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Table of contents :
1. Introduction: Employability Skills in the Twenty-First Century Workforce
2. Background and Methodology
3. Core Elements of Work Ethic
4. Flexibility and Interpersonal Skills
5. Personal Responsibility and Work Ethic
6. Interpersonal Skills
7. Projects and Activities That Promote Employability Skills
8. Eyes Toward the Future
Palgrave Studies in Urban Education Series Editors Alan R. Sadovnik Rutgers University–Newark, Newark, NJ, USA Susan F. Semel Secondary Education, City College of New York, New York, NY, USA
More information about this series at http://www.palgrave.com/gp/ series/14572
Teaching and Learning Employability Skills in Career and Technical Education Industry, Educator, and Student Perspectives 1st ed. 2020
Will Tyson Department of Sociology, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA
Palgrave Studies in Urban Education ISBN 978-3-030-58743-7 e-ISBN 978-3-030-58744-4 https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-58744-4 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, speci ically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on micro ilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a speci ic statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional af iliations. Cover illustration: © South_agency / E+ / getty images
This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland
To my parents, William and Mildred, teachers who taught me to value education and inspired me to share the value of educators
Contents 1 Introduction: Employability Skills in the Twenty-First Century Workforce “Employability Skills That People Have Forgotten” Purpose The Desire for Employability Skills Identifying Employability Skills Teaching Employability Skills in Applied CTE Courses Book Overview References 2 Background and Methodology Florida Context: Industry and Education Methodology References 3 Core Elements of Work Ethic The Need for Soft Skills Personal Responsibility: Doing the Basics Engineering Mindset and Work Ethic Willingness to Learn Reference 4 Flexibility and Interpersonal Skills Flexibility Social Skills Leadership and Managing Client Interactions Teamwork and Managing Con lict Reference
5 Personal Responsibility and Work Ethic Personal Responsibility Work Ethic Personal Skills for the Future Reference 6 Interpersonal Skills Teamwork and Helping Behaviors Leadership and Con lict Management Social Skills Interpersonal Skills for the Future Reference 7 Projects and Activities That Promote Employability Skills SolidWorks Certi ication Exam (Payne HS and West HS) Payne HS Daily Station Work: 20 Stations in 30 Days Starling HS Weekly Design Days West HS Annual Rocket Launch and Egg Drop Reference 8 Eyes Toward the Future Primary Contributions Student Narrative: Dana (WHS) Student Narrative: Jessica (HHS) Strengths and Limitations Further Research References Index
List of Figures Fig. 2.1 Industry code families and associated codes Fig. 2.2 Student code families and associated codes
© The Author(s) 2020 W. Tyson, Teaching and Learning Employability Skills in Career and Technical Education , Palgrave Studies in Urban Education https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-58744-4_1
1. Introduction: Employability Skills in the Twenty-First Century Workforce Will Tyson1 (1) Department of Sociology, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA
Will Tyson Email: [email protected] Abstract The broad literature on workforce “skills gaps” describes how employers want to hire young workers who have the right employability skills or “soft skills.” Most employers are willing to “train up” high school students or recent graduates who possess the necessary personal and interpersonal skills. Existing employability skills frameworks identify (1) personal responsibility, (2) work ethic, (3) teamwork and helping behaviors, (4) leadership and con lict management, and (5) social skills as industry-desired personal qualities and interpersonal skills. High school career and technical education (CTE) courses can help ill those gaps. Such skills are often transmitted within families so it is key to understand how these skills can be learned in K-12 education in order to prepare cohorts of young people to enter the workforce.
“Employability Skills That People Have Forgotten” Lisa is a vice president of a small woman-owned defense contractor. She entered manufacturing right out of high school working on an
assembly line up north for a video game manufacturer. She later joined the military and got training in electronics and returned to the same company as a technician. She eventually decided it was too cold up north and moved to Florida. “Without a job. Just packed up my things and said, ‘That looks warm. I think I’ll go there.’” She worked for several Tampa Bay area manufacturers before deciding to go to the University of South Florida (USF) in Tampa and get a bachelor’s degree in business. She went back and worked for different area defense contractors and commercial manuscripts and decided “maybe my bachelor’s degree wasn’t quite enough” so she went back to USF to get her MBA. After her MBA, she got a master’s degree in management and worked her way up to vice president of operations in different companies. When asked what skills her company is looking for, Lisa said they wanted workers with a background in electronics who were pro icient in computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software like AutoCAD and Pro/ENGINEER. They wanted people with manual skills like soldering and intuitive ability like print reading along with “base level things that a lot of people have forgotten” like math skills, “reading ruler skills,” basic algebra, and computer skills. But she was most concerned about “employability skills that people have forgotten, good communication skills, good writing skills that we don’t get taught in school.” The interviewer followed up on that point and asked Lisa how employees could be better prepared for technician jobs. Lisa sighed, took a long, exasperated pause, and responded: Um, and that seems to be the thing that we keep missing over and over again. We hired people and we have people that come in and interview and a lot of times it’s not the technical skill that they miss out on in the interview. It’s the culture piece. You can bring in 20 people that have the technical background or the technical expertise that its the job and it’s the culture it a lot of times. It is the being able to communicate how well they’re going to it the company, right? People can’t convey how well they’re going to work you know and their personality because really culture is the personality of the company and being able to
convey their own personality, so that you can assess how their personality is going to mesh with the personality of the company. Twenty-three of the 26 employers interviewed for this study mentioned inding workers with the right “cultural it” (or a similar term) as an important challenge to overcome in recruiting. These employers de ined “culture” as the personality of the company and “ it” as the personality of worker with respect to that culture. Employers described the ideal worker as possessing good technical knowledge and ability along with employability skills, particularly related to the unique needs of their company and it within their company. But employers acknowledged this ideal worker was rare so they were more willing to sacri ice technical skills for strong employability skills, most notably, the “right attitude” as evidenced by qualities like personal responsibility and a strong work ethic and the ability to “ it” in by demonstrating interpersonal skills like teamwork, leadership, and the social skills needed to get along with coworkers. Russell jokingly used a war metaphor, “spray and pray” to describe his company’s recruiting strategy of maximizing exposure through placement agencies and employment websites (i.e. Monster.com) to “see what kind of resumes loat.” He noted his preference to recruit and hire local workers, but he is willing to pay to relocate someone with “the right skillset, both technical it as well as cultural it.” Employers were eager to say “We’ll train them up” if they found workers with the right employability skills but without the technical skills.
Purpose This book addresses the problem of work force “skills gaps” and how high school career and technical education (CTE) courses can help ill those gaps by teaching students the employability skills or “soft skills” desired in the workplace. These skills can prepare students to get a job in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) ield and/or attend college right out of high school. STEM employers need to hire young workers with the right technical skills to replace an aging technical workforce. Most employers in this study are active on K-12
and higher education advisory boards and host internships and apprenticeships to help train young workers. Almost all are willing to train up high school students or recent graduates who possess the necessary personal and interpersonal skills. Employability skills include the cultural capital students need to apply and bene it from their academic skills and cognitive ability. These skills are necessary to be competitive for the estimated 30 million jobs in the United States that do not require a bachelor’s degree yet pay an average of $55,000 a year (Carnevale, Strohl, Ridley et al. 2018). Research for this book was part of a larger research project funded by the National Science Foundation, titled “Successful Academic and Employment Pathways in Advanced Technologies” (DUE #1104214) on which I served as Principal Investigator. This project is heretofore referred to as PathTech Tampa Bay. The goal of PathTech Tampa Bay was to examine pathways from high school into the workforce through engineering technology associates of science (AS) and associates of applied science (AAS) degree programs at community colleges. This study included ieldwork in high schools, community colleges, and STEM businesses in the Tampa Bay area. The resulting PathTech Tampa Bay study was a holistic examination of secondary and post-secondary pathways into what are generally considered to be “good tech jobs” that acknowledge the challenges individuals face within education and employment sectors. This book addresses three major research gaps in contemporary education research in order to better understand how employability skills are taught and learned in CTE classrooms. First, research on K-12 STEM education generally focuses on academic STEM courses, traditional math and science courses (i.e. algebra, calculus, chemistry, physics) that center around a theoretical approach to learning core concepts (Gottfried, Bozick, and Srinivasan 2014). There is far less research on applied STEM courses that focused on the practical application of academic STEM knowledge and concepts to “real world job experiences.” Applied STEM CTE courses address the stated need for “organized educational activities” that contribute to overall student development including employability skills, technical skills, and jobspeci ic skills (Perkins IV 2006:4). From a policy perspective, we also know relatively little about how the federal Carl D. Perkins Career and
Technical Education Act (Perkins IV), recently Perkins V reauthorization, and subsequent state policies such as Florida’s Career and Professional Education (CAPE) Act prepare high school students for the workforce, particularly STEM careers (Wang 2013). The CAPE Act required all Florida school districts in the state to establish at least one career academy with the goals of encouraging partnerships between K-12 education and industry and promoting industryrecognized certi ications (Dixon, Cotner, Wilson et al. 2011). Career academies deftly balance college preparatory and career readiness to cater to students who plan to work and/or attend college after high school. Career academy proponents and CTE observers believe these programs represent a hard push against the twentieth-century K-12 focus on College for All (Attewell, Lavin, Domina et al. 2007) as opposed to career readiness. Second, the current research focus on academic STEM courses generally presumes STEM pathways in which students transition directly from high school math and sciences into STEM bachelor’s degree programs at four-year universities en route to STEM careers that require a bachelor’s degree. Research does not account for delayed transitions from high school to higher education in which students work full-time before enrolling in a community college or university. Research also often fails to account for students’ economic resources or part-time or full-time employment while enrolled in college (Bozick 2007) or explore the potential bene its for STEM undergraduates who work part-time in STEM jobs as opposed to retail or food service jobs (Tyson 2012). This study inds that STEM employers hire or seek to hire recent high school graduates part-time or full-time with the right employability skills and are willing to train them and guide them through their pathways to associates, bachelor’s, or even masters and other advanced degrees. Third, despite the growing discussion of skills gaps and employability skills frameworks, much of the contemporary research is still exploratory seeking to understand exactly what employability skills are desired by employers and perhaps higher education faculty and administrators. Through employer interviews, this study describes the employability skills employers expect potential workers to possess. This study takes the additional step of examining employers’
perspectives on why these skills are necessary and how they are utilized. In addition, little research addresses how high school students can learn the personal and interpersonal skills necessary for the workplace as well as the strategies teachers use to teach these skills. Interviews with teachers and students examine how employability skills are taught by teachers and learned by students. This study inds that high school teachers infuse soft skill development into the CTE curriculum through a regimented daily routine that balances daily and weekly individual and small group hands-on activities with time for students to work on semester- or year-long group projects. Students describe how they learned skills and traits such as (1) personal responsibility, (2) work ethic, (3) teamwork and helping behaviors, (4) leadership and con lict management, and (5) social skills. These are industry-desired personal qualities and interpersonal skills identi ied by employers and educators according to existing employability skills frameworks (US Department of Education 2018).
The Desire for Employability Skills Colleges and employers desire expect young people to demonstrate college preparation and career readiness along three domains of knowledge, skills, and dispositions: (a) academic; (b) occupational; and (c) technical. Academic skills include academic pro iciency in math, science, and related areas. Technical skills include the unique knowledge necessary to perform necessary tasks in different work environments, usually af irmed by credentials. Much of the research and workforce focus on skills is directed toward academic skills to prepare students for college and technical needed to prepare young people for careers. Occupational or generalizable employability skills are typically considered noncognitive or “soft” skills related to ability and willingness to learn and perform (Stone and Lewis 2012). Soft skills include interpersonal skills and abilities that help people qualify for and ful ill certain positions. Leadership, management, and interpersonal skills are most valued by employers of large companies (Right Management 2014). With technological innovations developing at record speed, technical skills quickly become obsolete, employers
began to emphasize noncognitive skills in order to remain competitive locally and globally (Stasz 1997). A survey conducted by the Manpower Group reveals that employers struggle to ill jobs in high-tech manufacturing not only due greater need for a STEM-educated workforce, but also due to a notable gap in workplace competencies or “soft skills” (Right Management 2014). According to a report by Deloitte (2015), 600,000 jobs in manufacturing went un illed in 2011 due to a skills shortage and they projected that number would increase to 2 million in this next decade. The US Department of Labor (1991) initiated this current focus on employability skills by appointing the Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) to determine the demands of the workplace and the extent to which young people were prepared to meet those demands and succeed in the workplace. The report, titled What Work Requires of Schools identi ied changes in the nature of work that required young workers to have foundational literacy and computational skills along with the right personal skills as well as ive competencies that encompassed that included the interpersonal skills to work well with others. The report concluded that US high schools must help students to develop these foundational skills and competencies in order for prepare young people for a highperformance workplace. SCANS also introduced the idea of a Learning a Living system, a model by which schools and the private sector create an productive economy (US Department of Labor 1992). Despite the roots of employability as an issue related to educational preparation for the labor market, employability is generally understood as a component of the broader knowledge, skills, and aptitudes individuals possess and how they use those assets to get and keep jobs (Hillage and Pollard 1998; Yorke 2004). This understanding of employability as an individual characteristic is a broader societal trend akin to unemployment being understood as an individual problem (Brown, Hesketh, and Williams 2004; Garsten and Jacobsson 2004). Demographic changes, emergent technologies, and overall societal changes have fueled a transition out of the twentieth-century economy into the twenty- irst century economy in which employability skills are essential. Yarnall and Remold (2019) explain how large-scale retirements, technological change, and less long-term job security are
industry-wide trends that have increased the importance of employability skills. Large-scale changes in the workforce that have led to labor market shortages requiring employers in male-dominant STEM ields to recruit women as well as underrepresented minorities. More companies are relying on cloud-based information technology and lean manufacturing thus increasing the need for collaboration and communication on the job. Technology is always changing as are job requirements over time. Employers need workers who can continuously learn on the job. In a world with less job security, workers have to quickly adapt to changing workplace contexts and different expectations. The rising need for these personal and interpersonal skills means industry and educators have to igure out how to teach workers these skills in order to prepare them for the changing workforce.
Identifying Employability Skills Much like CTE coursetaking, soft skill acquisition is associated with positive academic, economic, and employment outcomes in conjunction with cognitive and/or academic skills (Mobius and Rosenblat 2006) and employment and occupational status (Borghans, Duckworth, Heckman et al. 2008; Waddell 2006). Yet the enduring challenge for researchers is that noncognitive skills are dif icult to de ine and conceptualize. West, Kraft, Finn et al. (2016:149) claim “non-cognitive” is now a “catchall term” for all skills that cannot be assessed by traditional measures of knowledge and cognitive ability. Without agreement on how to measure, teach, and emphasize skills, educators struggle to determine how to utilize existing research to support students, evaluate teachers, and conduct school-level interventions. This book draws from interviews with employers in high-tech and manufacturing to identify industry-desired skills. I also draw from the US Department of Education (USDOE) Of ice of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) Employability Skills Framework compiled from an inventory of 18 existing employability standards and assessments. The framework includes skills that employers and educators believe prepare students to get a job and/or attend college right out of high school (US Department of Education 2018). This study
focuses on effective relationships, or more speci ically, personal qualities and interpersonal skills. Personal qualities help employees to establish effective relationships and participate in the workplace. These personal skills include personal responsibility and work ethic. Interpersonal skills “include the ability to collaborate as a member of a team or work independently, as appropriate…and contribute to the overarching goals of the workplace.” These skills include teamwork and helping behaviors, leadership and con lict negotiation, and social skills needed to respect individual differences.
Personal Skills These noncognitive skills include a range of positive traits and characteristics associated with success through childhood into adulthood including progression through K-12 education and transitions into higher education and the workforce (Borghans et al. 2008). Sociology research focus on psychological characteristics that in luence a person’s orientation toward learning and work along with social skills necessary to perform across educational and work contexts (Xie, Fang, and Shauman 2015). Some of these personal skills include the ability to communicate effectively, etiquette, lexibility, professionalism, and positive attitude (Robles 2012). This more recent focus traditionally complements an enduring research focus on how intelligence and cognitive factors in luence success. Bowles and Gintis (1976) and Jencks, Bartlett, Corcoran et al. (1979) established the basis for contending that noncognitive skill development matches or even supersedes cognitive skill development with respect to educational and employment outcomes and particularly with respect to moving up socioeconomic ladders. Sociology research on noncognitive skills focuses on the acquisition and development of individual characteristics that in luence a person’s orientation toward learning and work along with social skills necessary to perform across educational and work contexts (Xie et al. 2015). These personal soft skills are often predicated on a certain cultural capital (Bourdieu 1986). In their review of Pierre Bourdieu’s Englishlanguage work on cultural capital in education, Lareau and Weininger (2003) critique a tendency of sociologists of education and other scholars to “partition” the effects of cultural capital from educational
skills, ability, or achievement. Lareau and Weininger (2003) contend this boundary between academic and technical skills and social competence stands in opposition to Bourdieu’s insistence that cultural capital is an “amalgamation” of social status and skills. Soft skills are as important as technical skills (or hard skills) because “the productivity of hard skills stems from their combination with soft skills” (Balcar 2016:453). In other words, soft skills help students and workers optimize their technical skills. Yet soft skills are dif icult to measure particularly outside the context of a particular task or job. This places the onus on employers to only hire workers they perceive to have the proper soft skills. Teaching soft skills in conjunction with a particular job or task comes with a risk in that such skills develop slowly over one’s lifetime. Employers are looking to hire workers who are competent in applying soft skills to job-relevant tasks because waiting for soft skills linked to a speci ic job to develop over a career could be “slow and expensive” at a huge investment to the employer (Balcar 2016:456). Soft skills training programs are among the irst to be cut because only recently has there been evidence that soft skills make a difference in workplace outcomes (Caudron 1999). This explains the hesitance of many employers to hire young people right out of high school as opposed to hiring older workers with more education and/or experience who presumably had more time to develop personal qualities and interpersonal skills in higher education and/or workplace contexts. Employers believe that positive personal qualities including the “willingness to learn” and “work ethic” are keys to long-term career success and the “smooth functioning of any workplace” (Yarnall and Remold 2019:23) Skills frameworks developed over the last three decades have coalesced around a core set of personal qualities identi ied by employers. The USDOE OCTAE Employability Skills Framework (US Department of Education 2018) personal qualities include a set of nine behaviors and skills: (1) demonstrates responsibility and self-discipline, (2) adapts and shows lexibility, (3) works independently, (4) demonstrates a willingness to learn, (5) demonstrates integrity, (6) demonstrates professionalism, (7) takes initiative, (8) displays positive attitude and sense of self-worth, (9) takes responsibility for professional growth. I distill these themes into
Personal Responsibility and Work Ethic in Chapter 5 to re lect industry narratives from Chapter 3.
Interpersonal Skills George Herbert Mead (1934) considered teamwork to be a way that individuals experience both the personal and social concepts of self. He described teamwork as a product of a “highly intelligent attitude” in which someone’s understanding of “me” depends on his capacity to “take the attitude of everybody else in the process which he directs.” In the United States, the term “teamwork” is primarily used within North American sports, military, and business contexts, reinforced by sayings such as “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’” (Guest 2008). Teamwork in sports and military are often seen as adequate preparation for the business and the workplace. Teamwork in workplace contexts includes workers collaborating to increase productivity at a particular task. Guest (2008) points out that this common conceptualization of teamwork typically does not apply for children and youth for whom productivity and ef iciency are not the main priority. Scholarship in social work and youth development broadly de ines teamwork among youth as the ability to use a variety of social skills and group processes to achieve common goals (Anderson-Butcher, Amorose, Lower et al. 2016; Lower, Newman, and Anderson-Butcher 2015). Social science literature inds that teamwork among adolescents may promote social cohesion through personal af iliations or group order (Guest 2008). Guest (2008) describes a social order model of teamwork that stresses adherence to established hierarchy. In a classroom context, this model emphasizes students working together under the guidance of the teacher or perhaps with the assistance of older students. Guest (2008) also advocates for a loyalty model of teamwork that emphasizes group cohesion, group af iliation, and social support over productivity. Within a classroom context, such teamwork prioritizes students working together and helping each other while giving positive reinforcement that reaf irms relationships. Both models broaden our understanding of both teamwork and the utility of the range of interpersonal skills in the classroom. Employers prioritize workers’ capacity to build and develop relationships. Just as employers believe that positive personal qualities
are keys to long-term career success, negative qualities are barriers to success and often evidenced by how people interact with others. Employers are wary of workers who are afraid to make mistakes, are argumentative, and who struggle to confront challenging situations (Yarnall and Remold 2019). Understanding relationship is a key component of overall social skills as well as workers possessing the lexibility and “situational awareness” to understand how they it within the workplace. Such awareness includes an understanding of business fundamentals as well as understanding how a workers its within the business and how the business its within society (Yarnall and Remold 2019). USDOE OCTAE (US Department of Education 2018) interpersonal skills components include (1) teamwork and (2) responding to customer needs deal primarily with productivity and accomplishing common goals. (3) Leadership encourages the use of a hierarchical social order and the need to lead and follow within groups. (4) Respecting individual differences and (5) negotiating con lict build group cohesion. The inal three skills merge the personal and social with respect to Mead’s (1934) concept of a leader taking the attitudes of others. Employer interviews in Chapter 4 and teacher and student interviews in Chapter 6 re lect these areas. Given that teamwork can mean many things and taking into account the need to be productive and build and reaf irm relationships (Guest 2008), it is important that CTE teachers assign tasks to force students to be productive and work ef iciently toward speci ic goals while learning how to relate with each other. In this respect, teachers create classroom contexts in which students learn the full complement of interpersonal skills that can be applied to the workplace and higher education.
Teaching Employability Skills in Applied CTE Courses Employers complain of the “skills gap” in response to mounting concerns that today’s youth lack the twenty- irst century knowledge, skills, and dispositions as well as work ethic needed for many middle wage careers. “The growing complaints of a skills gap from some of the nation’s most prominent companies and business organizations
underscore a hard reality: their growing reluctance to hire young people with just a high school degree” (Symonds, Schwartz, and Ferguson 2011:4). Surveys of employers repeat a common refrain that potential workers, including young adults, lack the full range of skills to be competitive for jobs that often remain un illed (Carnevale, Smith, and Strohl 2010; Carnevale, Smith, and Melton 2011). The subbaccalaureate (high school diploma and associate’s degree) labor market is local, meaning the relationship between K-12 and community college educators and employers is paramount in training students for and placing them into appropriate jobs (Grubb 2002). Even more crucial is that hiring is often informal, meaning employers recruit from and potential workers respond out of their existing social networks. Soft skills allow potential workers to get a foot in the door and impress employers because sub-baccalaureate or middle-skill jobs are often not as concerned with metrics associated with four-year university education such as GPA. Years after US Department of Labor (1991, 1992) efforts to igure out what the workplace required of K-12 schooling, employers have to be assured that recent high school graduates may possess the “right” employability skills. Such skepticism may be because employers believe transmission of such skills is limited to childhood upbringing and family experiences or unintentionally in school and prior work experiences (Yarnall and Remold 2019). Research in social sciences and education has long examined these noncognitive employability skills as a range of positive traits and characteristics associated with success through childhood into adulthood including progression through K-12 education and transitions into higher education and the workforce (Borghans et al. 2008). However, research on noncognitive skill development tends to focus on cultural capital transition from parent to child or skill development in informal settings rather than integration into formal education and how such skills are taught and learned. Because parent’s educational attainment and economic success are usually reliable predictors of their children’s success, these soft skills are often predicated on a certain cultural capital (Bourdieu 1986) that tends to re lect class and/or racial biases (Doren and Grodsky 2016). Given the importance of noncognitive skills both for personal success and intergenerational transmission of advantage, it is important for
sociology researchers to identify areas of society in which noncognitive skills can be acquired and practices outside of family structures. In this way, CTE programs can become an advantage for marginalized students by creating a space where this type of cultural capital can be acquired and transferred, thus addressing disadvantages them in the labor market (Robles 2012). CTE students are looking for teachers help them learn practical, job-speci ic skills they need to succeed outside the classroom (Drage 2009). Employers are looking for students who are competent in applying soft skills to job-relevant tasks. CTE programs, especially in public schools, are unique places for this type of skill transference because public schools have access to public subsidies and can make training more portable and accessible (Bishop and Mane 2004). Career and technical education has been a marker of the turning point of education in this century (Dougherty and Lombardi 2016). While it has taken place inside a much larger trend of the marketization of education as a whole (Bartlett, Frederick, Gulbrandsen et al. 2002), CTE speci ically prepares students who would like to enter the workforce immediately after high school as opposed to or in addition to enrolling in a college or university. Current research links CTE courses to traditional STEM academic outcomes such as 11th and 12th grade math and science coursetaking and achievement (Gottfried et al. 2014, Gottfried 2015) and selecting a STEM undergraduate major (Gottfried and Bozick 2016). Researchers have found CTE to be useful for enhancing practical skills as well as educational outcomes such as course performance and standardized tests (Stone, Alfeld, and Pearson 2008). CTE, when used concurrently with core academic courses, can prevent at-risk students from dropping out, which leads to more opportunity for upward economic mobility (Plank, DeLuca, and Estacion 2008). National research on career academy effectiveness inds higher earnings and successful post-secondary transitions among career academy students and strong academic achievement and preparation for college compared to non-career academy students (Kemple and Willner 2008). Despite this emerging research base, little research speci ically links career academies or CTE courses in general to the acquisition of speci ic employability skills.
