By Dr. Gladys I. Cruz
We celebrate several holidays and observances during the month of February – Black History Month, American Heart Month, and President’s Day. We also call attention to the power of a long-standing education program that prepares millions of students for success beyond high school. Questar III BOCES is joining others across the country to celebrate Career & Technical Education (CTE) Month.
In Columbia, Greene and Rensselaer counties, high school students learn high skill and high demand technical skills in more than two dozen programs offered at our Columbia-Greene Educational Center in Hudson, Rensselaer Educational Center in Troy and other locations.
These programs – known as CTE, Career Studies or New Visions – are among the more than 275 shared programs and services Questar III offers to school districts in the twin counties (and beyond). Questar III students prepare for college and careers ranging from aviation to welding in half-day programs that integrate classroom learning with hands-on training.
Career exploration and skills development are more important and timelier than ever. Questar III’s CTE programs are aligned with the regional labor market, provide students with valuable career exploration and result in credentials and experiences that help them get jobs and go to college and post-secondary education.
Programs are taught by professionals with hands-on experience and knowledge in their content or technical area – and in consultation with consultant committees of business, industry, and higher education. These leaders advise us on curriculum, trends, and technologies so we can be responsive to school, economic and workforce needs.
In September 2018, Questar III launched a Heavy Equipment program at the former Durham Elementary School. Last fall, we launched a Pathways in Education program, located at the University at Albany campus, to prepare the next generation of educators and school leaders.
This fall, Questar III will launch a New Visions: Homeland Security, Cybersecurity, Emergency Preparedness, and Informatics program in partnership with the University at Albany. High school seniors will be equipped with the latest technology and tools to protect their loved ones and become leaders in information science and preparedness.
Questar III students participate in work-based learning, or structured work-related learning experiences. This includes job shadowing and internships with professionals in the field.
This school year, Questar III also launched a new Youth Apprenticeship Program – only the second of its kind in the state – that targets heavy equipment operations, construction technology, HVAC, and welding. Questar III partners with nearly 20 Capital Region businesses to offer high school students more than 200 hours of on-the-job training. These hours can be counted towards a NYS Department of Labor registered apprenticeship program
During their junior and senior years of high school, students are matched with our partners for job shadowing, a paid internship, and interviews. Students can earn up to nine college credits through Hudson Valley Community College, transferrable to any SUNY institution and select private colleges. Please visit www.questar.org/youthapprenticeship for more information.
According to the State Department of Labor, skilled trade vacancies have been the hardest to fill in the U.S. for several years. About 53 percent of skilled trade workers in New York State are age 45 and older, which is 10 percent above the average for all other jobs. A large portion of the workforce will need to be replaced soon. That’s where the Questar III supports local students and employers alike.
Our students can also earn industry certificates and licenses as well as scholarships and college credit, providing graduates with a head start for their future.
Last year, nearly 100 percent of our seniors graduated high school. Additionally, 95 percent of students received a technical endorsement on their diplomas – one of the highest rates in the state. To achieve this endorsement, students must earn 22 credits, pass five required Regents exams, and pass a culminating exam that tests skills in their chosen area of study. This three-part technical assessment – held each May – includes written, demonstration and project components.
Join me celebrating CTE as an investment in the future of our students and communities. The BOCES CTE programs provide additional choices in the public education system that help school districts expand learning pathways and enhance opportunities for students.
Questar III will hold a CTE virtual open house for parents/guardians on February 10. Please visit www.questar.org/cte-virtual-open-house/ to learn more.
This column appeared in the Register Star / Daily Mail newspaper.