D.C. Schools Budget Cuts Hurt Career and Technical Education

CTE students getting a fast start toward work, college and careers

WASHINGTON -- Students in the Academy of Construction and Design at Cardozo Senior High School in Washington, DC, are nearing the end of construction on the first project in the Academy's new Build a House - Build a Future construction education program. Throughout summer 2011, students have worked under the guidance of Academy instructors and professionals on loan from area construction firms and subcontractors to complete the 2,000 square-foot, single-family house on 13th Street Northwest in the District. The house will be offered for sale in fall 2011, and proceeds will support the next Build a House - Build a Future construction project which is scheduled to begin in 2012.

Pride, accomplishment, purpose and direction are frequently mentioned when students describe their experience studying in the Academy and participating in the student-built house project. Enrolling more than 100 students each year, the Academy introduces students to a variety of career options in the building industry. Academy students complete academic requirements for graduation while earning pre-apprenticeship certifications in carpentry, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, masonry and other technical specialties. With a 90 percent high school graduation rate, the Academy launches students into industry jobs offering opportunities for professional advancement as trade specialists and into college programs in architecture, construction management, engineering and other fields.

The Academy of Construction and Design and the TransTech transportation engineering program have, for more than twenty years combined, prepared Cardozo students for work, college and careers. Cardozo is a neighborhood school in an economically disadvantaged attendance area. Unlike the city's specialized high schools which use a competitive application process, Cardozo accepts all students. Per student funding and educational resources in nearly all of the district's nine neighborhood schools lag significantly behind the five application schools whose enrollment includes the most accomplished students.[1]

In this environment, TransTech Academy and the Academy of Construction and Design receive only partial funding from D.C. Public Schools Career and Technical Education and must rely on and continuously seek support from area employers and industry training partners. Managers of both academies are frequent speakers at school, community and business forums, describing the transformative outcomes career and technical education has brought about for students and their families in the Cardozo community.

At the groundbreaking ceremony for the student-built house, school administrators, city government officials, business executives and community leaders hailed the project as a success for connecting student engagement, community revitalization and workforce development goals in the District of Columbia. But now, the educators are fighting to save these effective and widely acclaimed programs. The 2011-12 District schools budget eliminates teachers from already small CTE staffs and threatens to slash technical curriculum by more than 30%. CTE programs in D.C. Public Schools urgently need renewed commitment and support from school and government leaders, and a better understanding among parents and the public about the power of technical education to motivate students, improve graduation rates and launch students into employment and postsecondary education and training.

[1] Turque, B. (2011, Feb 07). D.C. high schools face funding gap, study finds. The Washington Post, pp. B.4-B.4. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/849419827?a

"Career and technical education does not reduce academic rigor or track students away from pursuing college. All graduates need the same core skills to succeed in college and in the workplace, particularly in math and reading." Shelly Karriem, Manager, Academy of Construction and Design

"School reform that focuses on college-readiness but leaves career-readiness as an afterthought ignores the lifelong benefits students gain from CTE." Shirley McCall, Manager, TransTech Academy

"The value of this training is enormous. [Registered apprenticeship] training enabled me to start a business that now employs 38 people, and we've been in business for 15 years," " Tony Wash, Owner, A Wash & Associates, Inc. electrical contractors

"It takes all of these partners - District schools, government, employers and these motivated trainees - working together to ensure District citizens are prepared to compete in the 21st century economy." D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, on June 8, 2011, in greetings at annual DC Apprenticeship Graduation Ceremony

While commercial and residential building has been heavily impacted by the credit crisis and economic recession, construction of industrial facilities and infrastructure continues to expand in a broad range of industries, including healthcare, high-tech laboratory, aerospace and government facilities. Construction offers a variety of career opportunities - business, operations and financial managers, office and administrative support, construction supervisors and managers, trade specialists, laborers, equipment operators, installation, maintenance and repair specialists, and heavy transport drivers and operators. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities are expected to be good, especially for experienced and skilled construction trades workers, due to the need to replace the large number of workers anticipated to leave these occupations over the next decade. BLS also reports opportunities for workers to start their own businesses are better in construction than in many other industries, as experienced workers may need only a moderate financial investment to become contractors running home-based businesses and hiring additional workers as needed for specific projects.

Similar to construction occupations, job openings for engineering technicians will result from the need to replace technicians who retire or leave the labor force for any other reason. Most engineering technicians work in laboratories, in offices, in manufacturing or industrial plants, or on construction sites.

The DC Students Construction Trades Foundation connects industry, community, school and government partners to deliver Career and Technical Education for high school youth; Registered Apprenticeship instruction for employees of construction firms and building industry contractors; and Skilled Job Training in adult education and worker retraining programs for District residents. The Foundation is committed to quality career and technical education that strengthens students' pathways from school to work, higher education and careers.

DC Students Construction Trades Foundation is an Accredited Training Sponsor registered by the National Center for Construction Education and Research.