These research indings are important because they show an overlap in what employers want in an employee and what students want to accomplish and to be taught (Gottfried 2015). Students selfreport that the learning and career objectives of CTE programs were their fundamental reasons for joining the program, yet there is a strong incongruity between the students’ career goals and the steps needed to reach them, highlighting the disconnect between student motivations and goals, and the CTE program objectives (DeFeo 2015). CTE courses attempt to address this disconnect by directly linking soft skills to job expectations. CTE teachers play a crucial role as “cultural guides” (Lareau 2015) who can help adolescents navigate high school and guide them toward college and/or the workforce. Teachers seek to facilitate this match through collaboration among students, educators, and employers in order to teach students what will be useful in the workplace. The US Department of Labor (2010) recommends teachers teach technical skills and employability skills in ways that facilitate experiential learning. Examples include interactive teaching exercises described as a “system of spiraling teachable moments” that gradually increase in dif iculty to simulate workplace settings to provide an “authentic context” for learning employability skills. For example, problem- or project-based learning gives students the opportunity to develop their social skills and camaraderie with their classmates. Students who may be hesitant to ask teachers for help, may be encouraged to rely on their classmates. Students can seek help or give help during individual projects or work together as leaders and collaborators within groups (Fuglei 2016). Teachers balance their preferred teaching style and content with students preferred learning styles and interests. Diehl and McFarland (2012) draw from the work of Goffman (1981) to describe how teachers create a classroom balance between routine (interactional stability) and ritual (interactional concord). Teachers prefer routine classes featuring stable lectures and organized discussions and activities through which they can more effectively manage student behavior. By contrast, students describe routine tasks such as lectures, exams, and seatwork as boring and stable classes as more dif icult. Students prefer nonroutine classes framed by informal interactions with their classmates that serve to accomplish classroom tasks while
giving students opportunities to reaf irm their personal identity and relationships with classmates. As such, Diehl and McFarland (2012) ind students describe group work, discussion, free time, and student presentations as “not boring.” High school CTE teachers, along with K-12 teachers in other programs and subjects, can adopt a range of strategies in order to better integrate personal and interpersonal skill development into their lesson plans (CCRSC, CGTL, and RTI International 2016). Successful teachers can infuse training in personal qualities by maintaining high expectations for classroom behavior and practice. Teachers should maintain classroom routines to increase classroom productivity and ef icient and hold students responsible for group or independent work. Teachers demonstrate passion for the subjects to generate the same passion in their students. With respect to interpersonal skills, teachers assign students to cooperative groups to develop teamwork skills by completing common tasks. Teachers help students mimic the employer–customer relationship by encouraging students to help each other. Teachers assign leaders and put them in charge of managing the skills of their classmates. Teachers establish classroom norms of mutual respect and support for all ideas to minimize con lict. Teachers show support for students and create a nurturing environment for free expression without fear of reprisal. Teachers encourage students to engage with and help their classmates and maintain an orderly classroom (Danielson 2013).
Book Overview This book examines industry, educator, and student perspectives on employability skills based on interviews with individuals through the Tampa Bay region. Chapter 2 brie ly describes the Tampa Bay region manufacturing sector including advanced manufacturing irms that utilize more innovative technologies and also broadly describes Florida CTE programs that are considered career academies created in response to the Florida 2007 Career and Professional Education (CAPE) Act. Chapter 2 describes the 26 employers interviewed and the schools that hosted the CTE programs in the study and how they were recruited into the project. Description of analyses includes code families and associated codes for analyses of employer and student interviews. Chapters 3 and 4 describe the personal and interpersonal skills necessary for the workplace in the voices of employers. Each chapter includes discussion of speci ic skills along with detailed pro iles of employers who showed a particular interest in hiring young workers with those skills. In Chapter 3, employers explain why it is important for young workers to possess soft skills including work ethic. Employers described several characteristics of ideal workers with the right work ethic, including personal responsibility, an engineering mindset and good attitude, along with a willingness to learn. Workers should be self-motivated but also willing to ask questions of coworkers and superiors to facilitate their own learning. Employers also want to see workers take advantage of their tuition reimbursement programs to enroll in training programs and coursework at technical colleges, community colleges, and four-year universities and work toward a degree. Employers do not mandate further schooling, but they encourage and facilitate it. Pro iles in each section shed more light on how employers address the issues of work ethic and how workers with the right work ethic apply their skills. Chapter 4 demonstrates how workers are expected to have the lexibility to handle new tasks that arise and address everyday complicated problems, including situations beyond the worker’s speci ic job or expertise. This lexibility connects the desired personal characteristics described in Chapter 3 with the interpersonal skills presented in the rest of Chapter 4. Employers discuss how their irms
need workers with good social skills or “people skills.” This is particularly true in small businesses where each worker interacts with each coworker on a daily basis and employees take on various tasks. This includes jobs in sales and other client-facing positions. Employers prefer workers who can manage con lict and criticism. Workers should be willing to speak up, asking questions, and contribute without fear of receiving criticism. Good teamwork will require letting go of ideas, particularly when working with clients who have more speci ic expertise. Employers make it clear that workers with these right interpersonal skills are more likely to keep jobs and get promotions which demand leadership and the need to manage client interactions. Chapters 5 and 6 explore how teachers teach and students learn personal and interpersonal skills. Chapter 5 examines various aspects of personal responsibility and work ethic. Teachers structure the daily classroom routine around lectures, daily or weekly assigned hands-on activities, and semester-long individual- and/or group-initiated projects to reinforce preparedness and professionalism with an eye toward their student educational and employment pathways. Students describe their courses as rigorous and struggle to keep pace, particularly with daily, self-guided activities used by most of the teachers. Through their three or four years in the CTE program, students gradually learn how to complete work on time and take responsibility for their work. Students who chose to take certi ication exams on CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing) software programs (e.g., SolidWorks) relied heavily on their personal responsibility and work ethic to prepare for the exam over the course of the school year and the perseverance to come back from failure and retake the exam. In Chapter 6, students describe how activities and projects give them the opportunity to develop interpersonal skills including teamwork skills and helping behaviors, leadership skills, and con lict negotiation. Students considered daily station activities to be a unique opportunity to work with their classmates in contrast to academic STEM classes like chemistry and physics in which any collaboration would be considered cheating. In CTE courses, just like the workplace, working together is a necessary and effective way to accomplish tasks. Students joined the program with friends and made new friends in the
courses. CTE courses allowed students to socialize with their classmates, particularly classmates who were different than them. This was especially true for girls who were usually the only girl in pairs and groups and perhaps even the class. Chapter 7 describes how Payne HS daily station work, Starling HS weekly Design Days, and the West HS annual egg drop and rocket launch promoted personal responsibility, work ethic, and interpersonal skills. Chapter 8 concludes the book by looking toward the future with a discussion of the primary contributions of the book, two in-depth student narratives about how they plan to use employability skills in college and their careers, strengths and limitations of the book, and next step in further research.
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© The Author(s) 2020 W. Tyson, Teaching and Learning Employability Skills in Career and Technical Education , Palgrave Studies in Urban Education https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-58744-4_2
2. Background and Methodology Will Tyson1 (1) Department of Sociology, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA
Will Tyson Email: [email protected] Abstract This chapter introduces Florida and Tampa Bay advanced manufacturing industry and career and technical education as the setting for this study. Tampa Bay area manufacturing is dominated by small companies, often family-owned operations. These small manufacturers are disproportionately dependent on hiring locally and need local educational institutions to train their workforce. The 2007 Florida Career and Professional Education (CAPE) Act which required all school districts in the state to establish at least one career academy by the 2008–2009 academic year. This chapter also includes the recruitment, interview procedures, and analyses for the 26 employers, 70 students, 4 teachers, and three district administrators who participated in this study. Analyses reveal the coding strategy used for each of the interview transcripts.
Florida Context: Industry and Education Florida is the third largest state in the nation by population. With a high population of residents age 65 and over and a low population of residents under 18 years of age, Florida is a graying population continually looking to replace an older workforce while facing a shortage of skilled young workers. Florida also boasts a racially and ethnically diverse population that looks more like the United States of 2030 and beyond than the country of the past (Vespa, Armstrong, and Medina 2018). Florida is home to three of the 25
largest metropolitan areas in the United States, among them the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area, the 18th largest in the country. This study examines industry and education in the Tampa Bay region of Florida de ined as three Florida metropolitan areas: Tampa-St. PetersburgClearwater, North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, and Lakeland-Winter Haven. Each metropolitan area is among the seven most populous metropolitan areas in Florida with a population of over 4.5 million. From north to south, these counties are Hernando, Pasco, Hillsborough (Tampa), Pinellas (St. Petersburg, Clearwater), Polk (Lakeland, Winter Haven), Manatee (Bradenton), and Sarasota (Sarasota, North Port). This section describes state of Florida and Tampa Bay area manufacturing and Florida career and technical education policy and practice.
Manufacturing in Florida and Tampa Bay The Tampa Bay region is home to 3236 manufacturing irms, over a quarter of manufacturing irms in the state. As of 2015, the manufacturing sector in this region included 94,722 jobs, 5.4% of total employment in the region. Almost half of these jobs are in advanced manufacturing irms that spend more on research and development (R&D) than other manufacturing subsectors and employ a larger number of workers in STEM occupations vs. traditional blue-collar occupations (Heckler 2005, Muro, Rothwell, Andes et al. 2015). Advanced manufacturing jobs pay higher wages as well. Advanced manufacturing jobs in the US in 2015 paid on average $52,625 a year compared to $47,505 a year for manufacturing jobs as a whole. Advanced manufacturing jobs have greater productivity and productivity growth as well as higher patent rates, a sign of more opportunities for innovation (O’Neil, Hopkins, Cleveland et al. 2016). Advanced manufacturing jobs require post-secondary education more often than other manufacturing jobs, yet over half of advanced manufacturing jobs in the United States only required a high school diploma or an equivalent. Bolstering the Tampa Bay advanced manufacturing sector requires increasing skill levels of the local manufacturing labor force, including training in high school career and technical education (CTE) programs (O’Neil et al. 2016). Tampa Bay area manufacturing is dominated by small companies. The region is home to only 19 large manufacturers that employ 500 or more. Small and medium manufacturers with fewer than 500 employees are less stable than larger companies and are less able to provide worker training (O’Neil et al. 2016). In fact, 89% of irms in the region employ fewer than 50 workers including a third with fewer than 10 employees. Many of these irms
are family-owned “mom and pop” operations or otherwise privately owned companies that tend to specialize in food, textiles, as well as printing and other support activities (O’Neil et al. 2016). As a result, small manufacturers in this study point out companies in the region are disproportionately dependent on hiring locally and need local educational institutions to train their workforce. This region is subject to the same national “skills gap” identi ied by researchers and media alike. Employers interviewed for this study attribute the skills gap to several factors. One is the “graying” of the workforce, particularly in skilled blue-collar jobs (i.e., machinist, welder). In a 2011 report, 95% of manufacturing executives expected a shortage in skilled production jobs (i.e., machinists, operators, technicians) due to retirement over the next decade. These jobs made up 50% of the manufacturing workforce (Morrison, Maciejewski, Gif i et al. 2011). Executives have the most trouble recruiting workers in these areas because they do not pass the initial screening phase including face-to-face interviews and job simulationbased interviews, steps of the hiring process in which job candidates would be expected to demonstrate their employability skills (Gif i, Dollar, Drew et al. 2015).
Career and Technical Education in Florida The Smith-Hughes National Vocational Education Act of 1917 initiated federal interest and support for vocational education in United States secondary education (Dougherty and Lombardi 2016). The Smith-Hughes Act set the stage for various early to mid-twentieth-century education reforms that culminated in the 1984 passage of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. Over time, the term vocational education was changed to career and technical education (CTE). This change was codi ied in the 2006 reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (or Perkins IV) to counter the perception that students of lower academic ability were concentrated in these programs (Dougherty and Lombardi 2016). The Perkins Act led to state policies such as Florida’s Career and Professional Education (CAPE) Act of 2007. The state of Florida is a trailblazer in terms of its focus on middle and high school CTE programs as part of a strategic plan to align high schools, colleges and universities, and workforce opportunities for its residents. According to CAPE Act, a career and professional academy is a “researchbased program that integrates a rigorous academic curriculum with an industry-speci ic curriculum aligned directly to priority workforce needs
established by the regional workforce board” (Florida statute https://www. lsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2007/1003.493). The CAPE Act was a signi icant overhaul of Florida career and technical education aimed to model how states can promote engagement between industry and K-12 education and establish industry certi ication standards for secondary and post-secondary students. The CAPE Act built upon existing innovations in Florida education. Florida was the irst state to develop and implement a PK20 governance system with a statewide articulation agreement and course numbering system that provides seamless transition from public high schools to community colleges to universities (Venezia, Callan, Finney et al. 2005). The CAPE Act took a system geared toward promoting college preparation and added career programming in elementary, middle, and high school to make sure children know career options and are prepared for careers right out of high school. The purpose of the CAPE Act was to “provide a statewide planning partnership between business and education communities, to expand and retain high-value industry, and sustain a vibrant state economy” (Florida Department of Education 2019b). The CAPE Act constructed a statewide infrastructure for school district partnerships with local workforce development boards, economic development agencies, technical colleges, two-year colleges, and four-year universities. The CAPE Act also established a clear de inition of industry certi ication along with standards that require the state to publish an annual list of industry-recognized credentials that are attainment for high school students and require at least 150 hoursof instruction (Advance CTE 2019). The state of Florida provides inancial incentives to school districts and CTE teachers to start and maintain successful CTE programs. Districts receive additional funding and CTE teachers receive bonuses for each student who earns an industry-recognized credential. As of 2017–2018, the 67 Florida school districts offered over 2000 career academies in almost 1200 middle and high schools (Florida Department of Education 2019a). To that end, all career themed courses within CAPE academies are required to yield an industry certi ication or college credit for students within that particular career cluster. More than 297,000 industry certi ications have been awarded to Florida students since CAPE was enacted in the 2007– 2008 school year (Advance CTE 2019).
This study used a phenomenographic research approach (Akerlind 2012) to study the ways high school students, teachers, and employers described their experiences and made meaning from learning, engaging, and developing knowledge and understanding within the ields of engineering and engineering technology and manufacturing industry. Data for this study were derived from in-depth, semi-structured interviews with high school students (70) and high school teachers (4) from four engineering or engineering technology themed career academy programs at four high schools as well as K-12 school district administrators (3), and employers (26) within the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
Employer Recruitment and Participants Most employers recruited for this study were initially identi ied by local educators interviewed for other parts of the larger study, including community college faculty and administrators as well as high school faculty and administrators and school district personnel. Most of these employers actively participated on local education advisory boards. Some hosted internships for high schools and/or hired students directly from high school career academies. Employers who initially agreed to be interviewed recommended other employers to interview for the project. Table 2.1 describes employers interviewed for this study. Each employer is represented by a gender-speci ic irst name pseudonym. The information in this chart and throughout the book is purposefully vague in order to maintain anonymity. Type of business is a broad descriptor based on the employer’s own description of their business. Size is based on the employer’s description, researcher ield notes from site visits, and public information about the employer. This chart uses the same classi ication described above in which small = fewer than 50 employees, medium = 50–499 employees, and large = 500 or more. Position is the employer’s job within the company. Product is either the category of products the company manufacturers and/or distributes or an example product. Throughout the book, I attempt to tell the stories of these employers in enough detail to understand their challenges and concerns but without enough personal and professional information to identify them. It is important to remember that despite the fact there are thousands of manufacturing irms in the Tampa Bay area, this is still a relatively small community of individuals linked by their business partnerships, membership in trade organizations, participation in community boards, and personal friendships. Table 2.1 Employers interviewed for this study
Pseudonym Type of business
Engineering, design and manufacturing
Medium Vice President of Sales
Medium Executive Director
Human Resources Manager
Medium Human Resources Manager
Water treatment plants
Air iltration for medical industry
Director of Research
Test kits for explosives
Casting to form metal parts
Director of Public Relations
Drilling equipment for large projects
Parts for jets and rockets
Medium Human Resources Staff
Equip for semiconductor industry
Manufacturing and installation
Decking for yachts and cruise ships
Regional Vice President
Pseudonym Type of business
Vice President of Operations
Plastic products for medical industry
Product design and development
Power systems for aviation
Boxes and packaging
Founder/Owner/President Large equipment
Medium Founder/Owner/President Medicine packages
Human Resources Manager
All 26 employers interviewed for this study are from manufacturing or related ields ranging from engineering irms, public utilities, distributors, and a manufacturing trade association. There are seven employers each from Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, six from Polk county, and six from Sarasota and Manatee counties. Location is omitted from Table 2.1 and descriptions throughout the book due to con identiality. Interviewees represent small (9), medium (8), and large (9) businesses in the Tampa Bay area. Employers from large businesses generally lead divisions within regional of ices of national or international companies. Employers from small and medium companies are generally senior management including owner and/or president. This includes some men who founded their business. Five of the 26 employers are women. Three are in human resources and two are manufacturing heads. Companies specialize in a wide
range of products that service medicine, transportation, and defense among other industries. Almost all of the employers interviewed had some regular interactions with local educators, more typically with technical schools, community colleges, and local universities. Most explained that their businesses had tuition reimbursement programs and encouraged workers to pursue additional schooling and credentials including two-year and fouryear degrees. The recruitment for this study was in line with the goal of PathTech Tampa Bay to examine “successful academic and employment pathways” in the Tampa Bay area. Due to this focus and use of snowball sampling among employers who were generally active in local education, indings should not be generalized to employers in these industries overall. Instead, readers should consider the experiences of active employers as examples of what could be accomplished through successful industry–education partnerships and challenges employers face in recruiting and retaining skilled young workers. This research is located in one speci ic region of Florida; therefore, indings cannot be generalized to other areas of the state, country, or world. Readers should use indings from this study to inform practice and provide a framework for conducting similar research.
Employer Interviews and Analyses Employer interviews were conducted by a member of the research team who was an experienced qualitative researcher and local businesswoman with ties to the local business and education communities. She contacted employers and scheduled interviews. This research associate conducted all interviews at the employer’s place of business or over the phone at the employer’s discretion. Interviews included questions about technical and employability skills desired in the workforce. We asked employers to describe their ideal worker and the challenges they face recruiting these ideal workers within the local and national workforce. Interviews were generally between 20 and 30 minutes long. Field notes included additional information about the employer and their company. Employers were not compensated for their participation. Interviews were audiotaped and transcribed. The research team initially separately coded employer interviews seeking a priori and emergent themes as illustrated in Fig. 2.1. The left side of the chart includes codes associated with background information on the employers and their companies. Each Interviewee was asked to describe his or her educational and occupational background. They were also asked to describe their company and their
speci ic occupational position in the company. Each employer was asked to describe their company’s Recruiting processes, recruiting sources, and the types of STEM and STEM-related jobs at their company as well as the educational requirements for those jobs. Finally, participants described prospects of Advancement and promotion for employees with different backgrounds as well as company training policies including internships and apprenticeships. The rest of this chapter presents this background information about employers and companies as they relate to employability skills and recruiting high students or employing young workers.
Fig. 2.1 Industry code families and associated codes
Chapters 3 and 4 draw from the right side of the chart. Employers bemoaned the lack of employability skills in the current workforce with an eye toward imparting future workers with the employability skills needed to be successful in their industries. Preparation codes included ways secondary and higher education can better prepare students to join the workforce. Employers described the Ideal Workers and the technical and employability skills these workers would possess. Finally, employers were asked about short-term and long-term Prospects for local and national industry including why they thought people chose to work in manufacturing as well as typical and ideal career pathways for young workers. It is important to note that different employers focused on different types of
skills. Some focused more on technical skills as reported by Fletcher and Tyson (2017). This book focuses on employability skills, therefore employers who mentioned skills more are represented than other employers.
High School Student and Teacher Recruitment The research team recruited schools by irst seeking recommendations from community college STEM program administrators and school district STEM administrators, most of whom were also interviewed for PathTech Tampa Bay. Interviews with administrators provided district-level context for these programs. The research team recruited high school principals and career academy administrators and teachers from each program and as a result, four schools participated in this study. Each school was compensated for their participation. Each school hosted one of a small number of engineering or engineering technology themed career academies within their school districts. These career academies were considered to be exemplars of successful programs that adhere to state CAPE standards and were impactful in their local communities. This study investigates engineering and engineering technology themed career academies in four high schools in the Tampa Bay area. Each public high school is represented by a pseudonym school name and three-initial abbreviation. Horton HS is a STEM magnet high school located in a large city. HHS is a Title 1 eligible school with a majority–minority population and majority of students were enrolled in free or reduced lunch programs. Payne HS is a magnet school located in a large suburb. PHS was not eligible for Title 1 and had a predominately white student population. Starling HS is a Title 1 eligible school located in a large suburb. SHS had a majority–minority population and a near majority of students were enrolled in free or reduced lunch programs. West HS is a Title 1 eligible school located in a small city. WHS had a predominately white student population. West HS described their program as an engineering technology program. Horton, Payne, and Starling high schools branded their programs as engineering programs. Based on how teachers, administrators, and students describe the courses and programs, all four programs included elements of engineering and engineering technology and sought to prepare students for bachelor’s degree programs in engineering and engineering technology, community college engineering technology and applied manufacturing programs as well as jobs as professional engineers or technicians. For the sake of simplicity, this book refers to all programs as engineering programs.
This study includes little speci ic demographic or geographic information about schools and little to no personal information about teachers and students in order to protect the anonymity of our interview subjects. This study does not seek to infer connections between school, teacher, or student demographic characteristics and outcomes described in this study. This study also does not attempt to generalize indings beyond those individuals interviewed for this study.
Student and Teacher Interviews and Analyses We interviewed one career academy teacher in each of the four schools. The irst two letters of each teacher pseudonym corresponds to the pseudonym of their school (i.e., Mr. Palmer/Payne HS, Mr. Wells/West HS, Mr. Holt/Horton HS, Mr. Stein/Starling HS). Each teacher invited the research team to his classroom to observe classroom instruction and class activities. The research team interviewed teachers during a planning period or other non-instructional time. Teachers were asked about their background and the background of their program and school. Teachers addressed questions about balancing career readiness and college preparation and pedagogical strategies used to reinforce program goals. Teachers received a small compensation and were aware that the school was compensated. We also interviewed three district administrators with knowledge of district STEM curricula and career and technical education. Teachers recruited their students on behalf of the project by describing the project in class. Teachers gave students informed consent forms. Students 18 years of age or older completed their own forms. Parents completed informed consent forms for student participants under 18 years of age. Student interviews took place during instructional time in the classroom but away from other students and class activity at the approval of the teacher. As part of the con identiality agreement, students were assured that no background or demographic information would be shared beyond what was in the interviews. Each student received a small gift for their participation. Student interviews included questions about their CTE classroom experiences including technical and noncognitive skills acquired through the class. Interviews asked students what they liked most and liked least about the course and the primary challenges they faced. I identify students using a gender-speci ic pseudonym irst name and the initials of their high school (i.e. HHS, PHS, SHS, WHS). Student and teacher interviews lasted between 15 and 30 minutes.
