It’s never too early to start thinking about college and in the new fall season, ATETV will focus on some of the programs and preparations that can help high-school students start paving their way to a successful college experience.
The “From High School to College” series will provide viewers with firsthand accounts from students, teachers and guidance counselors. Here’s a preview of what’s to come:
Dual-enrollment programs. Did you know that many community colleges offer students the opportunity to take classes while they’re still in high school? Dual enrollment provides a head start on earning credit hours and getting a taste of college life, and ATETV will talk with students and their teachers at various high schools about the experience. In one video for example, we’ll visit a college-level Web Design class where students are simultaneously earning high-school and college credits. We’ll also share resources and information to help viewers learn about dual enrollment opportunities in their communities.
Making the transition. ATETV will also visit programs like one community college “bridge” program that is helping students make the transition from high-school to college – and preparing them for success in technology and STEM fields. Through the videos and blogs, we’ll also share tips and ideas with students and their families to help with the college-preparation process: where to go for background materials, suggestions for informational interviews and ways that students can start developing the skills and habits that colleges – and employers – value and expect.
Stay tuned – a new season is just around the corner!
No matter what STEM career you choose to pursue — Information Technology, Precision Agriculture, Marine Technology, or any of the many other options available to STEM graduates — there are many basic skills that are expected of employees.
Next fall, ATETV will focus on these various important aspects of employment through a series of segments called, “Tech Tips”.
Tech Tips will cover the need-to-know information: What certifications do I need to advance in my career? How do I develop the written and verbal communications skills that are critical to every industry? It will also provide critically important reminders — such as the need to keep your online Web reputation professional.
Throughout the season, blog posts will further expand on these and the soft skills that are needed for job success. If the term is unfamiliar, “soft skills” refers to the cluster of personal qualities and habits that employees bring to the job. We’ll talk with human resource experts to learn more about time management, problem-solving skills and the need for flexibility and adaptability in today’s rapidly changing marketplace. And, we’ll provide background tips for putting together a resume, conducting a job search and getting references.
Whether you’re career-hunting, new to the career, looking to advance — or still deciding on a career — you can always use a few tips.
As we saw in this week’s episode, community colleges and industry have come together to prepare students for in-demand jobs. But as we’ve been hearing from many ATETV viewers, employers are looking for more than just technical know-how. They’re also looking for employees who know how to communicate and who can work well in a group.
To that end, this week we’re presenting a lesson plan used by Jerry Duncan, head of the Process Technology program at College of the Mainland featured in this week’s episode. In this exercise, teams of students work together to build trebuchets — a kind of catapult that uses a counterweight to launch its ordinance.
“Each team is given the same plans and material to build a trebuchet, then the competition begins,” explains Duncan. “The team with the most accurate, longest throwing trebuchet receives the highest grade. The students are also peer graded on their work and contribution to the team.”
But what does a medieval siege weapon have to do with Process Technology? It all comes down to teamwork and the changing workplace. “Modern manufacturing sites have computerized and modernized their work processes so that many layers of supervision are gone,” explains Duncan. “The employees typically work in teams. They have few supervisors, so they have to work together with minimal direction to meet their production and quality goals.”
Duncan reports that the lesson is a big hit with his students. “They spend hours building, testing and refining their trebuchets,” he says. “They have learned teamwork skills, mechanical skills and basic troubleshooting skills, all of which will help them in their new careers in Process Technology.” And although Duncan uses this plan with community college students, it’s easily adaptable to high school classes.
Click here to download the lesson plan. Thanks to Jerry Duncan for his help with this week’s blog entry!
Last week we focused on the demand for technician jobs, green and otherwise. This week we’re looking at how community colleges are teaming up with industry leaders to meet that demand.
“We couldn’t exist without the technical college,” says Jill Heiden of ESAB Welding and Cutting Products in South Carolina. “They create the students that help us produce our products.”
And because these students are so vital, industry has taken an active role in their education. “Industry partners are valuable at helping you develop curriculum in the college,” says Elaine Craft, head of the South Carolina ATE Center. “You discuss what it is that they need and how you can best meet those needs.”
That industry/education partnership is going strong in South Carolina, but it’s an important part of ATE programs across the country. At The College of the Mainland in Texas, Process Technology students like Umair Virani are learning how to use the same equipment in the field at major oil refineries. Umair actually has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, but he decided he wanted hands-on experience that would let him work in an environment outside the lab.
Finally, we visit the Video Simulation and Game Development program at Wake Technical Community College, which is located near the Research Triangle in North Carolina, a hotbed of the game industry. Wake Technical’s Kai Wang says one of the missions of the program is “trying to meet local industry demand” from those game makers.
To accomplish that, the school asks the industry for input. “We work very closely with industry representatives, advisory committees, and they really drive what we train individuals on,” explains Wake’s Robert Grove. “When students are finished with us, they are ready to enter the workforce because we have designed that program based upon what they have told us to do.”
Whether it’s video game design, oil refining or high-tech manufacturing, employers are looking for specific skills. By working with them directly, community colleges are making sure that the lessons they are teaching are preparing students for the real world.
As head of the lasers and photonics program at Central Carolina Community College, Gary Beasley spends much of his time recruiting students, speaking at local high schools and putting on laser workshops.
