It’s an age-old dilemma for many graduates eager to launch a career. Companies want to hire workers with experience, but how are you supposed to gain experience if you can’t find that first job? As the Association for Career and Technical Education’s research explains, “Experience matters for so many reasons beyond the technical skill someone can acquire by being in school.” It can also make a difference when choosing a candidate who has the professional skills – sometimes called “soft skills” – to be truly successful in your workplace.
America’s career and technical education (CTE) schools are leading the charge in a solution that benefits both our students and their future employers. By developing technical and professional skills at the same time, graduates of CTE programs are stepping into the world with relevant experience that sets them apart from others and increases their employability.
Construction is a great example of how many environments can become a learning lab for students. At Butler Tech in Hamilton, Ohio, a local little league organization was struggling to make improvements to its fields. Years of use had taken their toll, and funds were tight. Our construction and landscaping programs took on the project as an example of problem-based learning. Research has shown that this is the deepest level of learning by combing theory with practice. 
The students now had a real-world project with a stakeholder and a deadline. The two programs worked together to survey the land, tear down old structures, build new dugouts and make dramatic improvements to the infield playing surface. The students certainly got to exercise their technical skills, but they also had to work as a team to effectively communicate on the job site, make critical observations and solve challenges as they worked through their schedule. They also received the benefit of seeing a job well done. The league says its applications went up 25% after parents saw the improvements being made at the park.
Butler Tech believes that business partnerships will be the key to student success. We have created a Department of Workforce Services that is working to create more opportunities to take classroom learning into the business setting through job shadowing, internships, apprenticeships and co-ops. Businesses get the added benefit of having early access to a talent pipeline and potentially meeting future employees.
Why does the CTE model work so well? It comes down to passion. According to the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), six out of 10 students plan to pursue a career related to the CTE area they are exploring in high school. And the average high school graduation rate for students concentrating in CTE programs is 93 percent, compared to an average national freshman graduation rate of 80 percent.
What’s even better is that students who complete CTE programs also have the opportunity to earn industry-recognized credentials like those offered through NCCER, while also earning college credits. This empowers graduates to have even more choices ahead of them when they graduate. It used to be that you either prepared for the workforce or you prepared for college. At Butler Tech, we say – why not prepare for both?


This month, our blog series “Soft Skills: The Other Side of Construction,” will explore the importance of basic foundation skills including communication, teamwork and leadership. Get ready; you are not going to want to miss this.

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  1. Garry Hughes | May 02, 2017
    This is very good stuff ,very good we need more im try to do somthing like this with my non profit i will be speaking with the school close to me soon .

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    About NCCER

    NCCER develops standardized construction and maintenance curricula and assessments with portable credentials. These credentials are tracked through NCCER’s National Registry which allows organizations and companies to track the qualifications of their craft professionals and/or check the qualifications of possible new hires. The National Registry also assists craft professionals by maintaining their records in a secure database.