Interviews were audiotaped and later transcribed along with ield notes from classrooms observation. The research team initially coded high school student interviews seeking a priori and emergent themes as illustrated by the code families in Fig. 2.2. Participants answered questions their decision to enroll in the Engineering/ET magnet programs at their high schools. Students responded that their Interests in Engineering/ET and enrolling in a high school CTE program developed through their middle school classes and/or engineering magnet programs, mentors or family members who either encouraged their interests or held Engineering/ET jobs which piqued the students’ curiosity, experiences with hands-on learning outside of the classroom, and learning about the career academy through friends, high school tours, open houses, and/or presentations about the magnet program. Students described their Classes including courses taken in the career academy and other STEM and non-STEM courses including International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement, and Honors courses.
Fig. 2.2 Student code families and associated codes
Students described Hands-on Learning experiences in the career academy classroom through individual, group, and classwide daily activities and projects. Students then described Overcoming Challenges they faced in these classroom activities and the technical and employability skills they used to overcome these personal and academic challenges. Career Readiness includes information students learned about engineering careers from their teachers, guest speakers, ield trips, and
industry tours. Students described their Short-term Plans including shortterm plans such as attending a four-year university, community college, joining the military, and/or entering the workforce. Long-term Education Goals include attending graduate school mostly engineering, but also in other STEM-related ields, law, and business. Long-term Career Goals include working for or owning engineering and manufacturing companies and running their own medical and law practices. Students were asked about what they believed they needed in order to achieve their goals. Statements about speci ic skills, degrees, and qualities such as motivation and perseverance are grouped under Achieving Goals. And inally, students described their Dreams including achieving their stated goals and creating lasting inventions, architecture and graphic designs, and personal desires have a family, be happy and be satis ied with their careers. Chapters 5–7 draw from the codes in blue in Fig. 2.2: hands-on learning, overcoming challenges, and achieving goals. It is important to note that students were not asked speci ically about employability skills acquired in their programs. Questions about learning, challenges, and goals generated students responses about the personal and interpersonal skills necessary to complete hands-on stations and activities as well as complete a range of academic, personal, and social challenges students overcame in class and will need to face in order to achieve their short-term and long-term goals.
References Advance CTE. 2019. “Florida: Career and Professional Education Act (CAPE).” (https:// careertech.org/resource/ lorida-career-and-professional-education-act). Akerlind, Gerlese S. 2012. “Variation and Commonality in Phenomenographic Research Methods.” Higher Education Research & Development 31(1):115–27. [Crossref] Dougherty, Shaun M. and Allison R. Lombardi. 2016. “From Vocational Education to Career Readiness.” Review of Research in Education 40(1):326–55. [Crossref] Fletcher, Edward C. and Will Tyson. 2017. “Bridging Technical Skills Gaps between High School Students and Local Employers.” Journal of Research in Technical Careers 1(1):20. [Crossref] Florida Department of Education. 2019a. “Appendix Y—Career and Professional Academies.” (http://www. ldoe.org/academics/career-adult-edu/cape-secondary/ resources.stml).
Florida Department of Education. 2019b. “Florida Career Professional Education Act.” (http://www. ldoe.org/academics/career-adult-edu/workforce-edu/ l-careerprofessional-edu-act.stml). Gif i, Craig, Ben Dollar, Michelle Drew, Jennifer McNelly, Gardener Carrick, and Bharath Gangula. 2015. The Skills Gap in US Manufacturing: 2015 and Beyond. Washington, DC: The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte. Heckler, Daniel E. 2005. “High-Technology Employment: A NAICS-Based Update.” Monthly Labor Review 128:57. Morrison, Tom, Bob Maciejewski, Craig Gif i, Emily Stover DeRocco, Jennifer McNelly, and Gardner Carrick. 2011. Boiling Point? The Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing. Washington, DC and New York: Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute. Muro, Mark, Jonathan Rothwell, Scott Andes, Kenan Fikri, and Siddharth Kulkarni. 2015. America’s Advanced Industries: What They Are, Where They Are, and Why They Matter. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution. O’Neil, Brendan, Phil Hopkins, Elizabeth Redman Cleveland, Vardan Genanyan, and Julie Gressley. 2016. West Central Gulf Coast Regional Manufacturers Associations: Manufacturing Sector Pro ile. IHS Economics. Venezia, Andrea, Patrick M. Callan, Joni E. Finney, Michael W. Kirst, and Michael D. Usdan. 2005. The Governance Divide: A Report on a Four-State Study on Improving College Readiness and Success: National Center Report #05-3. San Jose, CA: The Institute for Educational Leadership, The Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research, and The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. Vespa, Jonathan, David M. Armstrong, and Lauren Medina. 2018. Demographic Turning Points for the United States: Population Projections for 2020 to 2060. Washington, DC: US Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration.
© The Author(s) 2020 W. Tyson, Teaching and Learning Employability Skills in Career and Technical Education , Palgrave Studies in Urban Education https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-58744-4_3
3. Core Elements of Work Ethic Will Tyson1 (1) Department of Sociology, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA
Will Tyson Email: [email protected] Abstract Employers described the need for young workers with a good work ethic made up of several characteristics. Personal responsibility was the bare minimum employers expected from their workers. Workers demonstrated their work ethic by irst showing up on time and ful illing the “normal” and “basic” expectations for any job. From there, employers expected workers to show a engineering mindset or inclination for the work and a willingness to learn and a desire to grow on the job. Employers pro iled in each section describe how they address the issues of work ethic and how workers with the right work ethic apply their skills. Pro iles include a director of a local manufacturing organization, owner of a small foundry, and two founders of small and medium-sized manufacturing irms.
The Need for Soft Skills So critical thinking, basic math, the right attitude, a responsiveness. Most of the manufacturers are saying if you can bring us [people with those skills], we’ll train them up to our speci ic needs. Would you bring us a baseline employee?—Albert,
industry consultant and director of a local manufacturing association As a leader in the local manufacturing community, Albert regularly hears complaints as he attempts to foster relationships between local schools and manufacturers. He said manufacturers want to recruit workers with “critical thinking, basic math, the right attitude, a responsiveness” and “train them up” to their speci ic needs. Tom echoed this perspective based on his over 40 years in manufacturing: [W]e’ll do the training if we see the right attitude and the right soft skills. I think soft skills is the biggest thing we’re missing… [I]f somebody comes in with the right attitude, can do simple math, can read a tape measure we’ll give ‘em a shot. Ronda prefers to hire workers with a manufacturing background, but she is willing to “bring people in from the street and train them.” Geoffe would willingly hire someone with only a high school education because “there’s nothing we would require that a typical high school curriculum wouldn’t prepare a work force for,” but he is wary of the local rural workforce because as a county, “We not solved the nut of work ethic in 15 years and I see it getting worse.” Employers believed that workers are responsible for developing the right background and employability skills for the job, whether it be through high school or college education, personal experiences, or prior work experience. As employers, the company is responsible for training these workers to perform speci ic jobs. Albert gave an overview of the need for soft skills in manufacturing jobs based on his experience working with manufacturers throughout the state of Florida.
Albert, Director, Local Manufacturing Association Albert is an industry consultant who leads a local manufacturing trade organization. He was a manufacturer in Florida for several decades working in medical equipment manufacturing. He joined the local manufacturing association and within a short amount of time became leader of the organization. Eventually, Albert left manufacturing to direct the organization full-time. The trade organization is an advocacy
group which Albert described as being “very effective” in getting legislation drafted and passed in local and state government. Albert is also an industry consultant. He works with different companies in the area to “address certain issues” and “broker partnerships” for manufacturers to help them accomplish whatever they need to get done. For example, Albert had recently started working with a foreign company that wanted to set up production to bring their products into Florida. He boasts clients in Europe and Africa who want to live and own businesses in Florida. He described himself as “part of the welcoming process” for foreign companies and he also does “corporate counseling” for local manufacturers. Albert presented his manufacturing association as “the voice of 600 manufacturers” in his area. He has spent years organizing focus groups of manufacturers to discuss what they want to see from their employees for audiences including educators and workforce boards. In summary, the irst thing we hear is the whine session, you know? I always ask [manufacturers] if they’d like cheese with the “whine” because they whine about people and the work ethic [saying] “They can’t do simple math. They can’t think on their feet. They come to work unprepared. They have an entitlement attitude. Yada, yada, yada.” So we rubber stamp all those complaints and then we start getting down to what do you really need? In a perfect world, what would your employee look like? And there are certain recurring themes. And it doesn’t matter whether we’re making orange juice or boats or surgical tools, there’s certain things that keep consistently cropping up and it’s kind of frustrating to think that we’ve been having this conversation for 10 years. Employers complain about the lack of basic math skills, but also about the lack of work ethic and a good attitude regardless of the industry. Albert regularly hears complaints as he attempts to foster relationships between local schools and manufacturers. Based on years of working with educators and sitting on school and district advisory boards, he fears that education is slow to change. He gave the examples of racial gaps in education going back to the 1950s that have not largely
been addressed. He drew contrasts between how manufacturers and educators approach these problems. Based on his experiences, manufacturers say, “See the problem, formulate a solution, implement the solution, move on” whereas “The educational community tends to analyze the problem to the point of paralysis and never put in an effective program to address the issue.” Later in the interview, Albert acknowledged that education– industry partnerships are growing and educators “have been more responsive over the last 10 years then they have been for the last 40 years.” He also acknowledged that manufacturers are realizing they need to be a part of the process. Albert notes that the state has made some strides in incorporating soft skills into K-12 and higher education: We need people with critical thinking skills. We need people with good math skills. We need people with a sense of how to work in teams and willingness to multi-task, so we’ve developed programs around these needs that are pretty rudimentary and they get people started on the road and then we develop others. In Florida, we actually added the soft skills component, the plays well with others component, because even with the four-year engineering degree, if nobody in the room can get along with you, you’re not going to be a successful asset for the company. So critical thinking, basic math, the right attitude, a responsiveness. Most of the manufacturers are saying if you can bring us that we’ll train them up to our speci ic needs. Would you bring us a baseline employee? Albert explained that in response to industry needs, two-year colleges and some high schools offer certi ications in safety, quality, manufacturing process, maintenance process, and related areas. Florida had recently added training for employability skills such as leadership, and team building. Albert hopes this certi ication becomes the “baseline criteria” for getting interviews. He believes that students who earn this certi ication are investing in themselves and have an understand of what is expected in the manufacturing workforce. Manufacturers want workers who have technical skills as well as the personal skills and interpersonal skills to complete tasks effectively and
understand their roles with respect to the entire operation (Yarnall and Remold 2019). Albert gave the example of a worker who needs to understand how a maintenance incident could impact production output for an entire company. Albert explained that a production “drops off the cliff” and most of the time “ latlines at the bottom for way too long” after an incident because the maintenance department has to order the parts and “do what they need to do” to get production back up again. This is an area Albert acknowledges that manufacturing has to catch up on. That’s in Florida manufacturing. That’s taken a long time to catch on. So maintenance is an issue, manufacturing process from the holistic sense, not “How do I operate this one machine?” but “How does my contribution igure into the holistic view of this entire operation? And why is it important for me to know what my co-workers do and be able to ill in for them and why is it important for me to multi-task? And how can I contribute to the success of the company being that without that success, I have no company to work for?” So those are the things that we keep hearing over and over and over again after we get past the preliminary grumpy old men thing about these kids today. Those are the real skill sets we’re looking for. In this respect, the ideal worker is a good it for the company and also understands how the job they are asked to do its with what their coworkers are doing. The ideal worker is also able to use this knowledge to be lexible enough to ill in where needed to complete other tasks as necessary. The rest of the chapter examines speci ic personal qualities preferred by employers. Personal responsibility was the bare minimum employers expected from their workers. Workers who show up for work ful ill the “normal” expectations for any job. Employers are willing to mentor and promote workers who can do the “basics” like arrive to work on time, pay attention, and inish tasks. Employers described several indicators of a strong work ethic that could be identi ied through an applicant’s resume, or in interviews, or as demonstrated on the job. Employers want to hire workers with a work history in similar
jobs, but they are willing to hire young workers who tinker at home and have “hands-on hobbies” that indicate an engineering mindset and good attitude they believe translates to the formal workplace setting. Employers want evidence of a passion for the work and a willingness to learn that propels workers to take initiative learning on the job or pursue further training through company workshops or college courses and credentials. Workers with these characteristics are expected to have the lexibility to handle new tasks that arise as they address everyday complicated problems as I will discuss in Chapter 4.
Personal Responsibility: Doing the Basics You got to get your life together. It’s like you have to make choices. Having worked at [former company] in the north even with the union issues people understand showing up to work on time. They understood that the company only made money when they did their job and that they only got paid when the company made money… We had our issues with them, but it wasn’t the fundamentals. We didn’t talk about…when your car breaks down you call somebody to get a ride. We had guys that would walk to work when that happened because they just got it.—Geoffe, owner, small foundry Several employers mentioned employees who moved up the ranks simply by showing up on time, staying busy, and inishing tasks in a timely manner. Jim owns a business he described as a “machine shop” specializing in defense contracts building parts for airplanes, weapons, and other machines. Jim actively works with high schools, including Horton HS, hires high school interns, and regularly hosts industry tours. He expects young workers to do the “normal stuff” like coming to work on time and demonstrating their focus on the job by “not playing with your smartphone all the time when you need to be working and paying attention to what the machine is doing.” Jim runs his machines almost 24/7, so he hires high school students, college students, and other less experienced workers to work part-time on the weekends and at nights. Brandon is an engineering division lead for an area utility company. He seeks to hire workers who are “conscientious” in that they come in
on time and work hard. His business cooperative education (BCE), or co-op, students typically come in at 12:30 or 1:00 p.m. after their school day and work four hours. Some students only work the minimum number of hours required by the school. His co-ops from the university work from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on a normal day. He said it was not unusual for his newest co-op student to stay 15–20 minutes late. Sometimes he has to tell her to go home. She was a contrast to what he called “eight and skaters,” his term for employees who “come in for eight hours and then they’re out the door.” Brandon looks for students willing to stay a few minutes over to inish a task as a sign that they’re interested. If I were looking for somebody that was working in the machine shop, I’d be looking for the type of person that shows an interest and at 4:00 isn’t walking out the door. That doesn’t mind staying a few minutes. I’m not saying hours. I’m saying ive, ten minutes to make sure they understand what they’ve been doing or just to inish a little task. For Brandon, staying a little late was a sign someone had a “de inite interest” in the work. As an HR professional for a large manufacturer, Kate sees workers quickly become overwhelmed by the pressures they face on the job. She believes new employees should enter the job with the time management skills needed to manage deadlines such as whenever products are slated to be completed. Kate believes workers need to be willing to “work whatever it takes.” “Sometimes personal lives go out the door” when deadlines come “because of the cyclical nature of you know our clients and our industry and what they need.” Nick mentioned a young man he recently hired from a temp agency as machine operator. “He did the basic stuff really good. He showed up on time. He kept busy, did all his stuff, so then we made him a lead operator. Now we moved him to processing.” Employers are loyal to high school interns and other young workers who demonstrate personal responsibility by doing the “basic stuff,” the “normal stuff.” Employers are willing to shepherd them up the ladder. HR manager Diane described a former intern with “strong” personal attributes who recently left her company in order to move closer to family. “He had
good values. He was dedicated. He was always on time. He always thought things through, incredible kid.” Diane said if he came back to Florida, “he’s one of those people that we would ind a job for.” In the pro ile below, Geoffe bemoans the lack of work ethic in his rural community.
Geoffe, Owner, Small Foundry Geoffe is the owner of a small family run foundry the interviewer described as “what most people expect manufacturing to be.” The foundry was not air conditioned. It was dirty with heavy machines that were hot and on ire. His workers include molders who lift 80 pounds 200 times a day and workers who “put on little parts on a machine and push a button and beeper.” He had a hard time hiring local skilled CNC (computer numerical control) machinists to program the machines. Geoffe complained that machinists he has hired “didn’t care enough to do it right.” As a result, his engineer sons generally program the machines to streamline the process so workers who run the machines simply “put the part on, push the button.” Geoffe explained, “I don’t like the word ‘idiot-proof’ because they’re not idiots.” At the heart of the matter, Geoffe does not trust workers to run the machines because they lack personal responsibility and work ethic. “It’s not that they’re not nice people” said Geoffe. But then he laughed, “I wouldn’t play poker with them, you know what I mean.” He described two men he had hired as programmers who did not work out. One was a veteran who “got distracted, had trouble with his life and that was it.” Geoffe and his sons who also run the business “loved him dearly” and feel bad because he is still struggling. Another was “just a young kid” they decided to invest in. They started teaching him programming starting with SolidWorks, but he “was shacked up with a girl” who wanted to move out of state, so he left. Geoffe also gave an example of two employees who he said quit the job and lied in order to get worker’s compensation bene its. At the end of the day that’s the big problem. The root of that is people don’t grow up saying, “Man, I have to ind something to support myself and my family and that means I have to develop
certain self-disciplines and habits.” I can teach anybody how to do anything we have. Geoffe believes the local rural workforce is full of “good hearted people” who have “work ethic issues” and “don’t have their lives in order.” Geoffe mentioned an employee who left work early to pick up his car. He said he was going to be gone for 30 minutes to an hour. The rest of the team worked while he was gone. He ended up spending the whole workday at a car dealership. He was one of the heavy lifting molders, so the team could not complete the day’s work without him because “they’re harder to ind than the guys who can run the push button stuff.” Geoffe’s business requires a full team or he cannot do the work. “When you have a process sometimes you need all four guys. You can’t run it with three. So when one guy blows you off the whole day’s shot and it’s just at sunk cost.” Geoffe described trying to counsel another worker who had car issues and chose to take three days off to ix his car instead of coming to work. “We ind that [local] residents, born and bred are good integrity people. It’s just a guy wakes up and his transmission blows up. We’ve tried to counsel them, ‘You can take three days off like you did to rebuild your transmission or you can come to work and get money and pay somebody else to do your transmission.’” Geoffe did not consider that to be an “integrity issue.” Instead he thought they “just they don’t get it. They just don’t have a model that you just have. You owe your employer notice.” Geoffe’s sons gave him another chance after not coming to work three days without notice. He goes out of his way to try to help people. “You have to [help people] because you want to because it’s not a good business decision to help people. We call it our ministry.” He claims that he’s been able to reach some people and have success with what he calls it the “ministry side” of his business. “Yeah we do the ministry side and that’s why they gave this guy a fourth chance. We decided it’s a ministry issue because it does not make business sense.” We do have people that are good people…. My employees, I’ve been to their homes. They care about their families, you know? It’s just boars are boar. I mean it’s time to hunt, you know. We’ve
broken through some of that, but nobody but one guy works at my company that I bought in 1997, one person. For Geoffe, this one worker is a direct contrast to most of his workers. “When he misses work, he’s you know ‘I’m so sorry. I’m taking my wife to the hospital.’” as opposed to just not showing up. “I think part of what works is we appreciate him for who he is and he appreciates us because we work with that so it works out good.” Geoffe trusted this one worker because he “his integrity is so high” that it’s worth it to work with him and any challenges he has. Geoffe’s sons attempt to weed out people with poor work ethic and personal responsibility during the hiring process. When an applicant comes in for a job, they tell him come back in two days. Some come back. Others do not. Workers who come back have to take a drug test because it is potentially dangerous work. “And employees in certain environments if they’re not operating 100%, they might hurt themselves. In our environment, not operating at 100% can hurt other people, that’s why we demand a clean drug test.” Geoffe explained that if applicants pass the drug test and get hired, they have to complete four hours of paperwork. Sometimes by that point, applicants realize they do not actually want the job. Those who do get to that point tend to have stronger work ethic so Geoffe can create a career path for them. Geoffe gave the example of a molder he hired to lift 80 pounds 200 times a day. He fell short and could only lift up to 150 times a day. “[He] never hit the target but never stopped all day.” He demonstrated work ethic that made him a good it for a CNC operator job that later became available. Turned out an opening came up in the shop. He’s a better CNC operator than all these machinists we hired with the skills because of his work ethic. He listens. He follows instructions. If you say, “If this happens don’t do that” and “this is how it should look, if it doesn’t look like that get help,” guess what? He does it. By contrast, some of the machinists Geoffe hired in the past relied on their own knowledge and experience and did not listen to instructions, so they struggled to make quick ixes. “It became apparent
that the more [technical] skills they had the less work they wanted to do. They were not motivated by understanding that [their] job is created and supported and growing by putting parts out.” In retrospect, Geoffe realized that those types of machinists tended to “jump from company to company so their experience was bad…so that was our biggest struggle.” For Geoffe, the problem always came back to the general lack of work ethic in the local rural workforce. Geoffe recalled a local industry/education meeting at the local community college. One of the participants said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if Volkswagen or Audi knew that [our county] had a workforce that could run their plant?” This participant was likely referring to foreign-owned automobile plants located in rural areas and small cities throughout the South. Geoffe does not believe the local workforce could support a large auto plant or the primarily small manufacturers in the area. We have a large population of people that don’t want to be engineers or doctors and aren’t going to be. Today they get lost in the system because the school system feeds this lack of account, so it just feeds it so they get better at it. They get better at taking. They get better at EBT cards. They get better at all that stuff and so they make it through and they’re living where the rest of the country comes three weeks a year [on vacation], so how bad is this? Not that bad…. Go to Disney [World] and ind out how many [our county] people actually really make it every day because they are [snaps ingers] very strict. Geoffe compared his employees in the Tampa Bay area to his employees at his former company back up north, a large multinational company in the same industry sector. His old employees were the “same kind of guys” he hires at his company today. Most of his employees have a high school diploma. Some have an eighth or ninth grade education. “Eighth grade’s all the skills we need if you can write your timesheet.” Geoffe explained that he knew people back at his former company who liked the workers’ unions because everything was “black and white.” Over time, the company became a “workforce of people just resenting work and regretting work and just doing it, but
they knew the rules so they’d do it. So a bunch of highly motivated people that are making world class stuff that are changing the world.” This is what Geoffe hoped the local workforce could be. His workers up north would work 60 hours a week including 20 hours over time, so they could get three weeks of vacation a year, usually in Florida. Geoffe drew a sharp contrast between employees up north who worked hard so they could vacation in Florida and local employees he felt do not work hard enough because they already live in Florida. “I’m dealing with a bunch of people, they live where these people are vacationing and they do everything they want to do.” In order to accommodate the local Florida workforce, Geoffe changed his hours to create a more lexible workplace. He went from ive full days to working 6:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on Friday. “Guys love it. We love it and for us there’s some bene its. One is when we’re really slow we just tell them to stay home Friday.” Geoffe was surprised that workers did not complain if they shut down on Friday. “[Up north], they’d be in my of ice, banging, ‘You can’t shut down on us!’ We did but they wanted to work. They wanted to work so they could come to Florida three weeks a year.” Geoffe believed that local Florida workers prefer having the long weekend instead of several weeks of vacation. Weather also causes frustrating issues for Geoffe when working with the local workforce. Geoffe learned after he opened his business in Florida that many workers do not show up when it gets cold. As a result, he does not open when it’s 30 degrees or colder outside. “We shut the plant down because it’s better to shut the plant down than have half a crew.” The same policy applies to hurricanes. Geoffe remembered workers “blustering” about hurricanes before Hurricane Charley in 2004, “Oh if anybody can’t stand a hurricane, they’re nothing.” Geoffe gave an example of a huge gust of wind blowing through the plant and blowing items off the shelves before the hurricane hit. He laughed saying, “Men ran out of here like little girls, hot metal in there! Whoa!” After Charley, Geoffe sat down with his workers and came up with a policy that if the crew decides to stay home before a hurricane, he will close up the shop.
