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Is your child being left behind?

February is Career and Technical Education Month. In recent years, Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs in our public schools have been "left behind" due, in part, to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation. This is unfortunate. CTE is essential for a strong, well-educated workforce. Our workforce is the engine that drives our local, state and national economies and determines our status in the international marketplace.

Career and Technical Education gives students opportunities to enhance their mastery of basic skills such as reading, writing, science and mathematics. CTE students have the opportunity to experience "real-world" applications of these skills. This helps students "see the need" to further develop these skills. Technological advances in our society have changed the skill set needed to prepare youth for today's careers. CTE programs provide an environment for utilization of various technologies. Some great examples are Excel spreadsheets, Adobe Photoshop, desktop publishing software, Computer-Aided Drafting and Design (CAD), and Computer Numerical Control (CNC) to name a few. CTE instructors work closely with our local business and industries to keep their curricula relevant and recent.

Many Career and Technical Education programs have companion student organizations. They provide leadership opportunities and enhanced skill attainment for its members. In Detroit Lakes, the National FFA Organization, Business Professionals of America (BPA) and Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) allow students to compete in a variety of arenas to instill character, teamwork, organizational, occupational and communication skills.

Career and Technical Education, through School-to-Work, offer students the opportunity to job shadow or experience an internship. Students observe or work closely with a mentor in the workplace. Work-based learning allows students to explore various career options in the actual work environment. Students develop a focus for where their individual interests and abilities lie.

Many CTE courses allow students to earn college credit through advanced standing agreements. High school instructors collaborate with community and technical college instructors to align their curriculum. In addition to saving tuition costs, this enables the student to explore a potential career pathway and develop a sense for the rigor that is expected at the post-secondary level.

College Readiness and Career Readiness are not two separate tracks from which high school students must choose from. It is indeed time to "widen the road." Our students must be prepared for both. I urge parents and students to become familiar with the services and benefits offered by Career and Technical Education programs in your school. Registration for the upcoming school-year is underway. DBLB -- Don't Be Left Behind! -- John Flatt, School-to-Work coordinator, Detroit Lakes Public Schools