A boost up the career ladder

Published 8:27 pm Monday, December 3, 2012

Every year, students from Suffolk Public Schools get a chance to head downtown for a conference where they can get a taste of the opportunities that could be available to them if they do well in school and then graduate and pursue the right kinds of post-secondary education.

The Career and Technical Education Professional Student Conference puts employers in front of a group of students who already have shown interest in their careers — even as early as middle school — by participating in the Career and Technical Education program of studies. Participants in that program, according to a student manual from the school system, maintain a B average while completing a sequence of courses in a career and technical education concentration or specialization of their choosing.

The goal of the program is to graduate students who are qualified to go into the workforce at an advanced level, if they choose to do so. Completion of the program can qualify students for various industry certifications and licenses and can set them on the path to journeyman or apprenticeship status or on to associate’s or bachelor’s degrees in their chosen fields.

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Two of the most important factors in helping students in the CTE program make what will turn out to be career-defining decisions are getting a clear picture of the career they’re pursuing and getting encouragement and support from people who are already involved in their chosen fields. That’s what made last week’s CTE conference so important to the 150 or so students who attended. Both of those goals were served by the industry leaders who agreed to attend and work with the young students.

But this year, there was something entirely new on the agenda. Students attending the event had the opportunity to interact with eight different modeling and simulation consoles. Students interested in welding, for example, got to try their hand at a simulated welding exercise, and students interested in nursing got to work with a rescue dummy. It was about as close as a student could come to his or her chosen industry without serving an internship.

The leaders of Suffolk’s Career and Technical Education program continue to work to give their student participants access to the best opportunities available. Those students are lucky to have such dedicated teachers and administrators on their side and to have access to generous industry leaders and state-of-the-art technology to help set them on the right career paths.