Articles from Karen Hiltz

Career and Technical Education – Explore the Opportunities

There has been much talk over the past several years about career and technical education (CTE) and how we need to enhance and expand the opportunities for our students. However, what actions have been taken to make this a reality? Do we need legislation or do we simply need pro-active leadership in our school divisions?

 Do we need legislation or do we simply need pro-active leadership in our school divisions?

As a sitting public school board member I would say there are two primary barriers to seeing more pro-active efforts. I believe the first one is the bureaucracy, which requires many entities to be involved in collaborating, defining, developing and funding. The second revolves around mindset. There are many entities that continue to look at the way we’ve always done versus what could be done. Many aren’t able to see or contemplate what can be done because they focus on the constraints the majority of school divisions face in Virginia.

Over the last couple of years I’ve proposed considering regional opportunities. Let’s contemplate working and partnering with other school divisions and local businesses. I believe this is particularly relevant to those more rural school divisions who continually deal with a variety of challenges. Some of these challenges are very real and I would not dispute that, but there are ways to overcome challenges if we will embrace and engage in meaningful discussions to consider alternatives.

Many divisions are not open to this prospect and I believe this is to the detriment of our students and communities. Some discussions I’ve been involved in center around the issue of transportation and why this is a barrier for regional schools. Well, transportation doesn’t seem to be a barrier when it comes to Governors Schools and Special Needs. If we are looking out for the best interests and opportunities for our students, why is transportation a barrier for career and technical education?

This year I attended forums where I became aware that there are school divisions moving in this direction. In our area I was informed that Botetourt County is allowing district transfers from Craig County to fill available seats in their CTE programs. Another area is north east of Richmond. I attended a session at the Virginia School Board Association (VSBA) Annual Convention where Trane  — a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC )company — is partnering with schools to work with and support CTE programs. One of the panelists, an Area Service Manager and former CTE student, spoke of how school divisions are working together to promote a regional program. Because of the rural nature of the divisions and the lack of ability to fully fund CTE programs for each division, collaborative efforts are in progress.

Like the examples above some divisions are overcoming perceived barriers. So rather than limit our students’ learning opportunities, why not explore the possibilities by collaborating with other divisions and businesses to provide our students with the necessary skills that are very much needed in our communities.

As a sitting public school board member I would say there are two primary barriers to seeing more pro-active efforts. I believe the first one is the bureaucracy, which requires many entities to be involved in collaborating, defining, developing and funding. The second revolves around mindset. There are many entities that continue to look at the way we’ve always done versus what could be done. Many aren’t able to see or contemplate what can be done because they focus on the constraints the majority of school divisions face in Virginia.

Over the last couple of years I’ve proposed considering regional opportunities. Let’s contemplate working and partnering with other school divisions and local businesses. I believe this is particularly relevant to those more rural school divisions who continually deal with a variety of challenges. Some of these challenges are very real and I do not dispute that, but there are ways to overcome challenges if we will embrace and engage in meaningful discussions to consider alternatives.

Many divisions are not open to this prospect and I believe this is to the detriment of our students and communities. Some discussions in which I have been involved center around the issue of transportation and why this is a barrier for regional schools. Well, transportation doesn’t seem to be a barrier when it comes to Governors’ Schools and Special Needs. If we are looking out for the best interests and opportunities for our students, why is transportation a barrier for career and technical education?

This year I attended forums where I became aware that there are school divisions moving in this direction. In our area I was informed that Botetourt County is allowing district transfers from Craig County to fill available seats in their CTE programs. Another area is north east of Richmond. I attended a session at the VSBA Annual Convention where Trane, an HVAC company, is partnering with schools to work with and support CTE programs. One of the panelists, an Area Service Manager and former CTE student, spoke of how school divisions are working together to promote a regional program. Because of the rural nature of the divisions and the lack of ability to fully fund CTE programs for each division, collaborative efforts are in progress.

As the examples above illustrate, some divisions are overcoming perceived barriers. Rather than limit our students learning opportunities, we should explore new possibilities by collaborating with other divisions and businesses to provide our students with the necessary skills that are very much needed in our communities.



Karen Hiltz

About Karen Hiltz

Dr. Karen M.S. Hiltz serves on several education boards as an elected and appointed member, is an Adjunct Professor for the MBA program at Mary Baldwin University, and advocates for various business and education issues.