Many schools continuously face budgetary barriers to programming. In Wisconsin, public schools depend heavily on state and local taxes to operate, and legislative control limits the use of these dollars. The State Legislature determines the amount schools receive; the State also sets spending limits on public school budgets. Today, a global pandemic with increased safety measures and costs, unforeseen technology spending, and increased priority focus on closing the learning gap challenges schools to stretch their available resources as far as they can to ensure students receive a quality education.
Every budget challenge placed in the paths of school leaders is also an opportunity to craft financial solutions creatively. School budgets, while limited, are certainly not without opportunity. One effective way to increase programming with a limited budget is by engaging the business community in curriculum, instruction, monetary support and materials/supplies.
At the same time schools battle financial deficits, many industries face worker shortages, especially in skilled trades. Driven by a mass exit of baby boomers retiring from the skilled trades labor pool, these well-paying jobs are desperate for workers.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 66.16% of students enrolled in a two or four-year college after high school in 2020, leaving nearly 34% of students who potentially entered the job market. Engaging these students early and educating them on the short and long-term benefits of trades careers is the most effective way to tighten the workforce gap.
Schools and the business community can effectively develop mutually beneficial Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs that build a stronger tomorrow by training students today.
1. Developing a CTE program.
2. Offer flexibility in engagement through program/support tiers.
3. Start small and scale-up.
4. Finding and keeping industry partners.
DEVELOPING A CTE PROGRAM
To build or maintain a successful program, first, create accountability within your school. Identify a program leader to "own" the program. Though far from a solo effort, this person will be critical in identifying and engaging key stakeholders, soliciting support, and tracking and promoting the benefits.
Whether your school lacks a formal CTE Program or your current program needs a refresh, there are many resources available. Local, county and statewide resources can be assets when developing a new program. Below are a few links to get you started:
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
Association for Career & Technical Education
FLEXIBILITY IN ENGAGEMENT
Engaging the business community is critical to your CTE program's success. In exchange for donating time and resources to the program, these partnerships provide employers access to your students for recruitment. Though business support will vary, encouraging involvement over simply giving is essential. When a company gets involved in the program, they are likely to see a more significant return, leading to continued or increased support. In addition to simply writing a check, ask business leaders to teach a lesson or donate supplies they have access to.
Partnerships through CTE Programs can also open the doors within local businesses for additional financial and volunteer support for other school events and programs. Offering a varying level of support as options may entice companies to get involved with less risk and potential for future growth.
START SMALL AND SCALE-UP
You may find articles and references to robust CTE programs with years of success. It's important to start small and build a sustainable program that can scale with growing interest and investment. As the external resources grow, you will be able to allocate more internal resources. Set attainable annual goals for stakeholder involvement and student engagement to create a program that fits your school and business community's needs today.
Ask, and it shall be given to you, sometimes. Though not every support request is answered with an overwhelming response to participate, you may be surprised by how supportive local businesses are willing to be when asked. Many companies have created Foundations or Give Back Programs to impact their local communities and build strong partnerships positively.
C.D. Smith supports many local schools/organizations through sponsorship programs and monetary donations in our community and the communities in which we work. Our staff can use paid time to teach lessons in their field or allow students to shadow them.
Once you have established industry partners, it's important to foster these relationships. Create a program that benefits your supporters as much as your students, and you are sure to find continued success for your students and your community.
Date: August 26, 2021 | Author: Tricia Muellenbach
Tricia Muellenbach loves helping people. As Director of Educational Markets, she's dedicated to building trust with students, staff, parents and communities. Her role is about more than building schools. Learn more about how Tricia builds community support in educational markets by following the link to the full Beneath the Hard Hat® press and blog post.