Around the nation, vocational education and training administrators are claiming their places at the table and pounding home positive messages about vocational education in a number of ways. Paist is active in the state school superintendents’ association and is a past president of the local chamber of commerce.
Construction trades students from Pathfinder have built homes that the chamber sold in fundraisers. Pathfinder also has hosted after-school and summer programs for elementary and middle school students, and the school’s guidance counselors regularly visit sending high schools armed with recruiting brochures and videos.
Across the country in Bremerton, Wash., Mourine Anduiza works at destroying the myths that off-site facilities are for those’ kids by having students at Kitsap Peninsula Vocational Skills Center make promotional visits to the sending high schools. Anduiza, the center’s director, also scouts out newsworthy stories about Kitsap’s people and programs, with a goal of getting the center at least one positive mention each month in the local newspaper. She even sees to it that passersby are denied cheap ammunition against vocational education–by double-checking the spelling and grammar of all announcements appearing on the center’s roadside message board.
At Lenape Vocational-Technical School in Ford City, Pa., “We attempt to get our students as active in the community as we can,” says Assistant Director Dawn Kocher-Taylor. Culinary students set up a display at a local home show. A literacy group of students tutors and reads to elementary school children and people in public housing and long-term care facilities.
A fall Pioneer Festival put on by the school’s agriculture science department is a community favorite, featuring everything from hayrides to a car show. “We also try to cooperate with as many community agencies as we can when they need a location to host a meeting,” Kocher-Taylor adds. “For instance, this past year we hosted the first county summit on workforce development. That really brought the movers and shakers into our building.”
Cliff Migal, who deals with 36 different school districts as chief executive officer of the Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development in Cincinnati, Ohio, characterizes what he does as a public relations role, a systems-building role. He talks of the need to constantly sell his wares to schools, to keep a handle on all the agencies public and private that want to play a role in training and workforce development, to get the federal and state politicians into our buildings as often as we can.
It’s “a constant sell,” Migal says, “because vocational education still today does not have the image it should have. We need to convey that vocational education is an integral part of the total education system.” But sometimes the biggest image-building challenge facing vocational administrators comes not from the community but from inside the schools. Orr, director of Graft Career Center in Springfield, Mo., says his facility has strong business and industry support but adds with chagrin, “Our biggest battle is the sending-school counselors.”