsty to learn, cultivating an ever-growing, fiercely pursued passion for STEM and positive technological impact.

She also deeply believes in the right to equal access, especially STEM education. These passions were given the opportunity to fully blossom when Jyoti joined the NFTE Hospitality and Tourism Program at Oak Grove High School.

Jyoti took the skills of self-initiative, risk-taking social entrepreneurial mindset, communication and creativity she had learned in her NFTE lessons and applied it to societal challenges she observed around her.

Jyoti Rani

Jyoti co-founded Code 4 Tomorrow (C4T), a fiscally-sponsored 501(c)3 nonprofit. She built a global 70-plus mentor team in a few months, designed custom kid-friendly online courses and launched a virtual STEM summer series that impacted 500-plus students, incredible milestones achieved by the visionary power of the youth.

C4T is excitedly working on creating programs with San Jose State University, a local congressional campaign team, and, most importantly, launching Corporate Connect, or COCO, by working with top tech companies.

C4T recently received a $3,000 grant from ARM and is excited to bring together communities of parents, students, teachers, working professionals and mentors to empower education in this critical time. Visit code4tomorrow.org to find out more.

C4T is also a primary partner of another business Jyoti founded, ShareStuf. Inspired by first-hand accounts of observing the struggles of accessing equal education in rural India, ShareStuff is more than an impactful, global app platform that facilitates eco-friendly reusability and recycling of educational materials. It’s also an education empowerment movement.

Jyoti has received a $5,000 scholarship for being named 2020 EY Entrepreneur of the Year, placed as a Top 10 Global Finalist in NFTE’s World Series of Innovation, won a $2,500 valued scholarship to attend a Stanford based Design Thinking Program and won the NFTE Bay Area Regional Entrepreneurship Challenge. Her business will advance to the NFTE National Quarterfinals in October.

Jyoti is just one of many extraordinary stories of our students participating in a CTE pathway. The best type of learning is when students can apply what they learn to real world applications. We need to provide every student the opportunity to experience a CTE course.

CTE courses would have a great impact on students identifying a course of study when introduced at a younger age such as in middle school  As California is considering making ethnic studies a high school graduation requirement, the Legislature should also consider adding CTE as a graduation requirement.

San José Spotlight columnist Chris Funk is the superintendent of the East Side Union High School District. His columns appear every third Monday of the month. Contact Chris at [email protected] or follow @chrisfunksupt on Twitter.

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