Program gives freshmen a healthy appetite for career and technical education programs 

Published 6:59 pm Tuesday, March 29, 2022

While the goal of Suffolk Public Schools’ 13th annual Career and Technical Education Professional Student Conference was to whet students’ appetites for various career-related programs at the College and Career Academy at Pruden, many an appetite was satisfied during instructor chef Maia Jones-Collins’ cooking challenge.

An energetic Jones-Collins, guided by some of her Culinary I students, helped freshmen from King’s Fork, Lakeland and Nansemond River high schools, make dessert nachos.

While that was the most edible hands-on demonstration, the roughly 140 freshmen in attendance got a look at the health science, hospitality and tourism and information technology career fields.

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Paul D. Camp Community College and CCAP students outlined the emergency medical technician dual enrollment program for the freshmen, with those students demonstrating CPR and AED use, along with stop-the-bleeding training.

CCAP cybersecurity teacher William Hallwig led students in a cyber hackathon, giving them a feel for how many cyberattacks are hitting the United States and what it takes to program software to deter them.

“The Class of 2025 ninth grade students have an opportunity to see what CTE programs are available so they can determine what pathways they may want to take that could be outside of the core content areas,” said Andre’ Skinner, coordinator of career and technical education and adult education.

Students also took a career interests inventory with CCAP counseling director Mona Parker to see what path they might want to take in the future.

“It’s twofold, because some of the students are not aware of the career clusters or pathways,” Skinner said, “and then it also increases the enrollment in some of the programs so the word will go out, and it’ll kind of be like a butterfly effect with these students hearing about it – this small group going out to their counselors, going out to their friends to assist with increasing the awareness of career and technical education programs that we have here inside of the city.”

Skinner said that after a two year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program sought to focus on some of the hottest and fastest growing career fields.

With about a third of Suffolk Public Schools students not having continuing education plans after high school – 27% of graduating students in 2021 went straight into the workforce and another 5% joined the military – Skinner understands the value of having a robust CTE program that can adapt to meet the needs of students and the current job market.

“The message for today is determining your career happiness,” Skinner said. “You’re in charge of the pathway that you’re actually going to go down, but it can be something outside of just thinking that college is the only opportunity.”

College is one pathway, he said, but career and technical education also has a significant role to play in determining a potential future pathway to a career in the future workforce.

“We’re trying to make them understand it’s about core content and it’s about work transition,” Skinner said, “but together, CTE combines all of those components, and it is OK to choose a career or go to school for a career and not just think that I have to go to college. It’s an opportunity for different pathways.”