A Regional Approach to College and Career Readiness Pathways in Career and Technical Education

This project aims to prepare skilled technical workers for high demand occupations in southwest Missouri, including automotive technology, construction technology, and welding technology. To achieve this goal, a community college and six regional career and technical education centers will collaborate to increase accessibility to education programs in these skilled technical fields. This coordination is expected to create a seamless transition for rural students from secondary education to a regional postsecondary institution. The increasing demand for skilled technicians in multiple disciplines has placed pressure on K-12 schools and postsecondary institutions in southwest Missouri to support local workforce education and development. In fact, schools across the nation are struggling to find effective strategies to meet such needs. One challenge is that many students do not consider skilled technical fields as viable career options. Another challenge is that current career and technical education programs struggle to stay current with changing industry tools and techniques. The project will tackle these challenges by working toward aligning career and technical education curricula with industry needs and preparing teachers to teach the improved curricula. To this end, the project will implement best practices in curriculum design and educator development from the Advanced Technological Education community. It will apply these best practices to create a multi-program, regional model for skilled technical education. Project activities and outcomes may serve as a model for improving program quality in distributed career and technical education departments in other rural areas.

This project is designed to develop high-quality, vertically aligned, career and technical education pathways at a regional level. The project focuses on three occupations that were identified by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center as high demand: automotive technology; construction technology; and welding technology. The project intends to increase high school students' awareness of technical careers, enhance student advising, and provide students with seamless pathways from secondary school through college, and into the local workforce. The project has the potential to impact hundreds of students in 41 rural Missouri school districts as they transition to post-secondary education. The project has four goals: 1) provide career and technical education teachers at the secondary and postsecondary level with high quality professional development and resources to implement professional learning communities for three technical programs; 2) use Business and Industry Leadership Teams to guide the development of industry-driven curricula in the three programs so that students at the secondary level have opportunities to earn dual credit and stackable credentials; 3) improve student and parent perceptions about the value of these three technical programs through the development of outreach activities and educational materials; and 4) place students in work-based learning opportunities and track their experiences via an online learning management system. Materials developed as a result of this project will be packaged as stand-alone resources and disseminated broadly.

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