The Power of CTE: Propelling Students to Career Readiness

Corgan Presents is an informative, urban-based speaker series inspired by our collective culture and brought to life by the bright minds in the Corgan Phoenix office. A shared Corgan belief and the essence of our culture, is recognizing there is something larger than all of us and to go beyond our everyday responsibilities to participate in efforts to create deeply rooted connections with and ultimately help grow the community. Corgan Presents is one way we work to achieve this overarching mission by bringing thought leaders and their invaluable insight together to explore relevant trends related to architecture and design transforming our communities.

The theme of the third Corgan Presents was Education. The event was hosted at the Corgan Phoenix office and centralized around the informative panel discussion. Led by Corgan moderators, Bob Erickson and Hunter Floyd, the talented panel was comprised of six diverse-discipline, education thought leaders – Dr. Debbi Burdick (CCUSD Superintendent), Michelle Gayles (PUHSD Chief Strategy Officer), David Garcia (ASU Associate Professor), Dr. Tina Drews (Salt River Project (SRP) Director of Talent Management), Dr. David Peterson (McCarthy Building Companies) and Steve Hulsey (Corgan National Education Principal).

While the broader theme was Education, the moderators focused the panel discussion around the growing, important trends in flexible learning environments, career ready educational prep and STEAM models (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Math). Here we summarize the most thought-provoking insights and responses from the panelists:

Career and Technology Center - Tyler ISD


Topic One: Flexible Learning Environments / CTE (Career Technical Education) Design Considerations


"Why is the subject of CTE such an important topic to discuss when it comes to education and the broader society today?"

Dr. David Peterson – We cannot neglect to recognize the fact a large portion of today’s work force is aging. As they enter retirement, the concern is further increasing the void of vital craftsmen skills (i.e. electricians, manufacturers, artisans, etc.) as younger generations have less understanding, access and educational resources to train them in these specialty professions.

Steve Hulsey – This movement is blending the classroom and corporate offices together, and in turn making it essential to create spaces which promote team work, allow for flexibility and effective, efficient technology incorporation.  Designers can apply experiential knowledge yielded from faculty engagement and school project experience, to create a personalized space which successfully fosters and encourages collaboration. The benefits will endlessly continue as these concepts can be mimicked and further capitalized when executed in commercial settings. Ultimately, these spaces will be filled with students whom were intellectually developed in a parallel, familiar environment.

"What’s the most critical aspect of CTE from either the curriculum and / or facilities that’s impacting your profession?"

Michelle Gayles – We are having to be more strategic and intentional with our partnerships and in developing deeply-rooted relationships with influential leaders in the trade industries. The skills associated with the careers we focus CTE education on (i.e. welders, electricians, developers, etc.) are not typically techniques the standard teacher would know how to share with students. That’s why we have to tap into our partners and professionals who have robust experience in these fields to serve as the teacher.

Dr. Tina Drews – To instill in our employees the importance of connecting, in addition to setting and fulfilling their other goals, we have rolled out networking objectives where the people you meet and form relationships with now have a quantifiable, visible value and expectation. Another radical shift has been doing away with the traditional, closed off cubicles and today we have a fully open, cube-less space. Initially, there was resistance and concern of not having privacy, but the way in which we methodically, gradually introduced the concept, our employees have come to embrace and appreciate the change.

"What are some of the challenges and risks of not being thoughtful in your approach of implementing CTE in the education space? What are solutions you have seen to help minimize these implementation and transformation hurdles?"

Dr. Debbi Burdick – The average educational facility in Arizona is 50 years old. Naturally, the dated designs were formed based on the trends of the past and paired with today’s tight funding, the creative challenge of stretching an inflexible space into a collaborative environment is presented. From a curriculum perspective, an inventive solution we have employed is a 1:2 technology ratio (1 device for 2 students) which has been successful as it requires students and teachers to work more closely together.

Michelle Gayles – Especially in the education field, it is unrealistic to think the opportunity for a new build or renovation will be possible every 10 years. Due to this unavoidable truth, it’s vital to work with designers which provide innovative, creative solutions to flex your current space and conversely strategic, forward-thinkers to ensure future-proof architecture.