Engineering Mindset and Work Ethic I just think it’s an attention to detail and an innate understanding of how things work and then the willingness to take enough training to become pro icient in them because you can be as willing as you want but there are still some specialties that you need to achieve actual you know the classroom learning in the ield.—Nick, owner/CEO of a medium-sized injection molding company, explaining aptitude and engineering mindset Alan is the vice president of sales for his medium-sized family run manufacturer. When asked to describe the skills he looks for when hiring a technician, Alan said, “First and foremost is mindset. What their mindset where they look you know what’s maybe their quarterly goals or yearly goal and where do they want to be in ive years?” Second, he said, “attitude,” noting “they kind of go hand in hand.” “Willingness to learn” was third. He gave the example of two “very good” recent hires from a local community college. They were “prepared” and had a “good willingness to learn” and “that’s really all I ask for.” One issue employers face is many prospective workers do not have experience in manufacturing jobs. This is particularly true with young prospects. “Typically, if you have an engineering type of mind, you kind of want to learn, you kind of want to ix things and you play around your house with projects and what not.” When Alan interviews prospective hires with no prior experience, he asks them about projects they’re working on around the house. So if they’re a mechanically inclined person and they like tinkering and stuff like that which at the core that’s what engineering is, if they’re not working on any projects at home I really got to igure out why. Why do you want to do this then? Kevin is the third-generation owner of a small manufacturing company. He explained that he irst looks for experience, “whatever that experience might be” in and/or out of his ield as evidence of an engineering mindset. That experience manifests itself by their hobbies.
Are their hobbies hands-on type hobbies, you know? If their main hobby is video gaming as opposed to someone coming in who says he likes to maybe, he’s working on cars or he likes to do custom applications with cars or he’s got carpentry background. Those types of hobbies tend to lend themselves more towards the hands-on need that we have because even though the machines are doing the work, at the end of the day it’s the connection between your mind and what you would do if it was your hands guiding the machine. Now you’ve got to convert that to your mind into the computer… You have to have that mechanical ability. For Kevin, the technical ability to operate a machine still requires hands-on experience in order to build that connection between the mind, the hands, and the machine. Nick is the owner/CEO of a medium-sized injection molding company. He described his adolescent son as an example of the right “aptitude and engineering mindset.” “He just understands how things work. He can break them down, put them back together. He’s 12. He would be great in our tool room 15 years from now.” Nick describes himself as a “ inance guy” who does not really have those qualities himself, so he admires such an aptitude and he is willing to pay people who have it. “Quite frankly, a skilled person in our tool room can make $60,000 a year and same with the processing guys. So there’s good money if you’ve got the right aptitude for it.” Nick believes that people motivated to work in high tech manufacturing have a “engineering focused mind.” His employees typically do not have a college degree, but have some industry training. Nick describes three components to this mindset, an “attention to detail,” an “innate understanding of how things work” followed by the “willingness to take enough training to become pro icient in them.” Nick explained that someone can be willing “but there are still some specialties that you need to achieve” in the classroom, through on the job training, and working and learning in the ield. Nick called over a more “engineering minded” colleague to chip in. Nick’s colleague attributed some of that willingness to “upbringing.” “What did your dad do? Was he involved in tooling? Did you go to work with him? Did he work on cars at the house? Was he a mechanic?”
Nick’s colleague believed that young people who grow up doing handson work around the house became familiar with it and developed that engineering mindset. Brandon asks prospects in interviews about the kind of projects they work on with their parents. His newest co-op used to work on cars with her dad. He wants to hire young workers who have a natural inclination for the job. He sees that as evidence they are willing to work: In my engineers, my co-ops, one of the things I look for is what have they done at home with their parents? Mother or father, but more nine out of ten times father, yeah because even like the young lady that I have now, she did things with her father, worked around the car. For engineering, technical type positions it can come to you naturally or you have to work at it. I look for where it’s, by the time I’ve gotten to the person it’s, that it’s coming naturally. Now whether they had to work at it at some time in the past, I wouldn’t have necessarily known. But at the point that I’m talking to them, because I interview them, I don’t just take co-ops or BCE students. I actually interview them. Other supervisors in the company do not do that. Brandon wants to see evidence of natural interest and ability as demonstrated by projects workers have completed on their own. Brandon boasted that he takes more interest in his student co-ops than other supervisors in his company. He personally interviews his co-ops whereas other supervisors just take whoever is sent by the recruiting and staf ing department. Brandon had not always been able to get the co-ops he wanted and the ones sent by recruiting and staf ing were often disappointing. “No, I interview them because I want to have a gut feeling at least that this person’s going to it my—I hate to use the word requirement—but my feeling of how that person should it the job.” He needed to see evidence that the person had the inclination to it in the job. Employers also look applicants to show passion for the work even if they have no job experience in the ield. Paul is a senior engineer for a product design and development company. He described the passion
typical of people in his ield of industrial design. He does not know where it comes from, but from his own experience, “It’s something that is very poorly taught in school.” Paul was very into art in high school, but he did not discover industrial design until three years into his engineering program. Ronda is a manager for a company that makes products for defense contractors. Many of the workers have family members in the armed forces. “So they have a passion because they love what they do. They love being able to build products to protect the country.” Employers leave room for workers who come into the ield later in life as long as they show a desire to do the work and willingness to learn the skills necessary to do the job.
Expectations of Young Workers Employers who worked more closely with high school students, recent high school graduates, and/or college students did complain about a general lack of good attitude or work ethic among young workers. Carol is a human resources professional for a large public utility as well as director of training and workforce development. Carol coordinates an apprenticeship program for powerline technicians that recruits from a local career academy. The lack of personal responsibility skills among young workers is one reason why Carol’s company started investing in recruiting students as early as middle school. We recruit them almost like football players, you know? We go and talk to them about what they can do if they keep themselves out of trouble through their high school. But if they get a DUI or they get in trouble with the law we won’t be able to look at them at all. So starting now in ninth grade you need a clean record through…. Put your pedal to the metal and you have…all this potential. When asked what she looks for, she looks for ability as demonstrated by math skills and a safety test and physical ability as demonstrated by a physical test to see if they can operate in a con ined space because they will be required to work underground or at heights. “So we look for the ability. Physical ability has to be one thing that they have but ability to learn and a lot of it’s attitude and personality. We can
teach them the technical…” Jim believed that workers with a good STEM education needed to have a genuine interest in the job saying, “If you’ve got the desire and you want to do something, you’ll more likely work harder to igure out how to do it.” Carol gave an example of a high school student from the career academy who always wanted to be a powerline technician. He started in the internship and did a great job. He “would do anything” and “kept busy” which was not a surprise because the career academy teacher sends the “cream of the crop” into the program. He did ine on his climbing and heights tests to qualify for a competitive apprenticeship, but did not do well on his math and safety tests. He was rejected for the apprenticeship because his attitude was “I’ve been through the academy, so this is my [power]line. I don’t have to, well he didn’t, study.” Carol told him, “You never were promised and your attitude and your cockiness is what hurt you.” After that conversation, “he got serious” and became a “top, top go-to guy” in the company. “He knew what he wanted and went after it.” Carol believed this young man’s transformation was an example of their broader mission. [W]e know we can’t hire them all and we’re helping the city and our community by getting good students trained on good employability skills and good social skills and how to treat one another and be involved in their community because we’re a public utility so we’re all about teaching them service and loyalty to the community and that kind of thing so we’ve had them hired all over. This young man had a desire to do the job, but he did not earn the apprenticeship until he gained the intrinsic motivation, the willingness to learn and work hard, necessary to propel him to where he needed to be. She was also happy with the two other interns, a young man working in the meter shop and a young woman working in system control. These young workers exempli ied what Carol saw as the main goal of the program that their students would be employable in any ield. Harold is the head of public relations for a medium-sized US division of a large foreign-based manufacturing company. He works
very closely a high school engineering career academy in a neighboring county. Harold complained that overall young workers are from an “entitlement generation” who “lived off the fat of their parents.” He complained that in general high school students “don’t have the work ethic that we had when we grew up.” His company takes up the task of teaching students how to work hard. “[N]ow they’ve got to relearn that and fortunately that’s some of what these students are learning when they come to work for us.” Harold’s company hosts four interns every summer. He believes that his company’s internship program gives “very intelligent and very motivated” high school students hands-on practical experience that allows students to “discover what their career passions are” saying that if “you let them loose, it’s amazing what they’re able to do.” Harold pointed to two interns who were working outside his of ice. One young woman had recently turned 18 and was hosting an open house for his company. The other student, a young man, had only been working at the company for one week, but he “knew enough to talk intelligently” about the business at the open house. You challenge them and you make them rise to the occasion. And every step along the way when students see that they’re capable of doing these things themselves and that they’re able to contribute to the company and the company’s grateful for their participation, that’s when they excel. Harold’s experience led him to believe industry and the classroom should challenge students to understand their potential in order to harness their ability and creativity to replenish the workforce. Victor faced similar challenges in his internship programs. The pro ile below discusses how he hones work ethic skills of his high school interns.
Victor, Founder/Owner/President of Medium-Sized Manufacturing Firm Victor’s company also hosts summer internships for local high school students as young as 14 years old. The primary goal for his internship program was to teach students to take responsibility for their own personal and professional growth. Employers who hire high school
students and recent graduates describe the right attitude necessary to get a job, keep a job, and move up in their companies. “Before [technical] skills is the work ethic. Really that’s paramount. They have to have that.” Victor admitted work ethic was a broad term that covered various elements, but work ethic was mandatory to thrive in his company. “[W]ork ethic is #1, because we’ve given up on being able to say, ‘Well we’re going to satisfy our needs by a new hire.’ We just don’t even expect that. So it’s unfortunate.” Victor hires young workers with work ethic to make up for the lack of technical skills among applicants. For Victor, work ethic does not simply complement technical skills. Work ethic is a sign that a young worker can learn and develop the technical skills on the job and through further schooling. Victor described his own early career working in a company overseas as literally a “ditch digger” until the day he got an opportunity to show off his skills to upper management. “One day I walked into their of ice and I see the guy on the drafting board and he’s really struggling with something and I convinced him, ‘Hey, let me come in with my computer and I’ll show you some AutoCAD.’ They hadn’t used it before and their jaws just dropped.” Victor wants young workers to see opportunities and have an attitude that “nothing’s above you… Whatever the opportunity there is, whatever the pay is, you need to have the long-term goal for that.” For Victor, work ethic is the ability to recognize and seize on these opportunities with that attitude along with a passion for the job. Victor explained that he had some students who work independently as technicians who learned everything on the job. “They came here and they had no skills really.” He gave the example of one student who started out bending bolts and “had no feel for things.” He learned everything on the job before enrolling in community college with plans to eventually transfer to a university to get a mechanical engineering bachelor’s degree. “We completely rely on him now just as we would another technician.” Victor mentioned another young man he just hired who had attended the local university, changed his major twice, and left without getting his degree. But Victor “saw something in him,” his work ethic. Victor planned to cross-train him and encourage him to go back to get his bachelor’s degree.
When asked how he knows who to hire if they do not have speci ic skills, Victor said he looks at their interests and background to “try to get a feel for who they are” and “what type of ethics” they have. For Victor it consistently came back for work ethic because it is hard to judge based on the work experiences of people who often have a winding work history in which they have “jumped around from place to place to place.” Victor wanted to hire young workers who demonstrated dedication to indicate they would stay in the same job. Victor believed that workers in technical ields were motivated by their passion for the work. “It has to be a passion; they have to have a passion for it. I mean if you’re going to be good at anything you need a passion for it.” He encourages his interns to take advantage of any opportunities regardless of pay with an eye toward their long-term goals. There’s so many soft skills [we teach high school interns]. They have to show up on time. They have to tell somebody if they’re not going to be around… It’s a constant honing or shaping, molding…to the point of where you’re telling them that “Look, your attitude is bad. You’re acting like Mr. Know-it-all and no one will invest in you here. No one will tell you anything and if you don’t take that chip off your shoulder, you’re wasting a precious opportunity.” So there’s a lot of life correction going on. Victor does not hesitate to give interns the type of “life correction” or “constant honing or shaping, molding” to improve their work ethic and attitude in order to put them on the right path. I’m a big fan of peeling back to go back to the very root of everything, you know. And if the family breakdown, family structure is broken down that has impact all throughout so you can’t ix those things, you know. But you can try to replace some of it and again I think we have a lot more lexibility in industry than the school system does to be able to do that, you know what I mean? The interviewer followed up saying, “That’s almost parenting what you’re doing here” to which Victor responded, “It is. Yeah it is.”
Victor sees industry as playing the role of parents in helping young workers access their natural abilities and giving them the “correction” necessary to take advantage of opportunities. Victor sees his role as a boss and mentor as making up for the role fathers may no longer play in families. He believes that people who have the passion usually have a dad who taught them basic skills. “I ask that question a lot. ‘How did you get into this? Why’d you get interested in this, you know?’ And the ones, usually there was some mentor, someone that kind of got them into that initially.” Victor believes the robotics programs allow students to have the mentorship they may not have at home. Victor continues this process by teaching students the technical skills and employability skills needed to start a career and continue higher education toward a degree.
Willingness to Learn In this industry or really any that I know of in an engineering technical sort of role, that foundation of a four-year degree I think shows a level of commitment that’s important and a willingness to learn and an ability to learn. And you know, not everybody’s cut out for it, that’s ine but the people who would’ve been cut out for it tend to be the people who grow to the top…. So even if you don’t have a degree, you’re the type of person that probably would have right, does that makes sense? [Interviewer: Okay, yeah. If they had the opportunity or the money to go to school?] Absolutely and I think that’s the key and I think the trick there is it’s a willingness to learn and it’s a will to learn. If you don’t have a [four-year] degree that means that you’re reading a lot of books. Maybe now you’re reading a lot of websites and you’re really understand the fundamentals of how things work. And maybe you don’t know the right terminology or the right formula, but you can describe a problem in enough detail that someone who has a graph says, “Oh, you’re describing this thing” and you say, “Yeah that’s it, that’s the thing.” You need to have that to proceed. You can’t just come in an expect to do what’s asked of you
in a technical role and expect to go up.—Paul, Senior engineer, Product design and development irm. As an HR professional for a large manufacturer, Kate plays a role in determining where workers can best serve the company. When determining promotions and other reassignments, she looks at a worker’s attention to detail and how they’ve progressed in their previous roles in the company. Most importantly, she looks to whether they have a “desire to continue to learn and grow” because “you can’t train someone that isn’t willing to learn and grow.” She also looks to see if they are continually taking classes and taking advantage of other training and education opportunities toward their career path, particularly in new areas to increase their lexibility. Once Alan learns how prospective hires tinker at home and why they want the job, he asks them additional questions. “[W]hat’s the future look like? What do you want the future to look like? You want to do this now and this is great but what’s three, ive, ten years look like for you?” He wants new workers to want to get better and learn more and want to advance within the company. “As our company grows and gets bigger, I want somebody to grow with me and I can’t get better if everyone else isn’t.” His company provides tuition assistance to take any two-year or four-year college coursework related to the job as well as other continuing education and training opportunities from webinars to in-person workshops. Tuition assistance is common among employers to encourage workers to pursue opportunities but most employers do not speci ically require students to take coursework. They want workers to have the initiative to take classes on their own. Paul is a senior engineering at a product design and development irm. Paul described a “willingness to learn” that encourages workers to seek out information on their own. His company does not differentiate between degreed engineers and technicians, meaning workers who demonstrate this “willingness to learn” are viewed as lexible and have a higher potential for promotion than workers who simply possess knowledge. Paul explained how this “willingness to learn” from informal opportunities to pick up additional skills and on-the-job training to formal higher education in the forms of coursework and credentials.
Most employers have some type of formal orientation program for new workers. Paul described training at his company as “learn as you go.” New workers do not have a formal mentor. Someone in their design group who will “take them under their wing and show them the ropes.” Overall, Paul and his colleagues expect new workers to “perform pretty quickly after being hired.” They acknowledge workers face a “learning curve” and are willing to “absorb an extra 30% of the time” on projects to take some of the burden off new workers, but expect them to ask plenty of questions, something young workers, especially students, are hesitant to do. [Asking questions is] something that I think a lot of students are afraid to do. We’ve had that in people. You come in and you just think that you know everything. That’s the worst perspective ever. Here, you know, I’m a senior engineer here. I’m asking questions all the time, you know, and that’s part of it. You can’t possibly know everything about everything. You know what you know and what you don’t know you better learn quick. Paul explained that asking questions and learning quick is essential in his industry because “one day I’m working on this pallet pulling apart machinery. Another day I’m working on a child’s car seat and that afternoon I’m working on a medical device” and it is not possible to be an expert in each of those things. He further explained that if he is working for a client in the car seat industry, he would need to know how to look up Department of Transportation regulations and how to understand it in the way the client understands it. Workers need to be able to “learn as you go and not be intimidated” because they “can’t just BS” the client who knows the industry better. Workers should feel like they can ask clients and coworkers questions as part of their learning process instead of acting like they know everything. Paul also acknowledges the importance of formal schooling and credentials. In any engineering or technical job, getting a four-year degree “shows a level of commitment that’s important and a willingness to learn and an ability to learn and you know not everybody’s cut out for it, that’s ine but the people who would’ve been cut out for it tend to be the people who grow to the top.” Paul also
acknowledges that four-year degrees “will always jumpstart your career” and recommends it even though there are “good careers to be had” with a two-year degree. Essentially for Paul as well as other employers, the speci ic credentials are not as important as demonstrating the initiative to seek out information. I think the trick there is it’s a willingness to learn and it’s a will to learn. If you don’t have a [four-year] degree that means that you’re reading a lot of books. Maybe now you’re reading a lot of websites and you really understand the fundamentals of how things work. And maybe you don’t know the right terminology or the right formula, but you can describe a problem in enough detail that someone who has a graph says, “Oh, you’re describing this thing” and you say, “Yeah that’s it, that’s the thing.” You need to have that to proceed. You can’t just come in an expect to do what’s asked of you in a technical role and expect to go up. Paul expects upwardly mobile workers to show initiative beyond just doing the basics of the job. He expects them to learn more, be lexible, and do more to that they are deserving of a promotion.
Tom, Founder/Owner/President, Small Manufacturing Firms Tom primarily hires USF undergraduate students as interns to make up for what he believes is a shortage of “quality people, experienced people.” Tom had grown reluctant to using traditional means to hire workers. He explained that the local workforce board did a “pretty good job” of sending candidates but he believed there were no good candidates out there.. “You’ve got the dredge of the world. It’s a terrible thing to say. You get these guys that don’t want to work. They’ve got all sorts of problems. They don’t show up to work, so we just found out that I’d rather hire students.” Tom used to be a recruiter for a company in the Midwest. He explained that he drove his colleagues “nuts” because he would recruit university students with a 3.2 GPA and a “girlfriend pregnant, car payment, college loan” and hire them. “I was proven that my success rate in the ive years I did recruiting I had a higher retention than
anybody else did and they’re all recruiting the 4.0s because the 4.0 [student] can’t accept the workplace where he’s not #1. He can’t accept that somebody’s more smart than him.” Tom believes that the 3.2 student, “all he wants to do is work. He wants the paycheck.” Tom contrasted his ideal student with more well-to-do students who he has hired who did not show the desired work ethic. The ideal student is a 3.2 [GPA student], who’s paying for his own education and has a car payment. That’s the perfect student because he has to work. If a kid walks in here with a BMW and his father’s paying his education, he doesn’t make it six weeks because he can’t take it. These are professional people working out here. These guys are all making $50,000-$60,000 a year… so they’ll work with a student if they think he shows an interest. Tom mentioned a four-year university student who was the president of one of the student engineering clubs. “We had to let him go. He wouldn’t invest $6 in a tape measure, so we got out there and gave him three weeks. End of three weeks he didn’t have a tape measure, so we don’t need you.” Tom took this student’s failure to buy a tape measure as a sign that he was not committed to learning. The fulltime staff did not want to put the effort into training him. Tom felt like that one student was just a “bad selection” on his company’s part. He estimated there are 100–200 students at USF who he could hire for a job. He usually hires students who were working at supermarkets like Publix or Sweetbay or working at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, a major theme park down the street for the USF-Tampa campus. He admits that he burned out his student workers when he irst started recruiting them to work full-time summer jobs. “I never realized these kids never worked 20 hours a week part- time, so I bring them in here and work them 60 [hours].” He thought he was treating them as adults, but he soon realized, “You can’t do it to the [college] freshmen and sophomores.” Tom learned, “They don’t have the energy and they get burned out, they get lazy, they get sloppy, start missing work, and they get ired.” He admits that he burned out about three or four great students because he “treated them as adults workwise.” Tom had more success with a lexible schedule in which students come in and work
whenever they want. Students pick their 20 hours a week between daily 16-hour blocks on Monday through Friday and 10-hour blocks on Saturday and Sunday. Students schedule themselves and publish their own schedule. “One kid’s in charge of it. I don’t want to hear about it.” Students start off a $10 an hour. Most students make $10 their sophomore year, $11 as juniors, $12 as seniors, and $15 after they graduate until they ind another job. Tom realized he could increase his talent pool by opening up his shop on the weekends. Only students ages 21 and under can work during the Saturday and Sunday blocks. Tom does not even come in on the weekends. He leaves it up to his young workers. “Now I laugh at everybody. Everybody laughs at me when I tell them. I said my second shift is all students. They have keys to the building.” Tom laughed, “If you don’t like rap music don’t come in my place [on the weekends] because the music’s blaring.” Tom encourages other manufacturers to accommodate young workers. “Once the manufacturers realize they have to give lexibility, what you end up with is a huge populous of good people who want to work and they’re bright and energetic. So it’s a great asset to the manufacturer.” Tom likes to encourage his interns to get jobs elsewhere once they graduate because they are “bright kids that are energetic and they need to get exposure.” He wanted his interns to learn what is available out there. He admitted it would be easy for him to keep them there because students get too comfortable. “They enjoy it. They like it. Most of these kids are working their way through school. You give them 1000 hours a year at ten bucks an hour they’re making $10,000. And that’s more money they ever had in their life.” One of his irst interns was a woman who recently left to join the management program at a multinational conglomerate. “She never thought she’d want to get into manufacturing, now she loves it and she’s on her way.” Tom also gives lexibility to account for the personal needs of young workers. Tom is very passionate about hiring young workers from a variety of backgrounds particularly those who have encountered dif iculties in their lives and really need the work and willing to do what it takes to learn how to do the job. “I hire the disabled. I’ve hired exconvicts that needed a job or go back to jail. I’ve hired single women with children on welfare.” He gave an example of a disabled veteran he
met while adjunct teaching at a local university. Tom offered him a job on the condition that he enroll at the local community college to take a SolidWorks class. Tom hired another student who was hit by a drunk driver and was dealing with a related mental illness. Tom serves on local workforce boards and has become frustrated with what he believes are restrictions on hiring workers with disabilities and young people from marginalized groups who have been good workers for him in the past. Tom recalled getting “very upset” and frustrated while representing the local workforce board at a meeting hosted by the Florida Agency of Persons with Disabilities at the USF-St. Petersburg campus: I got up to talk and… I said, “Here’s the problem I have. We have categorized everybody. Everybody has a category. You’re either old, you’re on welfare, you’re coming out of foster care, going into foster care, you’re handicapped, you’re disabled, you’ve got this problem or that.” So I said to these people, “Everybody’s got something wrong with them. I don’t have one employee out there that doesn’t fall into some category which is true.” So I said, “Why are we always talking about this disabled? Why don’t we talk about your abilities instead of your disabilities because I’ve been in business for 25 years and I’ve never had a disabled person walk in here and apply for a job.” So I said, “Why don’t you stop what you’re talking about, putting all these rules and regulations in and quit putting up the roadblocks. Let’s knock these roadblocks and have bumps in the road and teach them how to go ind a job, teach them about manufacturing.” You got 2,000 people in Pinellas and Hillsborough and Pasco County are disabled and don’t have jobs. So I guess what’s happened is through my years of being on all these state boards and federal boards and all this, I’ve just come to the vast conclusion… manufacturing needs quality workers and the problem is we need to look outside the box at where the workers are. I’m saying there’s some 16 year old girl that got pregnant that is 25 years old now with two kids on welfare that could be the next inventor of the cure for cancer. And I say it
seriously, that guy in a wheelchair could design the next iPod. I just said there’s an untouched work force that we need to start tearing down these barriers and start saying, “Guys let’s expand our needs and think outside the box.” But we have to have both sides have got to come together and that’s what’s not happening. Tom hired students and young workers from a variety of backgrounds as long as he felt they had the work ethic to learn and do the job. Tom believed a young worker’s work ethic was a product of their situation and he gives them opportunities to demonstrate their work ethic and thrive. Tom is on the board of a local science museum. He built a manufacturing training center at the museum originally to serve high school students, but he has expanded it to serve middle school students and adults as well. He plans to teach soldering and SolidWorks “from the middle school all the way to the disabled.” His ultimate goal is to bring people with disabilities in and hold a one-day seminar on “what is manufacturing” and career opportunities in manufacturing. Those who remain interested can show their willingness to learn by enrolling in other classes offered at the center.
