In June, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan paid a visit to Aviation High School in Sunnyside, one of the city’s oldest career and technical high schools. At the school, the federal schools chief learned about the academics there and noted the city’s recent refocus on CTE education.
“I think New York is doing remarkable things in the area of career and technical education,” he said. “And I want to shine a spotlight on that.”
CTE programs have more than doubled under the Bloomberg Administration – from 18 schools in 2002 to 46 by the start of the next school year – and have become a national model for college and career readiness. Aviation High School is one of the city’s most well-known CTE programs, opening in 1936.
In many cases, CTE schools bring students directly into real-world experiences. Aviation students take part in ground operations at JFK Airport. Last winter, students studying electrical work at Queens Vocational and Technical High School in Sunnyside assisted in rebuilding homes in Breezy Point after Hurricane Sandy.
In many cases, CTE schools work with partnerships with private companies that offer students those types of real-world experiences.
Pencil, a Manhattan-based nonprofit founded in 1995, is involved with bringing together the business world and academic world in eight CTE schools in the city, including Aviation where David Barger, CEO of JetBlue and a board member of Pencil, is involved in bringing students at the school closer to industry leaders.
Though Pencil’s beginning and much of its work is done in typical public school settings, their work in CTE programs like Aviation was noted even by Secretary Duncan in June.
“We like to say that we work at the intersection of business expertise and school needs,” said Sara Clough, Pencil’s senior director of marketing and communications. “Our programs with CTE schools in New York City are a very good illustration in how bringing business expertise can improve school needs.”
Other schools, like the High School for Construction Trades, Engineering and Architecture in Ozone Park, give students hands-on experience in academic settings. In the CTEA’s schoolyard on 94th Avenue and 102nd Street, half-built trailers stand, not as future classrooms for an overflow student population, but as a hands-on classroom to learn about construction and architecture outside the traditional classroom setting.
Pencil programs with CTE schools not only bring in business leaders for expert instruction, but also teach broader skill, — such as resume writing — to prepare students to land jobs.
“Students are getting awareness, access and the skills and getting propelled into those careers,” Clough said.
Two new CTE high schools are opening in the borough this year, including Energy Tech High School in Long Island City.
The school was created through a collaboration between the DOE and energy companies and has been colloquially named “The Con Ed High School” by some. The mission of the school is to prepare students for a career in a tech industry and allow them to graduate with the equivalent of both a high school degree and an associate degree.
“We’re looking very specifically at tech jobs that are hard to fill,” said Hope Barter, the incoming principal. “We’re working with college faculty, industry professionals, to work on building what that six-year scope of classes will be.”
The other new CTE school, the Institute for Health Professions at Cambria Heights, will focus on the healthcare industry, one of the fastest growing industries in the country in the past decade.