Marion pathways dictate ?we want kids to end up in careers?

USD 408 came on onboard with the Career and Training Education initiative two years ago with implementation of the Agri-science pathway.

?We were one of the first ones to go through the process,? said Mark Meyer, agri-science instructor at Marion High School and chair of the district?s CATE committee.

?It?s dictating we want kids to end up in careers,? he said.

In providing leadership for the program at Marion, Meyer worked alongside Vernon Schweer, Kansas State Education Department consultant, who provided input and feedback to establish to Agri-science pathway.

?He?ll tell you what you need to change and send it back and then say, ?This is what you need to do,?? Meyer said.

While applications are now sent electronically, two years ago submissions were done on paper.

?(Schweer) has had to go through a mount of paperwork,? Meyer said. ?So we?ve been real fortunate that he?s been willing to do that.?

Since then, Meyer said more pathways have been added: in design and pre-construc?tion, ?which puts you into drafting and furniture design;? architecture and construction, ?which is more of our building trade courses,? and family health and community services.

While Roger Schwab teaches the design pathway, Lucas King works with architecture and Myrta Billings works with family health.

Other pathways being developed include finance with Jennifer Janzen, Web and digital communication and arts, audio/video technology and communications with Jim Versch.

The CATE program is organized around career clusters and pathways designed to prepare students for a future in particular professions.

?The state does offer a bit of a carrot in terms of extra funding,? Meyer said. ?So that has been their avenue and the way in which they?ve been able to help improve programs in career and tech ed by saying, ?You will meet these guidelines if you want extra funding.?

?Some (high school) programs choose not to. In this day and age, most programs choose to get the extra funding.?

The state has set a timeline and guidelines for the various pathway programs.

While business and Web and digital graphics pathways are due March 15, 2012, all changes and electronic submissions for Meyer?s classes had to be made by March 15 of this past year, he said.

Part of that process involves course coding.

?The Kansas course coding is what?s made all of this electronic application possible,? Meyer said.

The state assigns a five- or six-digit code for each course and the content of that course.

?The idea is that if you go from Hillsboro in an animal science class and you go to Marion?s course, you should be teaching about the same thing.?

Missy Stubenhofer, curriculum director and Marion Middle School principal, submits all the course codes, Meyer said.

?Last summer I was in her office and we were corresponding daily,? he said, adding sometimes he?s wanted to enter a course but the state doesn?t have it listed.

?That?s where the frustration comes in,? Meyer said. ?It?s always fun working through new things.

The current changes in vocational and applied technical education have been driven at the national level by the career/cluster initiative, Meyer said.

?The career part of it is going to be a pathway that helps prepare (students) better for what they would want to do beyond high school? he said. ?They?re supposed to be looking at what courses they are taking in their current cluster area beyond high school and the idea that articulation agreements certainly could be of benefit. A student can get college credit for a class without having to pay for it, essentially.?

All of Marion?s articulation agreements are through community colleges, including Butler and Hutchinson. Meyer added, ?I have a couple of programs I?m working to get agreements with Allen Community College.?

One of the guidelines for approved CATE programs is developing pathways in which students end up with an industry-recognized certification.

For example, Meyer said in a welding pathway it could earning a certificate from the American Welding Society, or in the construction industry, it could be an Occupational Safety and Health Administration certificate.

Consequently, one of the goals of the CATE program is to be aware of expectations in career fields and the impact it has on courses offered.

?We try to become more aligned with what the industry wants, in construction especially,? Meyer said. ?There?s been some different input in construction telling us this is what we need our graduates to have.?

Meyer, who is working at Hillsboro Industries this summer, teaches welding.

?And I can tell kids, ?OK, this is what you need to now if you?re going to work out in the industry. If you?re going to work at Circle D or Hillsboro Industries, here?s what you?re going to need to be able to do. If you?re going to go at a place that uses structural steel, this is what you?re going to need to know.?

?Likewise in agriculture, being involved in animal science and all of that I?m somewhat comfortable.

?We teach everything from sciences to finance to leadership to welding and technical. You can?t know it all. You really have to specialize or been in it long enough that you?re learned different things.?

That?s the idea behind having advisory committees of business professionals for each pathway offered at Marion who can provide expertise about their field.

Among those who serve on the committees are Kim Harms with Harms Plainview Ranch of Lincolnville and Matt Kukuk, manager at Flint Hills Building Supply in Marion.

?We are required to meet with them at least two times a year,? Meyer said. ?If you?re doing it by the book, you want to touch base with your industry people more often than that.?

While Meyer finds teaching and guiding students toward a career to be rewarding, that task is becoming more challenging.

?We?re trying to do a lot more with a lot less.?

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