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Topic Two: Educational Prep for Career Ready Students


"As more focus is being put on educational prep and career ready student development, what impacts has the private sector noticed in student’s traits, talents and skills at the K-12 through higher ED levels and as they transition into adulthood?"

Dr. Tina Drews – Typically, we see entry level employees who have an educational background in career ready development, are superiorly capable, possess a focused, reliable work ethic, and take direction then complete those tasks with exceptional diligence. On the other hand, the biggest concern and characteristic trend we see is a lack of critical thinking and application.

Dr. Debbi Burdick – We also recognize and are actively engaging solutions to improve the deficiency pattern in CTE student’s retention and application of complex problem solving skills. The two most impactful areas we are focusing on are – look to hire open-minded, tech-savvy teachers, train our more tenured teachers and ensure all faculty is provided routine, comprehensive training and mentoring.

"How is this trend impacting the talent, curriculum and facilities being introduced into the educational environment and private sector today and in the future?"

Dr. David Peterson – We’re starting to see broader collaboration and resource sharing between corporate entities, higher education organizations and K-12 schools. There are valuable, mutual benefits in forming these partnerships, such as a high school offering available space to help accommodate over-capacity community college classes, while in return a trade school classroom can be opened up to their students if funding can’t allow for access to the tools and technology. Corporations are investing and participating to ensure trade-based curriculum is being offered early on in education and long-term create a resource pool of well-trained, potential hires.

Michelle Gayles – In terms of talent, we have to be resourceful because the most valuable educators aren’t teachers. Instead, they are experienced, respected professionals in specialized trade fields. This is another important reason we must intentionally, constantly engage these partner experts by inviting them into the classroom where they can share their invaluable, real-life practice and the process of identifying and solving the challenges they face.

"How can we better nurture and grow student’s talents and skills as they transition from K-12 to the work force or to higher education?"

Steve Hulsey – Outside of the school, Corgan has successfully activated several mentorship programs and partake in educational opportunities. One of our largest effort is serving as active affiliates and educators in ACE (Architecture, Construction & Engineering), a program designed to help mentor high school students through comprehensive, enlightened teaching on how the separate industries work together, encourage career pursuit and long-term provide continued support for professional advancement.

Dr. Debbi Burdick – Today, the majority of career prep educational methods are implemented in high schools and higher education. As the model application increases in our school systems, in order to ensure smooth transition and long-term application, these methods need to be introduced earlier on to younger student generations.  If it becomes a consistent integration priority, students will grow to understand how to effectively leverage their skills throughout their education and career paths.

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Topic 3: How and Why STEAM Education Models Are Implemented


"What are Arizona education leaders and state legislation doing to help shape and implement STEAM models?"

David Garcia – Having ran for state office, I had the ability to assess which schools and districts receive funding. Arizona’s long-standing approach has been an efficiency model, meaning that our focus is on pushing our educators to get the most with limited resources, rather than investing in ideas that promote excellence and equity. Conversely, advocates of a world-class Arizona education and innovative ideas, such as STEAM models, are pushing government leaders to reconsider this outdated approach. They argue while standardized test scores should remain a factor to help make quantifiable judgments about education effectiveness, a sound evaluation has to involve a balance of quantifiable and qualitative factors in order to provide more accurate, comprehensive measurements that match real world conditions.

Dr. David Peterson – The interesting perspective of STEAM growth is the powerful, primary change drivers are the students. This reversed bottom up demand is an effect of today’s youth having a wealth of technology knowledge, plentiful access opportunities being presented earlier and earlier into childhood.

"How does the STEAM model tailor education to a more diverse set of students, activate engagement and what are the longer-term impacts?"

Dr. Debbi Burdick –  In the past, education and skills associated with the individual STEAM segments have been taught in silos, but it is critical to not separate the subjects. By blending them together, a student’s opportunities open up through exploring an array of interests, varying technologies and giving them comprehensive insight and understanding how the different disciplines work together to strengthen professional delivery and performance.

Steve Hulsey – We have seen in the last 10 years the blending of K-12 and higher education with the corporate world. This trend will only grow stronger and faster in the future so it’s reassuring we also have identified both sides embrace this fusion. In turn, there is mutual demand and mirrored design intentionally created so students and employees feel empowered, enlightened, safe and encouraged to collaborate with others in their shared, open environment.

"Besides needed funding, what can businesses and broader community do to support STEAM education implementation?"