Reference Yarnall, Louise and Julie Remold. 2019. Working Stronger and Smarter: A Handbook on Theory and Techniques for Developing Employability Skills for Technicians. Menlo Park, CA: SRI Education.
© The Author(s) 2020 W. Tyson, Teaching and Learning Employability Skills in Career and Technical Education , Palgrave Studies in Urban Education https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-58744-4_4
4. Flexibility and Interpersonal Skills Will Tyson1 (1) Department of Sociology, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA
Will Tyson Email: [email protected] Abstract Employers want lexible workers who have the potential to perform a variety of tasks and jobs as necessary because they are responsible, have a good attitude, and are willing to learn and undergo regular on the job training. An HR manager for an engineering irm describes the types of lexibility she needs from young workers and how she identi ies these workers through recruitment and interviewing. Workers who demonstrate good interpersonal skills are more likely to keep jobs and get promotions. Employers pro iled describe the need for good social skills to get along with coworkers in small businesses, salespeople who can get along with clients, and teamwork skills necessary to work on creative design teams.
Flexibility [W]hat we look for is the behavioral side, how are they going to work with others? You’re sitting in close proximity to a lot of other people who are doing a lot of work, either on the phone or person to person. So being able to work with disruption, being able to shift gears and change direction. Because we have to do that for our customers all the time to a painful point sometimes, so they
have to be really lexible.—Diane, Human resources manager for a medium-sized engineering services irm Kate believed that new workers could be better prepared by showing more “initiative” de ined as “drive to not just learn one thing or know one area but be lexible” and “wanting to be cross-trained in other areas” of the company not just areas they’ve worked in the past. Such lexibility is necessary in order to thrive in a “cyclical” manufacturing business. Brandon looks for people who clearly demonstrate their interest in the job. This ties into the willingness to stay a little late after work as described in Chapter 3. So again what I look at is, ‘Okay, what are the people that are not necessarily just working those minimum hours?’ Because that tells me they’re interested for sure, so the type of work that they’re doing, that they’re not afraid to ask questions and this could also be on the technical level in other aspects of the company. Brandon wants his business cooperative education (BCE) co-op students to ask questions about other aspects of the company as evidence of their willingness to learn and their potential to ful ill the various requirements of different full-time job. Lisa stressed that the future of the workforce will be “more general and less specialized” as lean manufacturing becomes the standard. Lisa expressed the need for a “jack of all trades type employee” instead of an engineer or technician who specializes in a certain area. Even the equipment requires lexible employees. Now you’re seeing where the equipment is mechanical and electrical and PLC (programmable logic controller) all at once. So now you’re seeing that technician that has to be able to understand how to do PLC programming and do troubleshooting of electrical and troubleshooting of mechanical, you know? You don’t have the luxury now of having, you know, that single specialty anymore. And you’re seeing engineering moving, you know, a little bit more in that direction too.
Alan gave an example of a new hire in sales who was being trained in how the business system works. Alan wanted him to understand “how all these pieces it together” within in the entire business. So he’s not just in this hole over here and people come to him with problems. So he understands the issues that they face. So when he gets calls from them or he needs assistance from them, he understands why they’re doing it. Knowing why is real important to me, why we do something. Alan explained that his some of his training would be sales and some of his training would be technical, focusing on the products and how they’re applied. Alan expected the new worker to learn the speci ic expectations for his job, how he would be reviewed, how that job intersects with the rest of the company, and also know how and why his coworkers do their jobs. Harry explained that lean manufacturing requires more demands on people so if they have the right skillset, “they can grow themselves into any type of job.” Technicians at his company have become engineers because they take courses after they’ve mastered the basics. “It’s not letting your skills go soft. Look at what you need to do in your education to stay fresh.” At one point, Harry took a statistics course because he wanted to do some statistical process control on a particular job he was doing and nobody at the company could help him. “I took that and put it into place myself, just because I wanted to do it and a lot of folks it was an eye-opener because nobody had done it before so it changed the way we did business.” He wants workers to “look for opportunities to connect the dots” because “you might just see two pieces and not realize how they it together to do something else.” Harry prefers that workers are “self-directed” in order to do the primarily autonomous work in his company. Harry pointed to a group of workers who indirectly work for him remotely and answer to a manager in another city. He causally talks to them during the day, but they primarily work on their own. “We have to have self-directed people that can learn the job, take a hold of it and show some initiative in getting the job done. Some folks just want to sit back and wait for people to tell them what to do. Can’t have it.” Workers with the right
initiative can seek out the information they need independently or collaboratively to do whatever they need to do to get jobs done. Travis is the engineering manager for a small manufacturing company that designs and produces small products for the medical industry. He is the engineering manager despite having an engineering technology AAS degree with no bachelor’s degree. He considered his path to be quite different than a typical graduate of an engineering technology program because he started working with a small company that recognized his talents and gave him responsibility. Well I would say I was quite fortunate to you know get tied in with the people that I did because they looked past just simply my education. They didn’t care. So they were looking at the ability and as soon as they saw me working they were like, give him something else, give him something else. Travis explained that it make take longer for someone in a larger company to get recognized. Travis drew from his experience working at a smaller company in the 1990s. He was one of three employers at the company who had a less than a four-year degree, but were still considered to be engineers. That small company was then bought by a larger company. As soon as this larger company took over they—I don’t want to say they demoted us—but when they divvied out our new business cards, it did not say engineer and we were like, “Oh well isn’t that a slap in the face!” So unfortunately that’s kinda what I’m hinting at, is that the reality is a larger company, a larger company’s gonna limit that chance. So my suggestion to a student, an engineering tech student would be, if you’re happy with the education you have, try and ind—and I know it’s dif icult because you just want employment, but I would try and ind employment with a smaller company that is gonna want you to be more diverse. You show them what you can do and you’ve probably got a lot better chance of that career path leading further, if that makes sense.
Employees in smaller companies need to have more lexibility and workers who demonstrate lexibility in small companies are more likely to advance their career. Paul gave an example of how lexible employees are valuable in smaller companies. Paul is a senior engineer for a small product design and development company. His company has about 25 employees. Some of these employees are part of a rapid prototyping group that includes mechanical engineers and mechanical designers who are essentially technicians without a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Being in this group is a big opportunity to show off lexibility and skills that is not limited by educational background, prior work experience, or their position in the company. What we ind usually are just really lexible people who kind of have come from all sorts of different backgrounds and tend to make that it. We do have some people who started out as like engineering drafters or have engineering technology degrees. Some of those folks are in the most senior level positions at our company now and other folks have mechanical engineering degrees or industrial design degrees and are still doing lots of that work as well. At any time, any member of the group could be working on any number of tasks including doing computer-aided design (CAD) using Pro/ENGINEER or SolidWorks and drafting technical drawings. They could be running any number of tests using test ixtures including life cycle tests, pressure tests, and functional engineering tests. Particularly strong workers would be designing and developing the test igures and creating clean test protocols and reports. The group also does incoming part inspections for new components being developed like irst article inspections and short run production inspections. They also build prototypes meaning workers may be running a mill, running a lathe, using any hand tool, hand fabricating, welding, utilizing any number of skills. Paul describe this rapid prototyping group as a “kind of a democratic sort of group” meaning “once you’re in, you’re in and you know you’re used to the best of your abilities.” His company always has
opportunities for entry level positions that give new employees and opportunity to grow in the organization. Paul noted that one advantage to working in consumer products is that the clients take full responsibility for developing projects so the clients have their own professional engineers on-site to do the formal technical documentation. Paul and his colleagues support that work “so there’s an opportunity to really grow and get very deep into a project.” Small company or divisions of medium-sized companies that need lexible employees emphasize the interviewing process as a way to quickly determine if a potential employee can do the numerous jobs that an employee may be expected to do. Kevin is the president of a small family-owned manufacturer that specializes in machining precision components for defense and other industries. His company generally struggles to ind quali ied employees and does not have time to train. Kevin uses an informal interviewing process in which he and his staff casually talk with the interviewee about the types of machines and controls they’ve operated or programmed. He tries to feel them out for their knowledge to make sure they are lexible enough to adapt and complete multiple tasks on the job. This is a business of resources where everything you need is around you. It’s more important that you know how to get the information than it is for you to memorize the information. So I like to see that. I like to see their resourcefulness. Are they able to pick up a programming guide? If they’ve never programmed a particular brand of machine that may change, that often times will change the type of code that’s used in that machine. Are they able to adapt? If they know they want to make an arc move and this machine it’s a G2 (call code) but on the other machine it might be a G5, are they able to easily ind that information? Because at the end of the day all I need is the machine to run from a business standpoint. Kevin admitted that it was impossible to be sure about a job candidate from an interview but he could at least weed out people with some knowledge of programming but who did not have the skills to be a CNC machinist or the lexibility to learn on the job.
Kevin gave an example of a Marine Corps veteran he interviewed a few weeks prior who looked like a great hire on paper for a CNC machinist job. His whole team was excited. “[E]verything you can imagine on the resume that an employer like myself wants… My HR department was excited. We already had his paperwork illed out. I thought for sure this guy’s going, we’re going to put him right to work.” But in the interview, Kevin noticed some things that were “questionable.” He knew the terminology and “talked the talk” but once Kevin used some different terminology, he struggled and it raised red lags with HR. So they gave him a screening test they typically give applicants and he did not perform well enough on the test. “If he had just come in and said, ‘Hey this is where I’m at. I want to be there and this is what I have so far’ we probably would’ve hired him.” A few days later, HR wanted to contact the veteran to gauge his interest in applying to be an operator. Kevin decided not to interview him again “because this person’s going to be looking for jobs the entire time he’s here” because he wanted $25 as a machinist and Kevin was only willing to offer $13 or $14 as an operator. As an HR professional, Diane is well-aware of the challenges of quickly identifying job candidates who can it the diverse and emerging needs of a company. Diane described the different types of lexibility needed to apply the personal qualities described in Chapter 3 to lexibility as well as the role of social skills in the workplace. She also describes behavioral interviewing techniques and personality assessments she believes will help companies streamline their staf ing processes. Young workers who have the right employability skills and know how to demonstrate those skills in the interview will get their chance to show their technical skills and lexibility in the workplace.
Diane, Human Resources Manager, Engineering Services Firm Diane is the human resources manager for an engineering services irm. Although she does not have an educational background in STEM, she has a long career as an HR professional for manufacturers. Diane primarily recruits through job fairs at four-year universities. She also hires from community colleges. When asked what skills she looks for in
students, she said, “We look for initiative. We look for critical thinking, problem solving, quality, safety, the mentality more the behavioral side” along with engineering design skills that Diane explained all colleges provide. The hard part in selection for Diane was behavioral skills. “What we look for is the behavioral side, how are they going to work with others?” Diane takes particular note of the unique stressors of what she describes as a “small cubicle environment” in her of ice. You’re sitting in close proximity to a lot of other people who are doing a lot of work, either on the phone or person to person. So being able to work with disruption, being able to shift gears and change direction. Because we have to do that for our customers all the time, you know, to a painful point sometimes, so they have to be really lexible. Diane described the lexibility skills she wants to see from workers. First, workers have to be lexible to manage dif icult working environments and solve complex problems to maximize ef iciency. Her company hosts paid internships for college students. These internships offer a “realistic environment because the jobs here are very dif icult.” Interns work a 40-hour week, Monday to Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., but they get to vicariously experience the stressors faced by employees. It’s high pressure and not that we don’t make mistakes but that we like to look at everything and make sure it’s right the irst time, you know, the quality side of doing a good job because rework costs money and we don’t have any. We’re lean here. We’re very lean and we can’t afford mistakes. We can’t afford reworks. Lean manufacturing emphasizes eliminating waste from manufacturing processes. Time management and problem-solving skills are at a premium because workers are under a great deal of pressure. Diane described weeks with a project deadline when workers stay well past 5:00 p.m. and work 50–60 hour weeks. Second, Diane also wants workers who are lexible in terms of handling multiple roles beyond their own background. Project management skills are also critical including “being able to do more
than just what you were educated for…. You need to be able to have a pulse on more than just what your discipline was that you went to school for.” She used herself as example. She went to school for human resources, but she cannot simply sit in an HR role. She has to understand engineering, understand the industry overall, and she has to have some inancial expertise. Diane explained that project managers have to oversee and hire engineers from different engineering disciplines. Managers have to be able to negotiate the terms of the project including legal aspects of the project. Project managers also have to manage budgets and make sure payments come in and go out on time. “I see the future being very much multi-talented and because of the economy you’re going to have to do more with less head count so [workers are] going to have to be able to cross disciplines.” Third, workers need to lexible enough to adapt to different situations on the job. Speci ically, Diane also noted that young workers need to be more inquisitive and better at asking questions to be more prepared for jobs in technology. She gave an example of two new technician interns using their in-house time keeping system. One student, Jake, quickly asked a few questions up front, ran into some problems, asked more questions and got it resolved. Diane did not hear from him again and his timesheets were processed properly. Things were not as smooth for the other student, Kyle. “Critical thinking is really where I think that happens” which is why it is important to ask questions. Diane does not expect young workers to easily pick up a new system, but she does expect students to “sit down with it, try to work their way through it, not be afraid to get in there and do it.” Instead, Kyle was “very hesitant.” “I bet I had him in my of ice 12 times before he got his time sheet done.” Diane said he was “quick to stop and ask” but he did not think about “Well what’s going to happen if I go past this?” He was afraid he would do something wrong in the system. Diane reassured Kyle saying, “There’s nothing you can do in there that can’t be ixed, so don’t worry about that.” According to Diane, Kyle was a technician but did not behave like a technician. She predicted that if she gave each one a personality assessment, both would have a strong IQ; however, Jake would rate as an analytical thinker whereas Kyle would rate as a “relational person” on opposite ends of the spectrum on popular assessments. “Technically they’re both very smart but their
brains work differently. One is visual and the other is not… It’s just how they are so I don’t think one is right or wrong.” Diane identi ies workers with these skills through the recruiting and hiring processes. Her specialty is behavioral interviewing, a strategy to get applicants to demonstrate how they’ve responded to past situations. I would say “Tell me a time when you speci ically ran into a problem.” I want to know what the problem was… Maybe they found something that was mislabeled or misconnected, wasn’t going to work the way that they knew it should be designed, and so then I’ll further and I’ll ask them “Well what did you do at that point when you found it?” And what I’m usually looking for is that they thought about what the corrective action needed to be, “What do I need to do to resolve it? Is there more than one option?” And I’m looking for them to tell me that they’re thinking irst and then they’re communicating with others and that’s what I want them to tell me. Diane wants workers who can demonstrate how they solved problems in groups as an indication of their teamwork skills and they will communicate with their coworkers. If they give me a short answer, that’s usually not a good thing and I’ll try to probe without giving them too much of a lead. But if they don’t tell me that they thought irst and then collaborated with their teammates, they didn’t get the answer right. Diane credits the local four-year university and community college for preparing students for behavioral interviews. Students are no longer surprised by these questions and more students than ever respond positively resulting in increased hiring from local colleges. Diane would like to see more personality assessments in college in line with the personality assessments employers use. She does not use personality assessments at her current company although she used cognitive testing at her previous job. She used the popular Wonderlic test to determine if applicants had a “minimum cognitive level to learn and problem solve” and to understand their learning style. “Are they
hands on? Do they have to see it done or do they like to read and apply?” She also used the Big Five personality test to assess the ive basic dimensions of personality (extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness to experience). She believes more and more employers will be using similar assessments in the future.
Social Skills We have 35 employees. And in a smaller group like that it takes one employee to change the tone for the day. So nobody gets hidden, right?—Lisa, vice president of operations of a small manufacturer Finding the right worker was particularly dif icult for small businesses and/or family-owned businesses. Seven of the 26 employers described their company as a “family business” or “like a family.” Understanding small business social dynamics was important in terms of “cultural it” and maintaining certain standards for both formal and informal workplace conduct. As mentioned in Chapter 2, 89% of irms in the region employ fewer than 50 workers including a third with fewer than 10 employees (O’Neil et al. 2016). Employers made a speci ic distinction between the social skills necessary for a small manufacturer and what they perceived to be the optional social skills needed to work at a large manufacturer. Employers distinguished between engineer jobs in larger companies that did not typically have a social component and engineers and technicians in their own small companies who were expected to regularly engage with coworkers and clients. Brandon gave the example of a community college graduate who used to work in the instrumentation & control engineering group at his irm who was able to “maneuver” into a promotion by “being aggressive.” Brandon explained, “It’s one thing to be an engineer and just work at the position. It’s one thing to be an engineer and be involved.” He gave a counterexample of Roy, a former co-op at his company who was not a good social it with his small company.
He was going to be a good engineer, but could he work in our atmosphere? We said no. And we told him, “OK, Roy this is what you need to do. You need to ind yourself a good large engineering company and we know you’ll succeed there because you know how to think. You know how to do the calculations and you’ll be happy doing that kind of work.” Now we didn’t say to him, “We don’t think you could communicate in our environment,” but that was really the problem. Brandon explained, “There are certain people can it into a position… You can’t look at two structural engineers in two different companies and say that they’ll it into the position because it depends on the position.” An engineer in a large company can thrive by keeping his head down and doing calculations, but an engineer or technician in a small company has more responsibility and has to get along socially with more people. Tom gave the example of an intern who recently graduated from college but couldn’t ind a new job. “He’d come in second on every interview because he had no social skills.” He had extensive experience but struggled in his interviews. Tom encouraged him to apply for jobs at a large multinational engineering irm instead of striking out applying for jobs at small local manufacturers who placed a premium on social skills. Despite working for a large manufacturer, Steve believed that social skills were key to personal satisfaction in the workplace. Well I think like every job I think there has to be some personal satisfaction, you know? There has to be some what do you call it, your ive basic needs, Maslow is it? Okay, you got to take care of those, so you have to make a decent buck. You have to have decent working conditions, got to like what you’re doing. But he also stressed the social component that workers have to “enjoy the people that you’re working with… And everyone has to be able to work together.” Steve believed the social component of a job complements the personal aspects of the job that allow people to be ful illed and earn a living.
Diane works in a foreign-owned multinational company that boasts people from 17 different cultures among 70 employees in the Tampa Bay location. Working with others includes getting along with people from different cultures including the primary challenge of adjusting to people who have different beliefs. You have to respect other cultures, even though you may not agree with them. And we have 17 [cultures] and some of them are pretty different from ours, you know, so I think the challenge is there, but I also think the bene it is there, you know. You learn about how to get along with others that aren’t like you. Diane describes her company as “like one huge family.” Diane believes the multicultural background of her company is a strength that allows her to successfully recruit younger workers into a “dif icult work environment” she describes as a “loud environment in a cube” in which most of the engineers wear headsets. Diane believes the leadership of her company is “different than anywhere I’ve ever worked” because they “recognize the attributes of people, initiative, quality.” The leadership at Diane’s company recognizes talent “because they work closely together all the time.” Diane believes this is typically a challenge for leaders of large organizations that her leadership has overcome in order to create a respectful work culture.
Lisa, Vice President of Operations, Small Manufacturer Lisa is vice president of operations for a small woman-owned defense contractor with a successful education business. The biggest challenge for Lisa is inding and hiring and keeping workers who are the right social it for the company. The interview process is not suf icient for her to actually get to know potential workers. Lisa speci ically lamented, “People tend to not be themselves in an interview. They tend to want to bring in a false them.” She believed that interviewees do not prepare for the interview and igure out how they are going to it the company in a way that would allow them to be themselves. [Job candidates are] not doing their research up front to understand the company and understand what the company
needs and seeing how they’re going to it that company so that they can just be themselves in the interview. They try to bring in this false person, so you don’t get to assess whether or not that person is the right it for the company, right? So most times when the company assesses somebody you have this process that you go through and a lot of times you’ve assessed their resume and saw their background and a lot of times the company will do the phone interview where you’re doing the technical skills irst before you ever bring them in. And by the time you do that face to face you’ve already assessed whether or not they have the technical background and the technical I’ll call it “chops,” whether or not they’re going to you know be able to do the job portion of it. By the time they walk in your front door you’re really seeing where they’re going to be that it right? So that’s when you’re really trying to ind out whether or not…their personality matches the company personality. In this respect, Lisa felt that prospective employees are unable to show how they are going to it into her company. The company does a background check and assesses technical skills during the phone interview, but Lisa admitted that she does not know if a new hire will have the right personality for the company until their irst day of work. At that point, she wants that new hire to “drop your guard and be you when you walk through the front door.” Understanding of social expectations was important in terms of “cultural it” and to maintain certain standards for workplace conduct. Employers commonly described this struggle to ind workers with the right social it, particularly in smaller irms. Lisa described her company as a “family-oriented organization” in which the leadership of the company “from the owner to the chief operating of icer to the HR person” goes through every morning and says “Hello” and “Good morning” to make sure everybody is doing okay and to see “what’s going on in your life to make sure people are good.” Everybody has a choice when they walk out the door in the morning, if it’s going to be a good day for them or a bad day for them. And I call it picking up whatever emotional bag you’re
going to pick up for the day, right? We’ve got to know what emotional bag they picked up that day so we know what the climate’s going to be, right? So they know, we know what do they need from us from that day, because one person that picked up the wrong emotional bag can set the tone and we need to know if there is some intervention that we need to do for the day and going around and just saying, “Hello” and “How’s your day?” tells us whether or not what’s the tone for the day, right? And if we need to step in and do something right away for that day. For Lisa and her fellow executives, it is important to know the “emotional bag” each employee brings to work to assess the overall work climate for that day. In a small company, one person can throw off the day for everyone else. We have 35 employees. And in a smaller group like that it takes one employee to change the tone for the day. So you know, nobody gets hidden, right? So we want to make sure that we know if we need to do something to change the tone for the day and if somebody needs our help or needs our assistance. So when I say it’s family, it really is family. Lisa and other small business leaders need to know how their employees are doing each day. Greeting workers serves as a daily assessment of the culture and social climate of the company and a sort of wellness check for individual employees that helps them determine if they need to intervene in some way.
Leadership and Managing Client Interactions And when we’re looking for a person, be it in sales or from a technician’s standpoint, internal, they’re going to be talking to our customers. They’re going to be talking to other employees. They’re involved in the process. We’re a small business… They can’t hide…. —Alan, vice president of sales for a medium-sized engineering design manufacturer
Kevin is the third-generation owner of a small manufacturing company. He drew a speci ic contrast between his small family-owned company and larger irms with more turnover in order to justify his focus on personal characteristics and interpersonal skills in hiring and promotion. “We have employees that have been here over 30 years. Most people when they come in if they do their job well they like staying here because we are small, very family oriented.” He explained that what he needs from an employee in his 30-person shop is “very different from a 100-man or a 200-man shop where they get a lot of turnover and they’re more de ined in their prerequisites.” Kevin emphasizes personality because “in a small shop if you don’t have the right personality it doesn’t matter what your skills are.” Kevin said he has chosen not to hire many “very quali ied, very good machinists” whose personality was not going to mesh with his company. And that is a problem, you know? I’ve tried it a couple of times where I said ‘maybe when they get in here it’ll [mesh]’ but egos don’t go very far [in a small of ice]… Especially if you’re in a leadership position where you come in as a CNC machinist. If I bring somebody from the outside in and their title is a CNC machinist, they immediately have some authority. Operators report to the machinists. The machinists program the CNC machines and leave instructions for CNC operators “so if there’s no good communication skills then things don’t go well.” Brandon made a distinction between his previous position in which he primarily dealt with the client and his current position in which he primarily communicates with the crew who is doing the work to make sure he understands what they need to get the work done. Everyone he hires, especially co-ops, needs to be able to communicate with the crew without being demeaning. He wants leaders and future leaders “to be able to work with other people, to be aggressive without being too selfassured.” Ronda looks for evidence of leadership in their prior job experience, especially before hiring someone directly out of high school. Even a young worker in retail or food service who had been an assistant manager has some evidence that they have the potential to lead. When
considering candidates for promotion and other placements, Kate looks at their previous experience but also “how they interact with people, their people skills.” Carol gave an example of two managers. The irst was a powerline technician who had a two-year degree. He was promoted to acting manager even without a four-year degree because “people got along with him and he was still able” to do his job. Eventually, her company brought in an outside hire to be the permanent manager. He “had all the degrees and everything” in engineering and knew the industry but he had “awful” personal skills. He was eventually moved to a project role in which he did analysis by himself. The former acting manager was reinstalled as permanent manager and started working on his bachelor’s degree from an online program. Larry described people skills a “big challenge” inding the right people for sales jobs. He hires people with engineering technology backgrounds to work in technical sales to sell manufactured products for his small distribution company, but technical skills are not enough when working with clients. Having a practical knowledge or a practical application from an engineering school is nice, but the key part of what we do too is we serve people. So people who are very driven by the technology that don’t understand what it’s like to develop relationships, it’s pretty hard to have those people in sales. You need both…. And there’s no formula, there’s no perfect equation. Larry believes high schools should do more to promote jobs like technical skills with the hope of developing a workforce who knows the technology and can develop relationships. Until then, Larry seeks the perfect balance by hiring “both ways.” He will hire technical people and train them to be salespeople and he will hire salespeople and train them to learn technical skills. Diane gave an example of an engineer at her company who was moving into a sales job. She believed he had the “attributes to sell” and sales was a “better it for his makeup.” She was convinced he would do a good job once they could “teach him the process.” She noted that it was much easier to teach technical skills than it is to teach the “behavioral
and attribute side.” Alan shares some of the same struggles as a sales executive.
