Students in Henderson County Public Schools Jumpstart Their Careers Even Before Graduation

May 9, 2017

Toward the midpoint of their high school career, with graduation in the not-so-distant future, many students across the country are wondering, OK, but then what? These young adults aren’t sure about their next step and may feel overwhelmed by all the options and societal pressure to make the right choice.

This uncertainty and fear of being unprepared is being addressed by the Career-Technical Education (CTE) courses offered by thousands of middle schools, high schools, two-year community and technical colleges, and other postsecondary institutions in the US. According to the US Department of Education, there are over 15 million secondary and postsecondary career and technical education students in the country.

In addition to regular coursework, a variety of CTE pathways prepare students for a wide range of careers in a global economy. The Association for Career and Technical Education notes that CTE programs are offered in about 11,000 comprehensive high schools. Twenty-three of those public high schools are in Henderson County.

Tons of Opportunity Right Here in Henderson County

“Students in Henderson County have many career and technical education courses within their high schools,” says Dr. Wendy Frye, Director of High Schools with the Henderson County Public Schools CTE program. “They have opportunities to pursue different career pathways, depending upon what they’ve chosen for a career or what they think they might be interested in as a career. We welcome students to take a course to explore it and find out if that’s something they might be interested in. If they are, then we encourage them to become what we call ‘completers’ in those pathways and take as many courses as they possibly can to prepare them for the next step.”

Career Clusters (also known as Pathways) include Agriculture; Architecture; Arts, A/V Technology; Business/Finance; Health Science; Human Services; Law/Public Safety; Information Technology; Marketing/Hospitality; Manufacturing; STEM; and Transportation.

Many students choose to extend what they’ve taken at high school into courses at Blue Ridge Community College. For example, a student could start out in Electronics and then further their education at Blue Ridge by taking Mechatronics courses.

The more opportunities students have to explore, the better positioned they’ll be to find a career they’ll love. “There are multiple entry and multiple exit points,” says Wendy. “Students can decide at any level that they’d like to participate in CTE courses.”

Real-Life Experiences in the Working World

At the Henderson County Public Schools, a sequence of courses are accompanied by work-based experiences. Wendy says internships and shadowing are two primary career experiences students have available to them.

Shadowing gives students a firsthand look at workers in a certain career. For example, students interested in public safety can tour the sheriff’s department, the courthouse, fire department, and police station. “Those types of themed shadowing experiences with small groups of students are coordinated by a faculty member so that those students can learn more about those careers,” says Wendy.

The next level of work-based opportunities are internships in the summer and academic year. In the latter, students spend one class period for the entire semester in a business or industry aligned with their career goals. This is typically a senior. Participants are supervised by a staff member from Henderson County Public Schools who checks on them frequently, as well as a site supervisor at the business or industry. While they are participating in the internship, students maintain a portfolio and log about what they’re learning.

“We encourage them to take pictures and to journal the process along the way so they can truly be reflective about the things that they learned, as well as things that they especially liked and an area that they maybe found they weren’t as interested in. This has been a very high interest area for students.”

A Supportive Process

In addition to supervision through internships, students also choose a mentor, who can be a CTE teacher, core academic teacher, or guidance counselor.

The Henderson County Partnership of Economic Development strongly supports the CTE program. “We are currently collaborating with them on the May job fair for seniors,” says Wendy. “We are targeting students interested in full-time employment in manufacturing upon high school graduation. Only employers who have available positions for graduating seniors will be in attendance. So we hope to make some great matches that day.” With the abundance of employment opportunities in Henderson County, events like this help students see the opportunity here at home.

Friday Services is proud to support the efforts of Henderson County Public Schools and the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development. We love connecting people with potential employers in a range of careers, from administrative to manufacturing.

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