CTE careers celebrated in February

The click of a camera lens capturing the perfect shot of bodies in motion during a basketball game is a learning opportunity for entrepreneur Kayahna Hopfauf. 

Hopfauf of New Rockford, ND is a sophomore studying management and marketing at Lake Region State College. Her program of study is preparing her to run her own business. The classes teamed with a an  opportunity to photograph games and student events create a winning hands-on opportunity for her. 

“After I graduate, I plan to do photography full time and I can apply everything I learned in my business classes to my real-life business,” Hopfauf said.

February is celebrated as National Career and Technical Education month. But, at Lake Region State College, CTE is a focus for many of its students. 

Hopfauf enjoys the classes not only because they showcase real world experiences, but the courses also are engaging. 

“I love Cindy Brown’s classes! She makes learning so fun and give us real life scenarios, so I am prepared when going out into the real world. I really like learning how to run a business and the dos and don'ts.”

Today CTE focus is blending into a variety of careers, especially with the emphasis on technology in so many careers. 

“The technical edge for any major creates more opportunities for future employment,” said LRSC President Doug Darling “Whether a student enrolls in CTE program or transfer program requiring a bachelor’s degree – if they can add that technical piece, they become a valuable hire.”

A variety of career clusters fill the CTE grid including Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, Agriculture, Human Services, Electronics, Mechanics, Marketing and Business, Health Sciences, Law and Public Safety, Education and Training, and Information Technology. 

According to Skills USA, Career and Technical Education is an important part of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) educational goals established by the Department of Education. 

“These CTE programs are so important because they provide quality, real-world experiences for the students inside and outside the classroom. The Business Administration program at LRSC provides students with lifelong career skills, and also soft skills that are needed for the workplace today: critical thinking, communication, teamwork, ethics, leadership, and creativity,” said Cindy Brown

CTE also is a catalyst for STEM education. We know there are unfilled STEM jobs and the gap for students in STEM fields is widening. Often when individuals think about STEM, they think of scientists and engineers which is right target. However, what does not come to mind are the numerous high-wage, high skilled, high demand careers that for which CTE is preparing students.

The magic of CTE is the definition of STEM not just Science or Technology, Engineering or Math but the integration of two or more of these topics in the context that students are passionate about. Without the combination of two or more of the STEM components you are not teaching STEM. That is why CTE is a perfect fit for STEM education.

Numerous career opportunities also exist in traditional CTE careers, such as the Automotive Technology program at Lake Region State College.

The Automotive Technology program at Lake Region State College is student-centered with both classroom lectures and hands-on experiences. 

“CTE classes have a great way of mixing theory and hands-on education into one.  In Auto Tech we like to talk about a system in class and then immediately go work with it in the shop to make it sink in,” said Rick McAllister, professor in the Automotive Technology program.

Colton Bondy always had an interest in auto mechanics. When he saw LRSC, a college close to home, had an Auto Tech program, he was ready to enroll. 

“I toured the campus and enjoyed the atmosphere of the program,” he said. Bondy hopes to be able to do automotive and agriculture careers in the future. 

Multiple job opportunities are available for graduates of the hands-on automotive technology program at Lake Region State College, said Randy Olson, professor in the Automotive Technology program. 

The curriculum is structured to include training in the eight areas of skills as stated by the National Institution for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Voluntary certification testing with ASE upon completion of the program is strongly encouraged. 

Some students like Chris Daniels are working in the field while going to college. 

“I learn more with the hands-on approach at both college and work,” Daniels said. “Going to college and working in the field allows me more opportunity to learn brand-specific information.”

Graduates or LRSC’s Auto Technology program leave as highly qualified and motivated individuals that work in a variety of fields in the automotive industry including automotive dealerships, independent shops, and service centers. 

“Automotive technicians are in high demand, and we work hard placing graduates in a job that best fits them,” Olson said.

The Certificate, Diploma, and Associates degree options are all offered under a competency-based career and technical education format which provides self-paced, individualized instruction.

“We truly care about our students and their successes as they begin their career journey and tackle their post-secondary education in the automotive technology program at lake region state college,” Olson said.