Alan, Vice President of Sales, Medium-Sized Engineering Design Manufacturing Firm Alan is the vice president of sales for his medium-sized family run manufacturing irm. He describes his company as “traditionally in the manufacturing space” saying “We help manufacturers increase ef iciency essentially at the simplest form.” His company works in industrial distribution and value add manufacturing across multiple engineering disciplines. As vice president of sales, he looks to hire salespeople who have engineering and/or technical skills as well as the right soft skills. Technicians in the company also have extensive interaction with customers as well. He describes the industrial salesperson as a “hybrid” position for three reasons. [W]hen you take a true design engineer, (1) it’s hard for him to get them to talk to people and (2) to get up out of their desk to go see other people and talk to them. And then (3) once you get them to do those things it’s hard because they want to go and design everything but that’s not their job. Their job is to sell stuff… The role of the engineer is to design. The industrial salesperson should “help the customer along and be an extension of but not be” the engineering department. Alan explained that a salesperson is an expensive component of the overall budget, but it is worth it when they can get that person who can do both. “They’ve got the gift of gab, but they’re also mechanically inclined, they understand the engineering portion of it.” It is dif icult for Alan to ind people who have that particular combination of technical skills, social skills, and the desire to focus on sales. He recently hired someone without extensive technical experience who had experience working with customers. He drew a contrast between people with sales experience and a “traditional iveyear degree student” who “might want to go sit in the desk and play on Facebook half the day and then the other half a day design stuff.” He
inds applicants with two-year degrees “a little bit more attractive” because they may want to be a design engineer, mechanical engineer, or electrical engineer, but “they don’t necessarily want to go and be sitting behind a desk.” The key question for Alan was “Are they going to work well with others?” Alan drew a contrast between engineers employed by his customers and technicians in his company who are expected to engage with customers and coworkers. I’ve got plenty of engineer customers that they have an engineering department and they sit in the corner. It’s a dark room and they have their headphones on. They don’t interact with anybody. And when we’re looking for a person, be it in sales or from a technician’s standpoint, internal they’re going to be talking to our customers, they’re going to be talking to other employees, they’re involved in the process. We’re a small business. They can’t hide, so it’s not so much that it’s bad, but if that’s the kind of job you’re looking for it’s just not going to be a good it for us. Customer interaction in the ield or at the workplace was key for Alan and other employers from small irms and employers hiring for sales jobs that required a technical background.
Teamwork and Managing Con lict Anybody that we bring into the studio [has to have] some softer skills like the ability to communicate, the ability to critically analyze ideas, the ability to not be protective of your ideas because here you will go through 100 good ideas to get one great idea and you have to be willing to get rid of it. You have to basically come up with an idea and be willing to let it die right in front of you and that’s a very hard skill for a lot of people.—Paul, senior engineer for a product design and development company Tom teaches lean manufacturing to middle school and high school at the manufacturing training center mentioned in his Chapter 3 pro ile. He does an activity in which he gives students the parts to make a
working clock. “You build a clock. I build a clock. Takes you ive minutes, takes me ive minutes. Two of us work together and we’re making them in four minutes apiece and the object is teamwork, bringing the people together.” He does another activity in which he gives students jobs such as a warehouse manager, production manager, assembler, tester and they work together to form a small company. The irst time he did it, he thought to himself, “You inally lost your mind” because the students were screaming and yelling. But the principal thanked him saying, “This is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. This is the only thing I’ve ever seen for middle school that teaches teamwork, forces them to do teamwork.” Tom had taught over 2000 children in two counties. Victor gives his high school interns the opportunity to practice teamwork skills. His summer program includes a formal rotation in which six interns rotate through six different areas of the company. They had one project they worked on together in which they applied everything they learned and collaborated as a team. Tom believes this type of active interpersonal engagement is necessary to address shortages in entry level manufacturing jobs. Albert explained that due to the “nature of modern manufacturing in a high-tech environment, job descriptions are not as restrictive or constrictive as they used to be.” Workers are required to do more multitasking and teamwork than in the past. Where it used to be “Oh I’m hired to operate this drill press, that’s what I do all day long,” now “I’m a set up guy and I run these four machines simultaneously” or “I’m a CNC operator and I also troubleshoot this and I lead this team on once a week meetings on how to get more ef icient.” Steve perceives major cultural differences between himself and today’s students. Steve thinks young people today are interested in “instant type grati ication” saying, “they’re not real big on being told anything other than they’re great and they’ve done a wonderful job. God forbid if you give them some constructive criticism because they’re not accustomed to that.” He takes issue with what he perceived to be a failure to engage in con lict and accept criticism among younger workers. Steve does not think young people know how to compete
“because everybody gets a trophy,” re lecting the common “participation trophy” trope. That’s not like that out in the business world, we’re competing. If you don’t do a good job, things are going to happen. You’re going to be told number one that you’re not doing a good job. You’re going to be shown how to do that job better. If you don’t do it, then you’re out the door and it’s hard. Harry believed the workforce of the future was people who can “function independently but with a team.” He described a typical situation in which technicians are working on their own parts of a task, but they have to come together and “blend it with others.” Workers communicate with each other to accomplishment mutual tasks and they also communicate with their superiors. Harry quoted a former director he worked for as saying, “I don’t want to be surprised by any problems.” For him, good communication skills including knowing “what questions to ask” and “when to ask” peers and superiors and not being afraid to ask for fear of “punishment” from leadership. Members of a team work together and are not afraid to give up some of their individuality in order to advance the goals of the team. Tom boasted that he had a higher retention rate with his “3.2 [GPA]” workers than companies that hired students with a 4.0 GPA because “the 4.0 can’t accept the workplace where he’s not number one. He can’t accept that somebody’s more smart than him.” Employers are looking for workers who can be good members of teams not the best individual worker. Ronda is a manager at a large national irm that builds products for defense contractors. She values workers with “strong communication skills, strong team interaction, someone that’s willing to take the initiative.” She also prefers workers who are able to read and interpret technical drawings, but is willing to train workers for those tasks as long as they have the right employability skills. For Ronda, communication and team skills include a willingness to speak up and risk the type of con lict that’s necessary in order to remain competitive: The communication and the team skills are extremely important because in order for us to remain competitive we have to always
improve our processes. And so it really takes somebody that’s been on the loor that raises their hand when something doesn’t look right, that contacts engineering saying, “Hey there’s a better way of doing this” and getting engineering involved or the supervisor involved and being able to update a process, work instructions to where there’s a better way to build it and suggest ideas to the team, something that’s going to improve our performance which results in it getting back to the customer which keeps us competitive. Ronda claimed she had “70 percent success” hiring workers with little training or experience in manufacturing who have “great ambition and they’re energetic” who seem like “they would be a good team player.” For employers, teamwork and communication skills also include the ability and willingness to give and receive constructive criticism. Paul described how these skills are necessary in the very collaborative ield of industrial design.
Paul, Senior Engineer, Small Product Design and Development Firm Paul explained that he ended up in engineering by chance because he was good at science and math and he was really into art as a child. His university had a co-op program that allowed him to alternate between working and attending classes. “I somehow didn’t see how exciting the career could be based on school but what was awesome about [my university] is you get the opportunity to work out in the business world and so by the time I graduated I had two years of work experience.” He believes it would take most people 10 years to end up in a comparable position. He started his co-op at a medical device company in which he was “wearing a white lab coat in a testing facility, cover my beard, and little hat and booties” and he knew that was not the type of engineer he wanted to be. The job focused on solving technical problems and conducting research and he could not be creative. Eventually he moved into industrial design in which he did product design and development working with people in different industries working on different projects in fast pace settings while using CAD programs and building 3D parts to be on the “creative edge in terms of making stuff.” Paul’s
design and development company does similar work with a focus on transportation along with consumer products including medical devices. The company focuses on “humanizing the technology” by making ergonomically designed products people want to use. Paul explained that in the design community attracts people who want to be “creative in a professional way.” He explained that industrial design is a “hidden discipline” that is not easy to break into because it is a small community. Paul is very passionate about his ield and seeks to promote the ield by hosting industry tours for student groups. Paul’s company does not hire high school students because they require more of a technical foundation. But he is eager to hire young prospective workers who demonstrate their preparation and skills in interviews. When asked how young workers could be better prepared for a job at his irm, Paul re lected back on the communication skills he learned through his university co-op experience. The co-op featured small one or two credit hour courses. The instructor was also a placement coordinator who helped students ind jobs. Upperclass students assist the instructor by helping conduct mock interviews, identifying ethical problems workers face on job, and teaching underclass students how to write a good email from a student to student perspective. “It teaches you all the sort of things that if you made mistakes like that on your real job you probably would have to get ired but you can make those sorts of a mistakes as a co-op or an intern because someone’s looking over your shoulder.” The co-op gave him opportunities to fail that he would not have had on the job. This is how Paul said the co-op “prepared me in ways that I couldn’t have imagined.” Paul gave the example of learning professional writing through the co-op. Young workers need to learn how to communicate formally with clients both in terms of their words and their overall presentation. Young workers needed the “critical skills” necessary to “write a proper email with a greeting and a body and a closing and a signature at the end.” Simply writing in text messages and tweets was not suf icient. “We can’t be talking to a million dollar client with a short, little succinct statement.” Learning how to communicate with clients is essential to the design process. Learning these skills in the co-op allowed him to challenge himself in low risk workplace scenarios where he could work
with clients without the risk of messing up a deal with a “million dollar client.” These skills were particularly important in the causal open environment of Paul’s irm. All workers were accountable at any time even with respect to their dress. You have to be able to sit in front of a client at any point somebody can just grab you and you need to look presentable enough to do that. And even when you’re maybe working out in the hot shop sweating all day you need to somehow be able to pull yourself together and have a meeting. It’s not that big of a deal but it’s something that people struggle with and I don’t know that we really teach those things in school. All workers were expected to balance the desire to be causal in an of ice with “no real dress code” with the need to be professional enough even though Paul admitted, “even here professionally is sort of a loose term.” Sneakers and shorts were acceptable dress, but workers need to dress clean, nice, and presentable. “You don’t wear the sneakers you went to do yard work in to work if you’re going to wear sneakers, that sort of thing and those are really soft skills, things that almost seem obvious but sometimes you just get.” In this respect, Paul emphasizes understanding the culture of the company in order to determine how to best meet the needs of the company at any given moment. At the end of the day, no matter what role you’re in, you’re going to end up client facing at some point. Always. There’s nobody here who doesn’t end up talking to a client at some point or another, even if we try to make it so that we don’t, it always happens. Workers also need the right communication skills to complete collaborative work, coordinate with clients, and showcase their design skills to coworkers. Client interactions require critical thinking, teamwork, and the ability to communicate ideas accompanied by a form of self-sacri ice that is essentially self-preservation in order to please clients, keep a job, and grow within the company.
[J]ust because from your perspective an idea is bad that doesn’t mean that years haven’t been spent and millions of dollars getting to where they are… [W]e work in lots of industries so we can look at a problem from a perspective that our clients maybe never would look at it so sometimes an answer to us is obvious but to our clients is something they’ve never heard of. It’s totally a crazy idea to them and its hard sometimes for people to say, “Well obviously you always do it this way,” but that may not be true for our client in their particular industry. Paul wants to hire people who can collaborate with coworkers, management, clients, whoever, to get the job done. Design engineers and technicians need to have “the ability to communicate, the ability to critically analyze ideas, the ability to not be protective of your ideas.” These skills are important “because here you will go through 100 good ideas to get one great idea. Paul explained that these team situations required workers to “basically come up with an idea and be willing to let it die right in front of you” for the good of the team and/or customers. [Y]ou can’t ight to the death for an idea when there are better ideas on the table. You can’t tell a client that their idea is terrible even if it is. You have to ind a way to come up with a good solution. You don’t say that idea is bad; you say, “What if we do it this way? What can we do a little bit differently?” Reframing questions and being able to think on your feet. So that’s a big softer skill that’s quite important. Paul claimed that the inability to adjust when working with others doomed some of his most technically skilled workers. He stressed the need for the “ability to be empathetic in speaking with people” and “being able to sort of step back and understand where their client is coming from” in order to move up the ladder in a product design company.
O’Neil, Brendan, Phil Hopkins, Elizabeth Redman Cleveland, Vardan Genanyan, and Julie Gressley. 2016. West Central Gulf Coast Regional Manufacturers Associations: Manufacturing Sector Pro ile. IHS Economics.
© The Author(s) 2020 W. Tyson, Teaching and Learning Employability Skills in Career and Technical Education , Palgrave Studies in Urban Education https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-58744-4_5
5. Personal Responsibility and Work Ethic Will Tyson1 (1) Department of Sociology, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA
Will Tyson Email: [email protected] Abstract All four teachers explained that their career academies focus on both college prep and career readiness, meaning they seek to prepare their students to both enter college and enter the workforce after graduating from high school. Each teacher maintains a daily routine centered around completing daily or weekly assigned hands-on activities that reinforce preparedness and professionalism. Students describe their courses as rigorous and struggle to keep pace, particularly with daily, self-guided activities used by most of the teachers. When asked, “What do you think will help you achieve your goals?” the overwhelming majority of students said “hard work,” “work ethic,” “focus,” or “effort.” Students credit the courses with teaching them to overcome laziness and develop a strong internal drive to succeed. [O]ne thing I try to hammer into the seniors’ heads is once you go to college it’s up to you, it’s all on you. Mom and Dad? Professor’s not going to say one word to Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad can call the professor up and raise Cain about your grade but it’s your
grade, that’s what you did. I mean you’ve got to get up, you’ve got to go to class, you’ve got to do the homework. No one’s going to sit there and tell you to do it.—Mr. Palmer, Payne HS engineering teacher All four teachers explained that their career academies focus on both college prep and career readiness, meaning they seek to prepare their students to both enter college and enter the workforce after graduating from high school. Students start each program in 9th or 10th grade with a broad overview of engineering and engineering technology ields. Mr. Palmer gives his irst- and second-year students a “shotgun blast” of engineering ields. Horton HS offers courses in aerospace engineering, civil engineering, architecture, and digital electronics. Mr. Holt explained that this broad curriculum allows students to try out different engineering ields to “see where they have interest, where they have talent.” Teachers structure the daily routine around lectures, daily or weekly assigned hands-on activities, and semester-long individual- and/or group-initiated projects to reinforce preparedness and professionalism with an eye toward students’ educational and employment pathways. Teachers use self-directed, loosely supervised tasks to instill the type of responsibility and self-discipline expected in a job. Mr. Palmer describes his daily routine as “cutting them loose, getting them to their stations, getting them signed on, getting them working.” Mr. Palmer is very strict with his students in order to teach them independence and accountability with an eye toward college. [O]ne thing I try to hammer into the seniors’ heads is once you go to college it’s up to you, it’s all on you. Mom and Dad? Professor’s not going to say one word to Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad can call the professor up and raise Cane about your grade but it’s your grade, that’s what you did. I mean you’ve got to get up, you’ve got to go to class, you’ve got to do the homework. No one’s going to sit there and tell you to do it. Mr. Palmer requires irst- and second-year students to complete 20 station lessons in 30 days. Mr. Palmer typically steps in at the end and
signs his name on lessons after the pair completes them to allow them to move to the next station. Chapter 7 describes the Payne HS station routine in more detail. Peter (PHS) described how Mr. Palmer reinforces classroom rules throughout the program. During the irst two years, Mr. Palmer is very strict about keeping students on task working on the stations. “If he inds out that you’ve forged his signature, oh he jumps off the deep end. I mean he will go berserk on you… That’s just like opening up the gates of hell.” During the third year, students can either continue to complete stations or pick a specialization, typically SolidWorks certi ication. In the fourth year, students complete a capstone project. As students progress through the program, they realize why Mr. Palmer was so strict early on. Peter (PHS) explained that during the third and fourth year, Mr. Palmer “tends to ease back on the throttle” and upperclass students realize that Mr. Palmer was just strict on 9th and 10th graders “just to keep ‘em in shape, you know, keep ‘em maintained. Because when freshmen and sophomore, they’re still uppity from middle school and everything, still being young and all high-pitched voice and everything.” Mr. Wells described his course as “very spread out” with “a lot of different things going on different times.” Mr. Wells gives students the responsibility to stick with the routine that he “drill(s) into the kids” so they know how to start their day. “When we’re not in that routine, I have the message on the board and they’re sitting in front of me and we’re getting ready for the next task.” Students could start the program in 9th or 10th grade. Students explained that the irst year in the program was completely stations. The second-year started with stations each student liked the most and then moved on to SolidWorks. The third-year centered around SolidWorks certi ication. Fourth-year students can work on stations they like and learn more advanced SolidWorks skills. Will (WHS) explained that irst and second-year students in stations answer questions assigned to each station each day then complete activities that were either day to day or at the students’ own pace. Overall, he thought the stations were “fun.” “It’s usually on your own time and as long as you inish it you log where you inished and stuff and you continue the next day.” His favorite stations were a station with pneumatics and a circuits station. Mr. Wells believed that students generally dislike the “typical grind” of the routine over the
course of the school year, but it is a necessary part of the process of “molding them to know what we expect in here.” Mr. Stein explained that his courses are designed to encourage students to get into engineering so “we’re not trying to lunk kids out of the program,” but the Starling HS routine teaches students about the “grunt work” in engineering. “[I]f they don’t like it then…they can get out” (Mr. Stein). Evan (SHS) explained that for a typical class he sits at the computer then gets the assignment for the day and igures out what he needs to do to complete the assignment like “doing calculations, building it or whatever.” At the time of the interview, students were building bridges, so after they took attendance, students went to their bridges and cut their own parts, sand them down, and glue them onto the bridge. This chapter examines how students learn industry-desired personal skills through classroom routines and regular hands-on station activities and projects. Analyzes draw from the Personal qualities “enable employees to establish effective relationships and function appropriately in the workplace.” Personal qualities, along with interpersonal skills, are components of effective relationships skills and other skills deemed “necessary for success in the labor market” that workers use in their interactions with clients, coworkers, and supervisors (US Department of Education 2018). As described in Chapter 1, personal qualities include a range of behaviors and skills that this book collapses into personal responsibility and work ethic/willingness to learn in order to respond to Chapter 3 industry narratives. Personal Responsibility also generally re lects personal qualities from the USDOE OCTAE Employability Skills Framework (US Department of Education 2018) described in Chapter 1, including demonstrates responsibility and self-discipline, works independently, and takes responsibility for professional growth. These characteristics are evidenced by how students treat their workload and hold themselves accountable for completing numerous individual and group activities and projects. 60% of students mentioned personal skills they acquired and/or utilized in their CTE courses. Work Ethic loosely includes the other qualities with a focus on willingness to learn and initiative. Over 77% of students mentioned work ethic, particularly
when describing challenges they overcame in their class or how they plan to achieve their goals. Students also describe their experiences preparing for the SolidWorks certi ication exams, typically in 11th or 12th grade, as an example of how students employ these personal skills. This chapter ends with brief examples of how students plan to use these personal qualities in the future.
Personal Responsibility Teachers establish daily classroom routines that allow students to work by themselves, in pairs, and in small groups. Students commonly describe the courses as self-taught in a way that acknowledges guidance and instruction they receive from their teachers as well as the freedom and responsibility they are given to explore. Students also are responsible for capstone projects that allow them to use their skills to complete an individual or group project over a semester or school year.
Teaching Yourself Students drew speci ic contrasts between their engineering/engineering technology program and other courses. The emphasis on hands-on learning gives students a break from the usual routine of lecture-based advanced placement and honors courses. Michael (PHS) described his engineering course as “very fun” saying “It’s a way to release some of the bad feelings. I’m very hands-on, a very hands-on person, so I like inding that outlet.” Leonard (PHS) liked that engineering is not a course in which “you learn it and then you’re tested on it.” Instead, “you’re tested on it by doing it.” Teachers emphasize “doing it” through hands-on work while breeding an independence reinforce with a mostly hands-off approach with students. According to Ian (PHS), being an engineering student was “de initely different from being a normal student.” Ian (PHS) drew a contrast several students noted between engineering classes and other classes. “[T]he difference is [engineering] is hands on and you can work, and I mean you could learn by yourself, so it’s more like a learning thing.” Students at each school do station work that gives them independent hands-on engagement conducting speci ic tasks related to an engineering ield. Students usually do station work with a partner.
