LITTLE ROCK - From baked goods to drones, robots to virtual reality, Career and Technical Education (CTE) students proudly displayed their efforts and explored programs and resources available around the state. It was an exciting start to CTE Month as middle and high-school students converged at the Capitol. In acknowledgment of the vast opportunities Arkansas provides students in preparation for a fulfilling career, Feb. 5 was set aside for celebration and demonstration. Students had the chance to meet their peers, industry leaders, and legislators to showcase their CTE skills and knowledge.
Students traveled to Little Rock from all over the state to attend the event. “CTE Day is a great experience,” said Fort Smith High school student Terry Uhm, “With all the different organizations here at the Capitol I have met a lot of people, and l am learning what they do.” A member of Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), Uhm said that one of the highlights for her was meeting Governor Hutchinson.
Students weren’t the only ones impacted by the opportunities available to them to prepare for a career. Christy Hoyle, a science teacher from Taylor, attended as both a teacher and a parent. Her children are active in FFA and were national Agra Science Fair project winners this year. “As a parent, I try to support [my children] in everything they do,” Hoyle said.
However, for Hoyle, the CTE Day experience went beyond parental support. As a middle and high school science and chemistry teacher, Hoyle sees the deeper value of preparing Arkansas’ youth for in-demand jobs. “I think CTE is so important for all of our students,” Hoyle said. “Not all of our students are going to attend college, and I am glad technical education is made available to them.”
Industry leaders, like Welsco, the largest gas and welding supply distributor in the nation, expressed appreciation of Career and Technical Education by attending and demonstrating their answer to a common misconception. “At first most kids want nothing to do with welding because they are scared of it. It’s hot, it burns, it’s dirty,” said Chris Layton, President of Sales. “But when they use the simulator they realize it is not so bad.” The Welsco virtual reality welder provides the experience of welding without the adverse side effects that tend to be disconcerting, like dirt, heat, and location. The simulator also has the advantage of allowing the operator to see the accuracy of their work immediately and perhaps spark interest in the welding field.
Layton realizes the success of CTE does not rest solely on the program and teachers; companies have a vested interest in the success of students. “We want as many welders coming out of school as possible. So we take the welding simulator around to get young people interested in welding. We want to help schools fill their classes.”
Longtime Career and Technical Education advocate State Senator Jane English was on hand and enthusiastic in her support. “Career education is critically important,” said English. “Education has to be relevant to the skills needs out there. I have always felt that if young people have an opportunity to broaden their view and try something, who knows where they could go.” Other legislators also stopped by to assess student learning around the state and enjoy freshly baked cookies offered by Arkansas Career Technical Institute (ACTI) culinary students from Hot Springs. Other exhibits included virtual reality, aerospace engineering, applied robotics, family and consumer information, and communications displays from high schools around the state. CTE Day concluded with tours of the Capitol, a proclamation and pictures with Governor Hutchinson, and recognition of Career Education Month in both the Arkansas House and Senate.
(Photo: CTE students and teachers meet with Gov. Asa Hutchinson as he proclaims the month of February as CTE Month.)