CTE Programs: Overcoming Funding Challenges

Posted By: Jeannine Kunz, Vice President, Tooling U-SME on March 16, 2017

As graduation approaches, Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs around the country are focused on preparing high school students to be employer-ready.

Manufacturers eagerly await this influx of students into the workforce. Without a doubt, CTE plays a large role in solving the skills gap.

Yet with continuing budget cuts, many CTE programs face financial challenges related to program funding for up-to-date curriculum, equipment, and technology. This impacts their ability to develop the next generation of workers.

To address this, innovative educators are employing a business approach to ensure they can sustain and grow their programs.

My colleague at SME Education Foundation, Josh Cramer, senior educational programs officer, always offers a terrific perspective: “Schools need to think like manufacturing companies.” He also asks this fundamental question: “Is your school delivering employees with the skills that manufacturers need and want?”

Classroom is only part of the equation. Manufacturers want to hire students who know how to perform a task, understand why they need to do it that way, and think about how to do it better. In short, students need practical, hands-on experience.

As Josh says, “In high school, students are asking, ‘What am I going to do the rest of my life?’ They want to know if the path they are on propels them into a meaningful job or career. Practical experience allows them to see manufacturing as a way to solve problems, increase the quality of life, and contribute to solving humanity’s problems.”

Simulated workplaces, where students run the school shop like a business, are helping CTE programs build revenue, while providing students with the hard and soft skills manufacturers need.

For instance, Cardinal Manufacturing, a student-run manufacturing business within Wisconsin’s Eleva-Strum School District, handles machining, welding, and fabrication projects for local businesses and residents, allowing students to gain authentic business experience.

Started in 2007 by Instructor Craig Cegielski, Cardinal Manufacturing has cracked the code on building a well-trained pipeline of manufacturing employees, bringing benefits to students, industry and the local economy.

“We started the program because there was no funding to buy equipment or materials,” said Cegielski. “Over the years, we have worked with hundreds of customers and now we are completely self-sufficient.”

To ensure your CTE program continues to grow, here’s some suggested homework:

Learn more about innovative approaches to CTE education by downloading Tooling U-SME’s newest white paper, called “Making the Grade: Schools Adopt Business Approach to Develop the Next Generation of Manufacturing Workers.”

Tags: "Cardinal Manufacturing", "Career and Technical Education", "Craig Cegielski", CTE, "Josh Cramer", manufacturing, "Simulated Workplace", "skills gap", "SME Education Foundation", "Tooling U-SME"