Career Technical Education has had a complicated history here in the United States. For the last 20 years, spanning several U.S. Presidents, there has been a push in American education for all students to attend college. When the “No Child Left Behind” movement began under President George Walker Bush, there was a bipartisan push by both political parties for all students to meet standards and be prepped for college.
American education also went through a downturn in funding when the housing bubble popped around 2006-07. The sudden lack of funding along with the mandate of bringing every student up to grade level and then on to college sometimes resulted in cuts to electives. As a result of these cuts, more students ended up dropping out of high school! It was one of the unintended consequences of "No Child Left Behind", more students did end up getting left behind because the very classes that made education successful for them were no longer available.
I believe that the public education philosophy in the United States includes the belief that a high school graduate would have the tools or knowledge to either go on to college or on to a vocational career path. This is different from the European educational model, which separates students around the middle school years. Testing determines which school you will attend. Score low and you are going to a vocational school. Score high and you are going to a school preparing you for college.
In the United States, we have kept both worlds together for the most part with some exceptions. Bigger cities might have specialized career technical high schools like Lane Tech High School in Chicago. On the other hand, small rural areas might offer a vocationally oriented curriculum like Mid-Valley Vocational High School In Kane County Illinois. For a large rural county like Mendocino, such options are not possible. In the past, it was left to individual school districts with the county's help to start career technical education programs. Now, these programs are completely up to trustees and decision-makers at individual school districts.
As college becomes more and more cost prohibitive, students and parents are questioning if college is the only choice for them. Here in Ukiah, there is a new vocational career program called "Big Picture Ukiah" at South Valley High School. It combines academics along with internships in our community where students gain work experience along with a portfolio for their résumé.
There is also a new exciting partnership between Ukiah Unified School District and the Greater Ukiah Chamber of Commerce acting as a fiscal agent for the Mendocino County Construction Corps. This group helps high school seniors from Mendocino county prepare for construction jobs in our area by offering a 5-month basic construction training program for seniors in their last semester of high school.
If you want information on training from the Mendocino County Construction Corps please call 707-542-9502. You can contact Big Picture Ukiah at 707-472-5150 if you want to become a mentor, or if your business or employer could use an intern. If we all work together to support our students with opportunities that meet their interests and needs, we can be sure no one is left behind.