The number of students taking Career and Technical Education courses (CTE) at Evanston Township High School continues to rise, according to a report given at the Feb.12 District 202 School Board meeting. 

Shelley Gates, CTE Department Chair, said currently there are 2,713 enrollments by students in CTE classes, representing a 36% increase over the 2013-14 school year.  The largest growth areas for enrollments have been in the areas of Industry & Engineering (a 66% increase) and Business Management & Information Systems (a 46% increase), she said.

There are 45 CTE classes in 15 different career pathways offered to ETHS students.  Among them are classes in advanced manufacturing and robotics, pre-engineering, automotive technology, culinary arts, and child care.

These courses, “provide students with real-world career and job-related skills so that they can successfully pursue post-secondary options upon graduation,” said Ms. Gates. 

According to analysis by the Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce, of the 55 million job openings in the economy through the year 2020, 35% will require at least a bachelor’s degree, 30% will require some college or an associate’s degree, and 36% will not require an education beyond high school. The “some college” category covers a wide mix of education and training experiences – apprenticeship programs, short term skills certifications, and associate degrees – about which many students, parents, and educators have a limited awareness or understanding, it stated.

The CTE Department at ETHS is addressing these economic realities by “supporting students in developing the skills they need to be successful in the post-secondary pathway of their choosing” and by “promoting multiple pathways to post-secondary success,” said Ms. Gates.  “At the high school level, focusing solely on college or career readiness disadvantages all students.” 

Some proof of that came earlier this year when ETHS’s CTE program was recognized by Technology Education Association of Illinois (TEAI) as its 2017 High School Program of the Year, and award that is given to programs making significant contributions to field of technology education.

The school’s Project Lead the Way Program continues to draws students to technology education. The pre-engineering program currently consists of 334 students who engage in hands-on activities, projects, and problems in courses like Civil Engineering and Architecture, Manufacturing Engineering, and Robotics.  “The increased emphasis on robotics in the Manufacturing Engineering class and increasing student interest in robotics, led to our decision to host a VEX Robotics Regional Competition on Jan. 20, 2018” said Ms. Gates. There were 30 robotics teams from 14 different schools.  “The event was a huge success and helped to build awareness in the community as well as highlighting ETHS as a regional leader in VEX Robotics.”  

Another indicator of CTE program growth is increased participation by female students.  This year there are 23 female students in a women-only section of Introduction to Engineering Design.  Because of this success, ETHS is piloting a similar course in the IT pathway – Introduction to Computer Programming (Women in Programming) – during the 2018/2019 school year.

 Students are earning certifications at ETHS in greater numbers than ever before, increasing 244% in the last five years.  Certificate programs offered include Pharmacy Technician, Gateways to Opportunity Level 1 Early Care and Education (ECE), ServSafe Food Handler and ServSafe Food Protection Manager, National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS), and OSHA 10-Hour General Industry.

Ms. Gates talked about other successful initiatives underway in the CTE program that offer access to multiple post-secondary options.  On March 1, ETHS will be hosting its first Career Options Night: Multiple Pathways to Success. “The event is designed for those interested in professional careers that do not require a 4-year college degree,” she said.

WorKIT Week (Feb. 26 – March 2) gave students an opportunity to hear representatives from local apprenticeship, community college, and job training programs as well as work opportunities during various class periods. HR Green, an Evanston engineering and technical consulting firm, is helping develop career pathways and internships for students with technical skills and an interest in working in a wide range of engineering/architecture/construction jobs.

Ms. Gates also talked about a Water Operator in Training program with the City of Evanston’s Public Works Water Department and the Evanston Work Ethic Program that helps students “improve their career and technical employment outcomes while meeting the needs of local employers and growing sectors and industries.” 

At the end of the presentation, several Board members asked questions.  Jude Laude asked how many of the students in CTE are Black or Latino.  Ms.  Gates said she did not have those numbers but in last year’s report, it was found that the program reflected the make-up of the school as far as ethnicity in all except in the engineering courses. Mr. Laude referenced the City’s unemployment rate and asked about a “disconnect” between that and the school’s CTE program.   

Ms. Gates agreed that is an area that may need some work.  “I do sometimes worry about employers in Evanston too.  We have a work-study kind of program on and I know that the teacher of the class does feel that sometimes not all the employers in Evanston are ready to hire all of our students so I think that is a reason for us to build more relationships with the employers so that they can meet our students and we can have a more robust partnership with them and possibly also hold them a little more accountable for providing those opportunities for Evanston youth.”

Board member Pat Munsell asked about how the school is preparing students who, after getting a good job out of high school, may realize down the road that getting a four-year degree would help advance their careers.  Pete Bavis, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, said, “There are two things really in play. When we think about the future for our students, one is the future for our students who want to pursue pathways right out of high school; and there’s also a group of students who go off to college get a four-year degree and have no idea what they want to do. That’s a huge problem as well and that’s where a lot of this intentional career pathway piece really comes into play.” 

Ms. Gates added that a huge benefit at ETHS is that every student has to take a CTE class to graduate. “That makes such a difference” she said, because it at least “opens the door for them and they can see opportunities.”