Dr. Tina Drews – There is a large, increasing number of craftsmen and trade professionals nearing retirement. They still take pride in their work, and are uncertain of what retirement holds along with the larger fear of losing purpose. There is a desire to remain connected through passing on their knowledge and teaching skills, making this group perfect, willing teacher candidates. The catch is the majority lack a teacher’s degree, so the community needs to work together to find a simpler solution.

Michelle Gayles – Influential, relevant organizations need to proactively partner and support their local school districts. Through consistent collaboration, thoughtful participation and being a positive advocate, these leaders have the ability to help direct the public focus, strengthen positive perception and increase the overall priority and value society places on education.




 

While the panel addressed a wide array of questions and explored an extensive set of thoughts and topics, a few reoccurring themes prove to be obligatory in ensuring successful future growth in education.

 

The Significance of Baby Boomers



  • This nearing retirement portion of the population has the largest share of craftsmen and trade specialists. Even more, the rate in younger generations having access or being encouraged to be educated in these fields has been declining. Fear is the service they provide will still be necessary, but who will be capable to fill these profession gaps?

  • This segment is unsure and at times fearful of retirement with the unknown of what will come after and maintaining a sense of purpose. They have developed a wealth of knowledge over their professional years and have a desire to share and pass along to others. This leads a large pool of trade professionals who are interested in and are an invaluable teacher resource. The challenge is the majority do not have a degree in teaching.


Pick Your Partners with Purpose



  • The mutual benefits in forming strategic partnerships with local, influential organizations is critical in the success of both the classroom and the office. The leaders in the corporation can be educational resources and mentors for the students and faculty. In turn, these organizations ensure the skills necessary for their employees are being instilled in the students and growing a pool of potential, qualified employees. Above all, these leaders have the ability to help direct the public focus, strengthen positive perception and increase the overall priority and value society places on education.

  • With strict funding and the legislation’s trailing pace, it will never be possible in the education industry to have the luxury of building a new or renovating a space every 10 years. Considering the average educational facility in Arizona is 50 years old, the creative challenge of stretching an inflexible space into a collaborative environment is presented. Due to this unavoidable truth, it’s vital to work with designers which provide innovative, creative solutions to flex your current space and conversely when starting a new build, the design team is made up of strategic, forward-thinkers to ensure future-proof architecture.


Effective, Efficient Technology Design Impacts



  • Technology has the power to create divides and build bridges. In the case of education, we see a divide between younger teachers and faculty versus more tenured staff. The most impactful areas to focus solutions on are – look to hire open-minded, tech-savvy teachers, train our more tenured teachers and ensure all faculty is provided routine, comprehensive training and mentoring.

  • Mobility, infrastructure and bandwidth are the most critical factors to prioritize and define appropriate solutions in the technology integration phase of design.


The Power of Career Ready Education



  • We have seen in the last 10 years the blending of K-12 and higher education with the corporate world. It’s reassuring we have also identified both sides embracing this fusion. This blending trend has had positive impacts to the design landscape and will continue to see more mirrored designs from the classroom to the office. There is a mutual demand to intentionally create innovative, open spaces where students and employees alike feel enlightened, safe and encouraged to collaborate with others in their shared environment.

  • In the past, education and skills associated within the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Math) model segments have been taught in silos, but it is imperative to not separate the subjects. By blending them together, student’s view of their opportunities expand through exploring an array of interests, varying technologies and gives them comprehensive insight and understanding how the different disciplines work together to strengthen professional delivery and performance.


Making the Grade



  • Arizona’s legislation uses an efficiency model when determining funding distribution, meaning schools with the highest test scores are awarded the most backing. Advocates of a larger education evolution and STEAM models are pushing government leaders to reconsider this outdated approach. They argue while standardized test scores should remain a factor to help make quantifiable judgments about education effectiveness, a sound evaluation has to involve a balance of several factors in order to provide a more accurate, comprehensive measurement. Furthermore, there is an evidence-based understanding, tests are not structured to truly measure the invaluable skills we want students to learn, such as creativity and complex problem solving. Instead of multiple-choice exams, state tests could evaluate student’s portfolios, class work or projects, empowering students to express themselves and providing diverse learning opportunities to foster students critical thinking abilities.

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