Barry (WHS) explained how Mr. Wells sets up stations at West HS so students can be self-suf icient. Students select their top three choices and Mr. Wells tries to assign everyone their irst choice. Students start working on their station and then rotate to a new station after a few weeks. This set up allows students to work on their own and gives Mr. Wells the lexibility to rotate around and help all the groups as needed. “You have a partner and there’s a program on the computer that runs you through everything, gives you instruction, so Mr. Wells doesn’t have to go around and tell everybody what to do.” Barry (WHS) explained that Mr. Wells could rely on the computer program to give students simple instructions. Barry (WHS) gave the example of using a hydraulics machine. “You set up like an air-powered arm that just shoots out and it just works a bunch of different things and it’s really cool.” Edward (PHS) said Mr. Palmer was a great instructor. “He’s really helpful. He lets you do things on your own so that you can guide yourself through… When you need help, he’s very good at explaining what and why.” Edward (PHS) delineated what he felt was a proper balance between independence and help from the teacher. When he needed help, Mr. Palmer could help him, but most of the time Mr. Palmer allowed him to work on his own. Andrew (PHS) further explains how Mr. Palmer manages this balance: [Mr. Palmer’s] really good and like controls everything and he knows what he’s doing. He has a de inite engineering background and knows how to help you in every way but then he also up to a point will let you try to igure it out yourself before he intervenes, so it’s more like you understand the whole problem how it can become ixed which is like a big thing that you need an engineering career. Teachers do not lecture for much of the class and they are cannot directly help every student all the time, but they control the classroom environment and are available as needed. Doug (PHS) says the class is “basically teaching yourself with help” from Mr. Palmer. He credited Mr. Palmer with doing a “very good job at making sure you know where to go and then allowing you to get there yourself which is how you learn
more and how you learn better.” Students can ask Mr. Palmer for help if they need it but if they don’t, “you aren’t getting lectured on something when you could be learning something else or whatever” (Doug, PHS). Elena (PHS) mentioned working on a SolidWorks station digitally designing engineering parts. The class was still in the early stages of learning how to use the program and Elena was having some trouble. “I’d be clicking the button and it wouldn’t be working. I’d be on the computer and I’d be like ‘Oh my gosh, it’s telling me I’ve over-de ined this part, but I haven’t de ined any of it!’” Mr. Palmer came by and helped her. He’d come over and he’d be like, “What’s wrong?” and I’d be like “Well I’m trying to click this” or “I’m trying to move this part over here and it’s not letting me do that” and…he’d show me how I need to use the different keys and how using a certain combination of settings on the computer would help me do that easier. Elena (PHS) said that Mr. Palmer personally coming over to help was “con idence boosting” and helped her learn to use SolidWorks and other programs. Evan (SHS) found it challenging to research to get the information he needed for his various projects, but he did not blame Mr. Stein. Mr. Stein gives students a broad overview of what they need to know. Evan (SHS) acknowledges that Mr. Stein does not even know everything they need to know to complete different projects. I know he’s not fully educated in everything he teaches us so it’s just he has an idea of what he needs to teach us and then if he doesn’t know it, we need to ind it. But that’s good for us so we actually learn instead of, “Oh it’s in one ear out the other.” Evan (SHS) learned by doing “hard research” to make sure he actually got his projects right. Carl (SHS) explained that Mr. Stein “watches over” students but he “doesn’t take over the projects that he gives us.” Mr. Stein walks around the room and occasionally will tell students something they need to know. “[I]f he suggests something to us it’s usually something that he thinks will help us, but other than that
he leaves it all up to us. He says, ‘Here’s the paper. Go do it.’” Mr. Stein gives students the assignments and lets them igure it out for themselves. If students need help, they can ask him for help. Nathan (PHS) explained that there is little one-on-one interaction with Mr. Palmer. “It’s more like look at the manual, see how to do it. And if you don’t know how to do it, oh well.” Nathan (PHS) was hesitant to ask Mr. Palmer for help. “If we have some questions we can sometimes ask [Mr. Palmer]. Sometimes it’s not a good idea to ask him. He’s busy. He’s like ixing stuff a lot of the time. [Stuff that] we probably broke.” Nathan (PHS) would prefer more help and instruction from Mr. Palmer although he admits other students like the freedom and independence. It’s frustrating sometimes because we don’t know what we’re doing, as I mentioned. And it makes the class not as enjoyable, too. I don’t really like to be as independent. I think other students might like it but I’m not really with that… I don’t think many people know what they’re doing either, but they get it done. We all get it done, we get signed off, get the grade. This balance between help and independence worked well for most students, but some students did not feel their teacher was helpful when they needed it. Leonard (PHS) explained that when students have trouble iguring out a problem, Mr. Palmer tells them, “Well it’s your station, you have to igure it out.” George (HHS) felt that he could not ask Mr. Holt and other teachers for help which made the program harder. [I]f something’s wrong, you can’t really just like ask the teachers, be like, “What’s wrong with this? Can you help me?” I could go back and look at it and make sure you did everything right from the lesson or whatever and then like if you can’t igure it out it’s kind of frustrating to try to see what’s going on… You just go step by step, every little detail and make sure everything’s right and go over the whole lesson to make sure you did everything step by step right, didn’t make like a stupid mistake. Students who could not rely heavily on the teachers took responsibility for the quality of their own work. Several students cited
not being able to rely on teachers as a strength or weakness depending on their preference for independent work. Jacob (HHS) felt that inconsistent help from teachers was a challenge but he knew his classmates were available to help and when teachers were available, they “try to help you out the best way they can.” Students relied on the textbooks and manuals and searched for solutions on the internet, but they also asked each other for help as discussed in Chapter 6.
Capstone Projects Mr. Palmer gives students full control over their group capstone projects. “It could look like just about anything… It is student driven.” He sometimes suggests project based on “off the wall news items” that lead him to think, “Hey our kids can do this, my kids can do that.” During the irst week of the school year, Mr. Palmer assigns his fourthyear capstone project groups a 1500-word proposal describing their project. Oscar (PHS) explained that the proposal is an essay on a problem in the world and how to solve it with engineering. He does not like writing essays, so the proposal was something he disliked about the program. Mr. Palmer expects his seniors to have been planning their capstone projects for three years. “I start bouncing ideas off their heads and start playing devil’s advocate for them.” Mr. Palmer reads each proposal and discusses each plan with each group. Horton HS seniors complete capstone projects in which students picked their own group or work alone and generate a project idea. Mr. Holt explained, “You pick a problem. You come up with a problem that you think needs to be solved. You justify that it needs to be solved, that other people also think is a problem.” Mr. Holt gave two examples of problems identi ied by students. One student chose to address dif iculty of using a laptop computer in a con ined space. Another examined repetitive motion disorders among video gamers. Once students identify their problem, they build a prototype to solve that problem, test the prototype, and report on it. “So that can take them in a lot of different ways cause it’s not that they have a speci ic assigned task to accomplish. They de ine their own task.” Mr. Holt gives students the task of inding their own problems and developing their own solution, thus giving them the responsibility to choose their own path.
Andres (HHS) re lected on how irst, second, and third years prepare Horton HS engineering students for their capstone projects as seniors. The irst three years force students to apply basic math and reading skills needed to do the more enjoyable hands-on elements of class. You get to do a lot of fun things. There’s some things that yeah you’re going to be bored about because it’s like math and I really don’t like math and there’s some things that you’re going to have to read in order to like learn what you have to do. He struck a major contrast between 9th through 11th grades and the responsibility of senior year. “And now as a senior with that [capstone] project it’s you got to do everything by yourself. It’s not anybody holding you like and holding your hand and telling you what to do. It’s just everything is on you right now.” Chris (HHS) recalled his Introduction to Engineering course his irst year in the program. His irst project required taking blocks and putting them into a speci ied pattern then taking the blocks apart to put them back together. “It was a reverse engineering lesson, so that was the irst hands-on experience I had here.” As a senior, he and his capstone group have “totally no help.” His team was developing a way for people with disabilities to unlock a door from a distance. “You have to do research and work with your team and everything.” Chris (HHS) liked how teachers let students igure out their own problems. [I]f you run into problems they will, they want you to igure it out yourself and if you need help you would ask them then… “Oh I’m stuck. I need help.” [Teachers] ask you, “Did you do this and this and that?” And then if you didn’t, you go back and do it and if you still don’t ind the problem, then they’ll help you. Chris (HHS) contrasted Mr. Holt with teachers in his other classes by describing Mr. Holt as a challenge he had to overcome. “[Mr. Holt’s] not really a person that like holds your hand… He prepares you for the real world.” This was a big change for Chris (HHS). He explained that “most teachers here just like, they’re there for you, but they tend to baby some people.” By contrast, “Mr. Holt is one of the people who teach you what
you really have to go through in the world.” Students realized the level of independence they have for their capstone projects is good training for their careers whether they like, dislike it, and/or believe it is a challenge to overcome. Students value both the independence and guidance provided by their teachers, thus they are willing to expend maximum effort to meet teachers’ expectations.
Work Ethic When asked, “What do you think will help you achieve your goals?” the overwhelming majority of students said, “hard work,” “work ethic,” “focus,” or “effort.” David (SHS) responded, “Hard work. I don’t really know what else there is to it.” When prompted to give more details, David (SHS) continued, “Do everything I need to do to the fullest capacity that I can do it.” Beyond that, he did not know more he could do. To be sure, students promote this individual hard work narrative because teachers demand a strong work ethic to persevere through daily stations, group projects, and classwide activities. Students respond by learning how to take good notes during lectures and labs and study every day to meet program expectations. Students believed a strong internal drive and work ethic were necessary to succeed. Quentin (WHS) described the “learning potential” in his engineering course as well as his traditional STEM and non-STEM courses. “[I]f I really want to work hard and learn a lot I can. There’s nothing stopping me except myself.” Students did not believe their individual success depended on others. They drew inspiration and guidance from family, friends, and their religious beliefs although they gladly sought out help from teachers and classmates.
Willingness to Work Students describe a work ethic motivated by a strong personal motivation to complete their work beyond the desire to just earn good grades. When asked what would help him achieve his goals, Will (WHS) sighed deeply and replied: Hard work ethic. You know, staying hard in the class, studying as hard as you, not as hard as you can, but like you know making
sure you get all the studying you needed done, inished. Kind of opening your mind to different opportunities like you never know what you could be interested in until you try it. Will (WHS) inds the program experience “enjoyable” because “you get to do your own thing and sometimes you like the stuff you’re doing like you ind things that you’ve never really known before so it’s pretty interesting.” Teachers were tasked with managing students’ work ethic. For some students, that meant encouraging them to work harder. For others, it meant harnessing their strong work ethic. Mr. Palmer said his students “run the gamut of normal teenagers.” Mr. Palmer said although some students “don’t want to do nothing but skate by school,” others ask him to “double up on stations because they’re so enthralled by it all.” He recalled a conversation with one of his juniors when she was in 9th grade: Student: Can I come in during lunch and work on a different station? Mr. Palmer: No. Student: Oh come on Mr. Palmer. Why? Mr. Palmer: I want you to have a mental break. Mr. Palmer said she was still like that as a junior and predicted that she would be captain of a robotics team as a senior. Students reported coming to the lab at the end of the school day to try to get back on schedule when they are behind. Ultimately, Mr. Palmer believed what students like the most about his courses is being able to “take charge of their education” saying, “I will teach them as little or as much as they want to know.” Students enjoyed the opportunity to explore different ields of engineering and different topics through their individual and group assignments. Xavier (WHS) liked that every day he had something to do. “We build our own parts and we have the 3-D printer now so we can draw up our own things and 3-D print out things that we like. It’s a lot of freedom to learn on our own.” Chris (HHS) also likes how the HHS magnet program allows him to explore through different projects and
activities. “They don’t like, they don’t just hold you to a certain thing.” Ryan (HHS) recalled a computer integrated manufacturing project in which his team built their own assembly lines by coding robot arms to pick up an object at the same time a piston was pushing something else. He liked “building it and helping out in a team to…create something that we all put our hard work into.” Students had the freedom to learn and most are willing to make the sacri ices necessary to power through assignments and projects which encourages students to take pride in their personal accomplishments. Tom (WHS) encourages younger students to work hard and put forth a complete effort because they will bene it from their experience. “I would say just go for it, try it, try the class and I mean it’s something that you really can’t not like.” He admitted “it might sound geeky” but he derives a particular joy from what he gets to create in class. You’re making a robot. You’re putting it together. You’re putting pieces together. It’s like a big puzzle. It’s like it takes time to do but once you’re done with it and you look at it it’s like “I made that. It’s kind of cool.” Anything you do personally you respect it more than someone else I think. I think your personal achievements are better than looking at someone else’s work. Tom (WHS) used his dad’s company that buys, remodels, and resells cars in a metaphor representing investing work ethic and manual labor into the program. Like in the car industry, you make a car, you see a really like a piece of crap and it’s like you build that up, you put time into it, you put effort into it, and then when you’re done you sell it. You make a three times pro it and it’s a car that someone’s going to love when it could’ve just been a rust bucket sitting on the side of the road. So just go for it and try your hardest and go as far as you want to go. George (PHS) liked doing his own work and seeing different concepts in action rather than just wondering what would help. “You see it and you build it and you make it from scratch yourself. You see it work in front of you.”
Pushing Yourself Noah (WHS) believed he needed to work hard and pursue opportunities to learn outside of the classroom. I feel like that’s almost critical and it’s something that most students here don’t really do or most students in general don’t really do. Because you can go to school and learn the material, but you’re never going to be to your full potential unless you go that extra mile and you learn. If you really like something learn about it and push yourself to learn about it. Noah (WHS) overcame challenges by doing extra research, working at home, and pushing himself to win in-class competitions. Noah understood that he had to avoid getting frustrated when he faced setbacks. Students did not lack personal motivation and work ethic to complete assignments and sections of the courses that they liked. Jeffrey (HHS) loved studying aerospace engineering in the HHS magnet program. When asked what it was like to be a student at Horton HS, Jeffrey (HHS) said, “I really don’t have any solid emotions for being a student. It’s just I go through it every day. But the main reason I come to school is just for the aerospace program.” His initial challenge to overcome was that the math he needed to know in 9th grade was above his skill level at the time. His solution was to take good notes in class and taking additional time at home to look over his class notes to understand the math more. Manny (WHS) liked most of the content in his classes, especially the activities he said, “kept me involved and kept me thinking what to do next and all that.” By contrast, students employed their work ethic to power through assignments and activities they did not like such as writing assignments and stations on engineering ields beyond their ields of interest. “I kind of just push through it I guess. I mean I signed up for it, so I mean it’s either I’m going to get the bad grade or do it to my best ability” (Oscar, PHS). Barry (WHS) did not enjoy the pneumatics stations, but he found ways to make it fun in order to complete assignments. When asked what he disliked about the program, Wayne (WHS) said he did not like the procedures where he had to repeat different processes with various materials. “It was interesting to see how the
different materials reacted to the stress and pressure but going through the whole thing over and over again.” In some respect, repeatedly exposing different materials to different stressors over and over again is both an apt description of student activities and a metaphor for students’ frustration with these activities. Students continually react to the stress and pressure of completing assignment that either involve repetition or not giving up after failing to complete dif icult tasks. His classmate Manny (WHS) struggled with the challenge of moving to new stations. Each station was like a “new environment” which made it dif icult for him to start and catch up. He overcame the challenge by learning about the subjects (i.e., aerodynamics, robotics) in class, then going home to study some more and prepare for the next day. “Each day I’d go into class, I’d know more, learn it in the class and outside the class and it helped me do more in that class.” Wayne (WHS) and Manny (WHS) struggled with repetition and change, respectively. Samuel (WHS) learned how to stay consistent and always improve: De initely stay on the course and always try to learn more. Don’t act like you know it all and there’s always room for learning and everything. You can always improve areas. You’re never too good for a certain thing, so just work hard in what you do and just continue to progress and try to improve yourself in any way you can. Doug (PHS) believed Payne HS engineering showed him “what to do and what can be done” and taught him how to do it. He gave the example of the frustration of low simulation. He found it to be “real cool” but completing low simulation stations required him to make things that were dif icult. But seeing the results of his hard work helped him push through to move on to harder tasks. “[E]ventually you’ll get there and then you’ll be happy.” Lance (PHS) thought PHS engineering was a “thrill” because hands-on activities taught him “what real life is about. And sometimes you get stuck and have struggles but you’re supposed to work your way through them.” He used to struggle through station activities, but those activities were “pretty easy now” because he could go back and see his prior mistakes and learn how to ix them.
The common theme throughout was perseverance. Xavier (WHS) described his biggest challenge as “mostly just not giving up on something.” Learning robotics coding and using SolidWorks were the biggest frustrations. He recalled when his entire class spent a week trying to igure out to solve a problem using SolidWorks: Even though it took that long for us all to igure it out, we sat there, helped each other out, igured it out. It’s just you have to push yourself to succeed… It’s mostly just straight up determination. It comes down to “Well we’ve been sitting here for two hours and I can’t quite igure this one out but we’ll get it.” Her freshman year, Jessica (HHS) sliced her thumb while building a toy monster truck using rubber bands, metal, and other items. “We needed the wheels and I was trying to cut it off and the knife went like straight through my thumb and it was like gushing blood everywhere.” She was nervous about doing hands-on activities after that, but she overcame her fears and stayed in the program.
Staying Focused Many students developed a strong work ethic to overcome what they believed to be a disposition to be slack or lazy. Andres (HHS) was one of several students who described himself as “kind of a slacker.” He said he needs to “keep studying…I’m trying not to slack off. Keep my mind on track. Focus on everything I want to do” in order to do well in his courses. Matt (HHS) said that in order to meet his goals, he needed “a lot of studying, a lot of patience, a lot of asking questions. You got to stop being lazy. Study up on it every day.” Rowan (PHS) utilized skills like writing notes for himself, making to do lists, and keeping a schedule. Students addressed their own weaknesses by paying attention and adopting proactive strategies to complete their assignments on time. Horton HS students, teachers, and administrators take great pride in the fact that popular engineering magnet program draws top students from all over the district. Rachel (HHS) explained, “[HHS] is very rigorous. You have to do your work. You have to pay attention. If
you miss a day you almost like a setback. You have to pay attention.” The rigor of HHS and the other programs required students to adopt strategies to improve their focus, study skills, and time management. HHS is unique in that there are no speci ic prerequisites and students can start as sophomores and juniors, but students who do not start in their irst year have to “work much, much harder” to catch up according to Mr. Holt, “but generally they do.” Justin (HHS) described the magnet program has “de initely a lot harder than I thought.” He felt the program had expectations he had “never really seen before in any other school that I’ve heard of.” Students have to maintain a 3.0 GPA to stay in the magnet program. Justin (HSS) said, “It’s rigorous. Honors courses and maintaining a 3.0, that’s always in the back of my head whenever I’m at school.” Some students struggled with maintaining focus on certain tasks or staying focused over the course of a semester. Henry (HHS) described how the hands-on work kept him “locked in” unlike computer work during which he struggled to maintain his focus. “I feel like I focus more with hands-on, like I’m constantly moving, my mind’s working and my hands are working at the same time.” Freddy (SHS) said computers were a “distraction” because they were free to use the internet sometimes. Vince (WHS) also struggled with focus because he gets distracted easily. “I get bored with things constantly and so with engineering being able to stick with a certain aspect and keep focusing on that, that’s always been a bit of a struggle of mine.” He inds engineering “fascinating,” but he likes to regularly explore new things. He keeps his eye toward his goals to overcome these challenges. “I look at the pros and cons of the whole entire situation and I see like ‘If I stick with this what’s the best possible outcome?’ and then that kind of in luences me to continue striving for that goal.” Other students are very con ident in their ability to achieve their goals like Edward (PHS), “I’ve just always been strong-willed towards what I want to get done so if I want to get something done, I’ll get it done.” Deadlines encourage students to adopt constructive study practices although students often complete their work at the deadline. Students work outside of class on their projects in order to make deadlines. Chris (HHS) explained, “[W]e can’t possibly do everything we need to do in order to get it done before the end of May. So we have to work out of
class, work with each other as a team so we basically do what we do in class, out of class so we can have everything done before the end of the year.” Juan (HHS) admitted that he is “kind of lazy” and does not like to do things until the last minute, so relies on other people to help him. “You just need people to push you and remind you and tell you to do so. It’s people that cheer you up when you need to and inform you. So yeah, basically that.” He explained that due dates were a challenge he had to overcome, particularly any problems or issues that arise at the deadline. Having stuff ready and just like last minute changes that you have in a project and you just got to igure it out and just do it…. And especially you being a teenager most of the time you do that you like especially like in high school well I kind of do that, not most of the time but some of it, I just like wait until the last minute to do whatever we got to do. Peter (PHS) recalled that Mr. Palmer assigned a 1500-word essay on the irst day of his freshman year. This was an early precursor to the 1500-word essay Mr. Palmer assigned to seniors on their irst week mentioned earlier in this chapter. The freshman essay had to be on three engineering ields and it was due at the end of the irst week of class along with assignments for all of his other classes. “The very irst day I had all seven classes I had homework in. Sucked. That one was the hardest. Stayed up ‘til like 10:00 at night my very freshman year. That’s when we really learned about adrenaline the next day.” Peter (PHS) learned an early lesson on how to plan ahead and set a pace in order to complete his assignments: Well I was doing a study and they said procrastination leads up to the best decisions and I’m a irm believer in that. But I really don’t procrastinate unless I know what I have to get done and I know how to get it done. And if I know how long it’s going to take, I’ll set myself a start date and then I’ll set myself an end date. And so that’s what my parents don’t know that I think about, but I really do. They’ll just never understand it, but I know what I have to get done. I know how I can get it done fast
enough to where I can set myself a pace and that’s where teachers say if you work by yourself you can pace yourself. Well if you set work with a teammate and everything you have to rely on somebody else so I’d be more comfortable with working at my own pace and so I can get things done at my schedule, my way and that way I know that it can be how I want it and how I can impress the teacher and just blow things out of the park. Peter (PHS) preferred to procrastinate, but he acknowledged the need to plan ahead. He expressed a strong preference for independent work, even independent of his parents, because he could pace himself and his own schedule instead of having to rely on someone else’s effort and schedule. He believed independent work at a deliberate pace was the best way to complete his assignments in a way that would impress his teacher.
Holding “Slackers” Accountable Students are willing to push themselves and do extra in order to succeed but draw a sharp distinction between classmates with strong work ethic and the “slackers” who do not reach their full potential because they do not put forth the effort to succeed in the class. Evan (SHS) complained about students who “don’t take it seriously” and treat the program as “just a free class.” He handles them by simply ignoring them and dealing with the students “who actually care about engineering.” Natalie (PHS) complained, “A lot of kids just decide to procrastinate and be lazy in that class. There are some kids that don’t do anything.” Linda (PHS) expressed her frustration with classmates she felt “don’t take it seriously.” This bothered her because those “they’re wasting their time and they’re wasting other people’s time by distracting them and they’re keeping us from doing what we want.” Linda (PHS) thought students either believed the program as a “easy thing to do” or “kind of think they want to do engineering” but are not sure so they are taking the class despite not really being that interested. The result to Linda (PHS) was a bunch of students who were pretty much just “hanging out.” Laura (PHS) tells Mr. Palmer when her partners are not going the work. Other PHS students explained how
several of those students entered the program but were eventually weeded out of the program. PHS engineering has an open enrollment policy in the irst year. Oliver (PHS) explained, “In the beginning everyone has the same opportunity, it depends on how hard you work. Not necessarily on how much, how skilled you are with it, but on how hard you work.” Enrollment “starts big and it gets more narrow as you go along in the program.” Oliver (PHS) further explained that students who do not quit Engineering I usually go on to Engineering II, but Engineering III and IV are more selective. “[Mr. Palmer] chooses a certain amount of students to go on to the next level of engineering and once it starts getting up into Engineering IV and stuff where they’re starting to take all of the stations and put them all together and manufacture important things then this I heard it starts getting pretty selective and they have to start cutting people.” This selectivity and threat of being cut from the program helps Mr. Palmer hold students accountable. Martin (PHS) described Mr. Palmer as a “good teacher” who “seems a little hard” particularly toward students who do not care about the program and “do it just to do it.” Martin (PHS) felt it was important to get on his “good side” in their irst year in the program. He cares about you, but he’s still hard on you because he wants to make sure that the kids that don’t care about the ield like if they don’t show up, he knows…not to worry about them too much. He wants to worry about the kids that actually want to get into the program. In this respect, Martin (PHS), Oliver (PHS), and other PHS students believed Mr. Palmer was purposefully attempting to weed out students who did not demonstrate the necessary work ethic early in the program. Peter (PHS) even suggested that Mr. Palmer assigned the 1500-word essay at the beginning of the program to weed out students who thought engineering was going to be easy. They get into [the program], next thing you know they’re doing that 1500-word essay and they’re like, “Ugh.” It’s more like how colleges have like the irst year for freshman it’s the wean (sic)
out courses? That’s what Mr. Palmer tried to do because he notices from like day two which kids want to be in it and which kids don’t. I mean, which kids have more, more I don’t want to say direction, but know what they want to do and what they want to get into. So he did that to show if you’re determined, if you know much or see what you know about engineering and what you know that you’re getting yourself into. Like if I knew that it was going to be, it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park, because engineering is a really tough ield. It’s a tough, you have to be smart to get into the ield and so I knew what I was going to get into. At the conclusion of his interview, Peter (PHS) said that incoming CTE students would bene it from knowing more about the different engineering ields and more about what to expect in the PHS program. “When I got into the engineering program I knew it was going to be mostly hands on. I knew it was going to take, it was going to be a lot of work… I knew I was going to have to do something spectacular to make a mark.” Looking back, Peter (PHS) felt like he knew he was going to have to work hard to succeed in the course, but others who did not know that enrolled in the course thinking it was going to be easy. Adam (PHS) would tell incoming students to “just go at it one day at a time” like he did. “I kind of just worked at it one day at a time. I mean it was dif icult, but I eventually got through it.” He was not sure if there something teachers could do to help prepare incoming students for dif icult challenges “because some students are hard-headed so I think like some students have to go through things to learn.” Students who make it through their irst two years in the program reap the bene its of their experience. Even the hard-headed students or admitted “lazy” and “slacker” students learn strategies needed to succeed and earn trust with their teachers. Barry (WHS) explained that after the irst two years his junior and senior years at WHS were “easy” because “we’re allowed to do whatever we want.” Students have the freedom to focus on SolidWorks, build rockets, and “mess with this stuff.” “We do a lot of fun stuff… Once you’re in, you’re in and if Mr. Wells doesn’t like you he has all power to get rid of you.” Mr. Wells lets students who demonstrate proper work ethic do what they want to do
within reason. If students do not comply, he can kick them out of the program.