When he meets prospective students, Gary asks them a series of questions to judge whether they would be a good fit for the program: “Are you interested in science? Technology? Learning just how things work? Do you enjoy problem solving – any type of problem solving? Do you enjoy helping people with problems? How do you feel about math? Do you like it? Are you comfortable with it?”
If you answered yes to these questions, you might be exactly the type of student that Gary – and other ATE program heads – are looking for. Students like the ones in these stories Gary shared with us:
“One of my students worked his way through the program at a chicken &
barbeque restaurant that I frequently visited,” he recounts. “During his second year, he landed a job as a technician, making $40,000, working second shift while he finished school. Upon graduation, he was lured to another company at $50,000.”
Another former student has his name on two patents for optical systems, just four years after graduating!
Then there is the mother and daughter who both went through the program. Originally, the mother attended a laser workshop with her youngest daughter and was so impressed that she enrolled for herself. Her oldest daughter, an accounting major, was so taken with her mother’s success that she switched over, too. Now both women work at a major laser manufacturer and love their careers.
With success stories like these, it’s no wonder that enrollment in the program is up the past couple of years!
If you are considering lasers and photonics as a career path, Gary recommends a two-year associate degree over a four-year degree. In addition to its lower cost and hands-on approach, Gary sees the two-year program as the best route to further education. “You will be able to get a high-paying, high-tech job in two years and can continue your education while making high pay,” he says. “And more than likely, the company you work for will cover the majority of your continued education toward higher degrees.”
Like many ATE programs, CCCC’s laser and photonics program is a gateway to a lucrative career and to further studies in the field. With advantages like that, it’s a program that practically sells itself.
One of the hottest tech fields right now is biotechnology, especially around San Diego. The need for trained technicians is so great, in fact, that the biotechnology program at nearby Southwestern College (SWC) has begun reaching out to area high schools to bring more young people into the field.
We reached out to Nouna Bakhiet, head of SWC’s biotechnology program and an ATETV advisor, for more details — and for some tips for educators looking to do something similar.
How did the program get started?
The collaboration started when an SWC counselor began working with the principal at nearby Eastlake High School; it then expanded to include two other schools in the Sweetwater Union High School District. SWC collaborated with all three schools and the district superintendent when making its grant application for the program.
How does the program work?
One secret to the program’s success has been the close interaction between college and high school teachers. “The teachers complete a summer workshop to prepare for receiving the outreach in their classrooms,” explains Bakhiet. “SWC Biotechnology Program participants act as teaching assistants to the high school teachers during outreach. SWC college faculty supervise the outreach.”
As for designing the curriculum, Bakhiet says the trick is knowing the existing guidelines and working within them. “There are already in place high school course standards that are aligned with college requirements,” she explains. “We researched these high school standards requirements and designed the outreach activities accordingly. The rigor of the college program remains unchanged.”
And because the SWC biotechnology program has several different tracks, it has been able to accommodate students of varying levels without having to make major changes to its courses.
The program is also exploring other innovative funding models. “Starting in 2010, SWC will launch a not-for-profit, student-run business initiative to sustain the BETSI outreach model,” says Bakhiet.
While the NSF remains the single best source of funding for programs of this kind, Bakhiet also notes that special sources of funding are available for historically black institutions and for schools serving hispanic population. “Bio-Link is an excellent source for funding information.”
Has the program succeeded in attracting students to biotechnology?
Yes, and Bakhiet points to the student success stories on SWC’s Web site to prove it. Among them is Marina Watanabe, who has been featured previously on ATETV. Other SWC alums include April Weissmiller, now a graduate student at Stanford; Alberto Rodriguez, who collaborated on a paper published in the science journal Nature; and Amber Perry, who works for Cibus Global, a firm that engineers environmentally friendly crops strains.
What practical advice does Bakhiet have for starting one of these programs?
Start early. “Allocate about one year to research the needs of the region,” Bakhiet advises. She also suggests engaging an experienced grant writer when seeking funding for a collaboration, and to allow three to six months to complete a proposal.
Bakhiet also suggests educators look into serving on the committee of a grant-making institution before applying, so as to observe the process and see what works and what doesn’t.
Educators interested in biotechnology outreach to high schools, and in setting up internships for biotech graduates, should check out the BETSI program model online.
Thanks so much to Nouna Bakhiet for her help this week!
As this week’s episode indicates, GIS — geographic information sciences — is a hot topic right now. But what is all the fuss about — and, more importantly for educators, how do you teach GIS to students?
To answer those questions, we turned to the The National Geospatial Technology Center of Excellence; an NSF-funded consortium of academics, government and industry dedicated to growing GIS education. GIS is booming because it has applications across many industries, from green energy and forestry to urban planning and even homeland security. “Any field that needs to know something about what is where, why is it there and how it has changed over time can benefit from using geospatial technology,” explains Ann Johnson, Higher Education Manager for ESRI, a GIS software company and a GeoTech Center partner.
Ann’s company hosts a GIS Education Community online that lets educators share their GIS lesson plans. On the site you’ll find everything you need to prepare a lesson on the real-world applications of GIS technology. Here are three examples of what’s available:
You can also visit ESRI’s YouTube channel to see these lesson plans in action. Hopefully these materials will inspire educators reading this to consider adding GIS to their curricula. Thanks again to ESRI’s Ann Johnson and to GeoTech Center Director Phillip Johnson for their help with this post!