Personal Skills for the Future When asked what he thought would help achieve his goals, Manny (WHS) said he needed for focus more on his schoolwork and overcome senioritis. Manny (WHS) believed the work ethic he learned was important for his future. “I keep saying to myself after high school you got to really put work into it because I know like after high school, you’re in the real world. You have to come ight for yourself.” Putting in work is necessary for Manny (WHS) to realize his dreams. “I just plan to hopefully live a successful life, a house, a family, just live stably for the rest of my life and retire obviously. I don’t want to be working for the rest of my life. I don’t want to be working at McDonald’s fast food restaurants. That’s my main goal, not to be there.” Tom (WHS) believed his “will to strive forward” would propel him toward his goals. He believed that he needed to keep learning any way he could, inside and outside of the classroom. I’m not going to just stop learning. I mean I’ll learn from my dad. I’ll learn from other people, but schoolwise I mean to think of it, you’ve been in school since you were ive and it’s been 13, 14 years that you’ve been in school. It’s like you get out, it’s like “Oh I’m free” then you got to, it’s like “Do you want to go to college? Do you want to get a career in that or you could go do your own thing?” Like most people think if you don’t go to college, you’re just going to be working at McDonald’s for the rest of your life…. Some smart people didn’t go to college and they became successful. Tom (WHS) knew he needed to work hard in college, but also learn from his dad in the “car business” and from others in his social networks. “I mean it just really depends on what you do, who you know. That’s another thing that we learned. Engineering, business, it’s not all what you know in your brain, but it’s who you know outside in the world.”
Tim (WHS) described the rocket launch and egg drop activities (see Chapter 7) as trial and error processes that helped him learn the work ethic skills to succeed. Tim (WHS) felt like high school was “like a little tutorial on life” that gave him the experiences and knowledge to help him achieve his goals. You get experience, a little bit of everything with taking all these required classes. English, math, science, history, you get a little taste of everything. It helps you plan what you want to do personally and the skills, the time management skills, the determination you get. Say you know you want to get an A in this class. This is what it’s going to take. You know what it takes to succeed. Basically, all the skills I’ve picked up in high school, through sports, through cross country and track, but mainly it’s determination I think. Succeeding when you fail. Tim (WHS) was planning to enroll in a prestigious out of state university on a Naval ROTC scholarship with a plan to major in aerospace engineering then go on to the Navy and ly jets. His long-term plan was to be an astronaut. He had already been in conversations with people at NASA who helped him outline a plan to go on missions sometime in the 2030s. Alissa (WHS) failed the SolidWorks certi ication exam as a junior. Nevertheless, she persisted and refocused her efforts her senior year and passed the exam. This perseverance was evidence that she learned the work ethic necessary to overcome her ongoing struggle with lack of con idence. Her big dream is to help young people who struggle with con idence like she did. She explained that when she was younger, “I was discouraged that I couldn’t do anything… Anything like I couldn’t be able to graduate high school.” She struggled with math and reading and her mother pushed her to better apply herself. She started taking AP courses and was determined to succeed. “I’m just tired of hearing that I can’t do anything, so I pushed myself.” Alissa (WHS) became interested in biometrics because she liked the idea of helping people by creating prosthetics and heart implants. She has medical professionals in her family and wanted to follow in their footsteps. She compared students who overcome lack of con idence
with determination and work ethic to people with disabilities who utilize prosthetics. “I want to help students and others to know that they can do what they wanted to even if they don’t have what others have like as in prosthetic legs and stuff like that.” After each station, Mr. Wells required students to summarize what they liked and disliked about the station. Students then had to identify a job in that engineering ield, explain what they were interested in about that job, and ind the salary range for that job. Based on that research and what she learned in and overcome in the course, Alissa (WHS) felt she could do anything in engineering. She could get any job she wanted. “If I want to do business, I can do a business for engineering. If I want to do arts because I’m also into arts, I could do animation if I wanted to do like the robotics animation and all that, basically anything.” Alissa (WHS) became con ident she could succeed in an engineering career. Alissa (WHS) planned to attend a small private in-state university and major in aerospace or biomedical engineering. Her family owns a dentistry near the campus. She planned to pursue her Ph.D. and eventually start her own business if she pursued biomedical engineering. “I have an entrepreneur heart as my family does.” She was con ident her family would help her along the way. “I have family that works in the hospitals, surgeons and doctors as well so they could help me along that aspect like be in a hospital if I wanted to… Connections, connections.” Despite her struggles with con idence, she was sure she would succeed based on what she learned in engineering and help from her family.
Reference U.S. Department of Education. 2018. “Employability Skills.” Retrieved November 17, 2018 (http://cte.ed.gov/initiatives/employability-skills-framework).
© The Author(s) 2020 W. Tyson, Teaching and Learning Employability Skills in Career and Technical Education , Palgrave Studies in Urban Education https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-58744-4_6
6. Interpersonal Skills Will Tyson1 (1) Department of Sociology, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA
Will Tyson Email: [email protected] Abstract Teachers assign small and large group projects that allow students to hone their task-oriented teamwork skills. Students consider daily station activities to be a unique opportunity to work with their classmates in contrast to academic STEM classes in which any collaboration would be considered cheating. Students generally work in pairs and ask each other for help as needed. Teachers build leadership skills by demonstrating con idence in their students’ ability to initiate and complete self-directed tasks and projects. Students maintained, started, and reaf irmed friendships within a classroom environment they described as friendly, cooperative, and congenial. Girls described how they asserted themselves as the only girl or one of two or three girls through group activities and projects within male-dominant engineering and engineering technology course environments. I like how [the class is] kind of casual but at the same time it pushes you. …Mr. Wells and the rest of my classmates we all kind of work together and you get what you put into it. …I also liked how open it was, like I can communicate with other students about anything I needed help on. “Hey guys, I’m trying to make
something in SolidWorks. I could use a hand.” And they would come over and help me and we would kind of learn together and help each other…. I also like being able to work with the robotics and just some of the different stations we have in there because it really gives you a good hands-on experience about what some people do in their actual jobs today. And I believe what I like is how well the class prepares you for what you’re going to be facing in the future. Quentin, West HS engineering technology student Noah (WHS) was a 12th grader at WHS taking Engineering Technology IV, the inal course in the engineering technology program. He was also taking a heavy course load including Physics, Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus, and two other AP courses. He had recently accepted a scholarship to study electrical engineering at an out of state university. Noah enrolled in 9th grade at the recommendation of a guidance counselor and a physical science teacher. Noah felt the handson work in the engineering technology lab intertwined with his physics and math background. When asked to describe speci ic things he liked about his program, Noah mentioned group activities and projects, speci ically the WHS annual class rocket launch event pro iled in Chapter 7. Each year, Mr. Wells gave West HS students a set of items and tasked them to work in groups to build rockets powered by water, air, ire, fuel cells, CO2, and other energy sources. Groups competed to see which rockets launched the farthest. I kind of like the group projects we do. Every year we usually do a motor-based rocket and that’s pretty cool because every group member usually has a very speci ic idea that they want to implement. But it’s really interesting to see like how four people with four different ideas can come together and make one inal project. And I think it’s really interesting just because it’s almost a teamwork skill and you don’t really get that out of a lot of other classes because in math and science classes it’s “learn the material, take the test” and here it was more like “OK, collaborate with others, work around problems, use you know use limited materials” and I really like that aspect of the class. I think it shines. (Noah, WHS)
Noah explained how students negotiate to resolve con licts by incorporating group member ideas together to make one project which he described as a teamwork skill he did not get to develop in other classes. These West HS classwide activities help promote each of the interpersonal skills from the USDOE OCTAE Employability Skills Framework (US Department of Education 2018) originally described in Chapter 1 and discussed in detail in this chapter. In the quotation above, Noah explained how students negotiate to resolve con licts by incorporating group member ideas together to make one project which he described as a teamwork skill he did not get to develop in other classes. His classmate Tom (WHS) learned how to respect individual differences and get along with “different cliques” outside his main group of friends. Tom (WHS) also described building rockets with his group as a process of “tweaking what you’re doing” and “giving info and taking it,” thus exercising leadership and helping his classmates build their rockets in the way in which workers would respond to customer needs. This chapter examines how students learn industry-desired interpersonal skills (i.e., social or teamwork skills) by completing hands-on individual and group activities and projects. Analyzes draw from the USDOE OCTAE Employability Skills Framework (US Department of Education 2018) described in Chapter 1. Interpersonal skills “enable employees to collaborate as a member of a team or work independently, as appropriate, and contribute to the overarching goals of the workplace.” Interpersonal skills, along with personal qualities, are components of effective relationships skills and other skills deemed “necessary for success in the labor market” that workers use in their interactions with clients, coworkers, and supervisors. The framework describes ive speci ic interpersonal skills components: (1) teamwork, (2) responds to customer needs, (3) exercises leadership, (4) negotiates to resolve con licts, and (5) respects individual differences. Overall, 80% of students mentioned learning or utilizing at least one of these interpersonal skills in their CTE course. Teamwork and helping behaviors were most common at 66% followed by social skills at 47%, and leadership and managing con licts at 17%. This chapter explains how each of those skills are manifest in these CTE classrooms. Students learn teamwork through small group
activities and projects. Students learn to respond to customer needs by helping each other complete individual and small group tasks as necessary. Students learn how to lead and negotiate con licts within their groups. Finally, students learn the social skills to respect individual differences. This is particularly salient for girls enrolled in these male-dominated programs.
Teamwork and Helping Behaviors Teachers engage with students and help students engage with each other through a combination of daily activities and group projects over the course of the school year. The classroom routines were similar across all four programs. Teachers begin each class session with a short lecture to help students translate knowledge and information from their math and science courses into technical skills needed to complete assigned hands-on station activities. Students work on these activities individually, with a partner, or in small groups over the class period. Teachers circulate through the classroom asking questions and responding to student questions and concerns.
Opportunities for Collaboration Students considered daily station activities to be a unique opportunity to work with their classmates. Wayne (WHS) did not like the repetition of station activities, but he appreciated that each station was a group assignment. Math and physics were easy for him, but the true challenge he faced was “getting along with other people.” For Wayne (WHS), the class was all about teamwork. “Every station we do is a group assignment and that’s what’s really kind of built [teamwork] skill.” Victor (WHS) felt the program was all about “working with a group and inding out how to achieve the goal… De initely working with people. I can say is what that class is about.” Saul (PHS) mentioned that some students preferred to work alone, particular on computer tasks. He liked to work with a partner for practical reasons: “I will admit just that if I need to catch up on my homework that he would take that day and then we would rotate if that ever happened…or if I’m absent or he’s absent we wouldn’t get that far behind.” Ryan (HHS) preferred group work. He complained that a rare solo assignment to design a train car
was harder than group work because “if you need help you have to go out and disrupt somebody else that’s doing their own train car.” Ryan (HHS) mentioned a computer integrated manufacturing project where his group had to make their own assembly lines and program their own code to make a robot arm pick up an object. “I liked that, you know? Building it and helping out in a team…to create something that we all put our hard work into.” Noah (WHS) explained that in his traditional math and science classes, the focus is “learn the material, take the test” but he liked how his in his West HS engineering courses, he was encouraged to “collaborate with others, work around problems, [and] use limited materials.” Quentin (WHS) said the program helped him connect his math skills with technical skills by adopting the mindset of “something doesn’t work, go back, think about it, do it again” and how to do the teamwork necessary to make it happen. Quentin (WHS) said he utilized teamwork skills in AP Calculus as well as Engineering Technology IV. “My math class and my engineering class and the career I’m going into all connect very heavily. They’re very similar, just the mindset and the teamwork that we go through there and the class discussions.” Robotics club gave students extracurricular teamwork opportunities. A group of students who completed their irst season on the robotics team, including Doug (PHS) and Linda (PHS), were building their own robot with the help of seniors who had completed their last season. As a 11th grader, Linda (PHS) enjoyed meeting with seniors after school to work on robots. “[W]e rebuilt the robot from this year’s competition to how we think it could’ve been built and how we implement our ideas because have. They get to choose what goes on the robot and how we do it.” Seniors made the inal design decisions during the robotics season, but now underclass students can use their own ideas to rework the robot to conduct that season’s challenge which was picking up blocks and putting them into buckets. “[Seniors] will tell us what we can be doing, like we’ll help sometimes. We have to undo parts that they’ve done they didn’t like or we’ll put on pieces. They’ll tell us what exactly they want us to do” (Linda, PHS).
Students mimic responding to customer needs in the workplace by helping their classmates with everyday tasks and projects. Students generally preferred asking their classmates for help instead of going to the teacher. Some students like Doug (PHS) preferred asking seniors for help instead of working from manuals. Doug (PHS) relied on seniors on the robotics team to help him with SolidWorks. He complained that he does not have SolidWorks at home and SolidWorks customer service is only available during school hours. But basically in class and sometimes after school when either the robotics club isn’t doing much or no one’s really there then I’ll go through and I’ll work on it. I’ll run the simulations and whatever, basically see how all that works and because I have a tendency not to read manuals so that’s been really helpful. And if you have a question like even in my class there are some seniors in there. You can ask one of them. They’ll be more than willing to help and just that’s de initely helped in a few things that I can igure out how to do so. Students believed this type of ad hoc collaboration was necessary to succeed in tough career academy courses. Rachel (HHS) described the Horton HS magnet program as “very rigorous” saying if “you don’t pay attention you’re screwed.” Rachel (HHS) described how her classmates helped her overcome desperate situations: “You mess up and…you’re failing. You don’t know what to do. You end up having to go to your classmates. And sometimes even if you do know what you’re doing, you still end up having to go to your classmates or the teacher to say, ‘Hey, I did this, but it’s not working, what should I do?’”
Freedom to Help Students asked students to help them learn information they needed to complete stations. Sometimes they needed an extra pair of hands completing a manual task. Often students needed a simple ix. Gary (SHS) did not like using the C++ programming language and just tried to code by himself but it just did not work. He recalled asking two classmates help him ix the punctuation in his C++ coding. Doug (PHS) said that helpers can push him to explore his interests further,
especially topics that are “a little more frustrating” but he ultimately enjoyed like low simulation. “Sometimes you can’t igure it out on your own and then you need someone there that can help you. And if you have the people there and the right stuff then it’s really good to be able to learn stuff and be able to do it.” Carl (SHS) liked that classmates were willing to help each other even during the bridge building contest. “[Students] like to help each other out but at the same time they want to win. It’s like a competition feeling.” Teachers give students the lexibility to determine how they work best on individual and group tasks, a sharp contrast to traditional STEM courses. Evan (SHS) took the option to not participate in the annual bridge building group project to focus on building wind-powered motorcycle for his own individual design project. This decision allowed him to help groups with their bridges in a “mentor/ ill-in” role. “I could basically be a part of ive different groups, but I’m choosing not to be a part of the groups. I just give my feedback on it and help them build it if they need help or if they’re missing someone one day.” Seniors often get more lexibility and use that opportunity to help younger students. Oscar (PHS) found it rewarding to be an upperclassman because “it feels kind of like you can mentor other students.” Requesting help can be a challenge for students, but it is a necessary challenge to overcome. Freddy (SHS) originally struggled with asking for help because he felt like he kept bothering the same person, but he acknowledged sometimes it was the only way to get a “better understanding” of material in the course. Javier (HHS) had recently immigrated to the United States from Cuba. Working in groups was a challenge he had to overcome because he was still learning to speak English luently. Javier (HHS) explained that overcame the “language barrier” by practicing his English. He said most of his classmates were “very patient” as he adapted to the United States classroom environments. Students noted the contrast between the “causal” and “open” nature of CTE courses (Quentin, WHS) and the more rigid structure of academic STEM courses. Quentin (WHS) explained: I can communicate with other students about anything I needed help on. “Hey guys, I’m trying to make something in SolidWorks.
I could use a hand.” And they would come over and help me and we would kind of learn together and help each other. The format of the course allows students to really get to know each other. Peter (PHS) enjoyed making friends and getting to know classmates including their interests and their strengths in the class. We get to know each other’s perks, you know? Which one’s good at this station or which one’s good at doing this job or anything. I know one kid, he’s really good at programming stuff. I know another kid who’s really good at building stuff on SolidWorks. I know another person that’s really good at wiring, one kid that’s good at building stuff on SolidWorks and actually wiring it to something else. It’s just everybody has their different perks and what they’re good at and so when I have something that need to be done, I can go ask them and say, “Hey, how do I do this? Can you show me how to do it?” and they’ll just show me on the computer or show me what they did. Peter (PHS) found it exciting to work in a supportive environment in which even when he did not know the answers immediately, his classmates were available to help him. Students also relied on existing friendships when seeking help. Andres (HHS) mentioned a friend who helped him with math. “He helped me and pretty much he taught me everything I didn’t understand. I don’t know how he understanded it, but he just went on it and he explained it to me real good.” David (SHS) just asks his friends for help. “There’s always somebody that knows what they’re doing, so if you don’t know then, I mean, somebody will and they can always show you.” Derrick (MHS) utilized the social capital gained in his academic STEM courses to build helping networks in his career academy course. [W]e knew each other from other classes other than in here so it was kind of easy. Just like if one of us knew a problem and like the others didn’t one of us would just go over there and help them, like teach them how to work it out or do it…. Like collaboration.
In a traditional chemistry or physics class, such collaboration would be considered cheating. In these applied STEM courses as well as the workplace, working with classmates/coworkers is an effective way to accomplish tasks.
Leadership and Con lict Management Along with daily activities, teachers also emphasized building teamwork skills by assigning an array of group projects throughout the school year. These projects took place over several weeks or a semester. Students described these projects as self-directed exercises during which students had freedom to collaborate. These projects allowed students to develop their leadership skills, negotiate con lict, and socialize with their classmates. Teachers used group projects as opportunities to imbue students with the con idence to lead their peers and be led by their peers. Each project format gave students freedom to collaborate and allowed them to develop their leadership skills, negotiate con lict, and socialize with their classmates.
Fostering Leadership Mr. Holt believed it was challenging to imbue leadership skills among students who were all “strong academically” but are not used to being challenged in the way they were going to be challenged by the program. “It’s not something that’s going to come easily to them.” In Mr. Holt’s experiences, the “average student” was undecided about the ield they want to pursue so they were trying ields out. Mr. Holt believed his students needed to work on self-con idence because “while they’re bright kids they’re surrounded by bright kids” in their engineering course. Students were not comfortable learning such new material in courses where other students may know much more than they do. I think that many of them are pretty sure that somebody else knows more which I think is kind of uncomfortable for them. Most of them grew up probably being the brightest kid in the class and you put them in an environment where they’re not the brightest kid in the class. And so a lot of them are going from always being sure, being the kid with the answer, and the kid
who knows to “Wow, I’m not sure about this anymore. I don’t know what we’re supposed to do in this project and I don’t immediately have an obvious answer of what we’re supposed to do.” So there is a tendency [for students] to kind of hang back a little bit and wait for somebody to make the decision. Mr. Holt felt many students were uncomfortable knowing they may not be the smartest student in these classes which makes them more likely to defer to other students rather than lead and take initiative. Mr. Holt gave an example of how he encourages students to develop their leadership skills. He assigns students a computer integrated manufacturing inal project that he described as “pretty involved.” Students design a simulation of a lexible manufacturing cell (FMC), a system of machines that conducts multiple automated tasks. Students build the FMC on a small-scale using robotics parts and programs and test it for cost effectiveness, ef iciency, reliability. The project is large enough to justify putting students in groups of nine or ten. Mr. Holt appoints a group project manager who is not the star student of the group but a “middle of the pack kid” who is still a top student because they are all top students but may be holding back. “I want that kid to have the opportunity to rise to the challenge.” Mr. Holt acknowledged that these students do not readily accept being a leader. He described one situation in which he assigned a student to be a leader. The student resisted and claimed that a classmate is better at a certain task. Mr. Holt turned that around into an example of what it takes to be a good leader. The student asked, “Well how did you pick me?” Mr. Holt responded: I said, “You’re good at mechanical stuff. You’re good at software stuff. You know enough to have a good understanding of all of these, but you’re not so interested in one that you’re going to focus entirely on it.” I’ve had someone say, “But he’s much better.” [I respond] “Great, you’ve done a good job of evaluating the resources you have available to you. You know what job to give that kid.” Mr. Holt used this as an opportunity to help these students recognize their own strengths and interests and grow as engineers as
well as recognize the talents of their classmates. This is an example of how a teacher can assign team leaders and encourage them to utilize team roles to meet project goals. Andres (HHS) was an admitted “slacker” who accepted the mantle of leadership as a senior. “I’m the leader in my group, so I’ve got to keep like everybody on task and if they’re not on task or they’re slack, it’s going to bring you like delays on things that you got to get done.” As a leader, Andres (HHS) had to set timelines to make sure tasks were completed on time. Andres (HHS) acknowledged that he struggles to stay on task, but as a leader Andres (HHS) accepted the responsibility to keep other students on task. His classmate Rachel (HHS) learned how to lead her group to confront new challenges during a bridge building activity. “You lost a person or whatever because they’re sick, or the design constraints have changed, you need to it this or the design itself that you came up with has to be changed in order to work.”
Con lict Management and Negotiation Teachers also build leadership skills by demonstrating con idence in their students’ ability to initiate and complete self-directed tasks and projects. Students complete problem-based capstone projects in which they identify a problem, build a prototype to solve that problem, test the prototype, and report on it. These group projects forced students to confront the laws in their own ideas and learn to accept the ideas of others at each phase of the project from conception to completion. Students described combining three or four group member ideas into one cohesive project plan of action. Tyler (WHS) preferred working in teams “because we all have different ideas, but we can blend them together to make a better idea.” Wayne (WHS) described one of his biggest challenges as “being collaborative and united on a project.” For Wayne (WHS) the big challenges of group assignments were managing different personalities and different ways of thinking. He learned that “everybody’s unique” in their approaches to problem-solving. He used communication strategies such as “talking through a problem, explaining my thoughts to someone else and having them do the same or just getting frustrated with each other and then inally learning how the other person acts or feels” (Wayne, WHS). In this respect, Wayne (WHS) learned how to
bene it from both concordant and discordant intragroup dynamics in order to manage con lict and advance toward achieving their common goals.
Social Skills Several students were initially encouraged to register for the program by friends who were also enrolling or already in the program. Brenda (SHS) explained how her eight senior year engineering program classmates were among the 56 students who started a STEM program with her in the 6th grade. “The people that I’ve had in my classes right now are the same people I’ve had in my classes since 6th grade… So we’re like a huge family, like that entire room I know everyone in there.” The SHS students are a close-knit group. Carl (SHS) hangs out with three or four of his classmates every weekend. Students rely on friends as instrumental support as described under Helping Behaviors, but friends in the course were also an important source of social and emotional support. “Well my parents and friends are always pushing me to be better. I always compete with my friends academically so that’s always motivation to keep going. Yeah, my friends are a big help there” (Edward, PHS). Walter (PHS) recalled going to the program orientation with friends and discussing the program with them early on. He mentioned some of his friends from the program were enrolling in USF with him next year. “I mean they might not be with my subject or whatever, but they’ll be there in the engineering. They’ll be there to have a friend that you can talk to at least about something.” A few friends from middle school joined George (PHS) in the engineering program, but it did not in luence his decision to enroll in the program. “I mean it’s nice to have a couple friends you know already, but you’ll make new friends.” Students build friendships with other talented students through their engineering courses and other AP and Honors courses. Evan (SHS) liked that he got to meet “new kids who are interested in the same stuff as you.” For Chris (HHS), it made perfect sense to build friendships with fellow engineering magnet students.
Kids who are in the magnet program, they seem to be wanting to achieve more. So I associate myself around people who are in the magnet program who are, umm you know, it’s very obvious that they’re college bound. So I hang around those type of people…. I want to leave high school and go on to college. Why would I associate with somebody who’s not? Walter (PHS) made a similar point. He mentioned that about 75% of students in his AP Physics class also had engineering the next period. “So you can get really attached kind of to the same kids because you’re all taking the same like math and physics class and stuff like that and it’s just fun.” Not everyone felt the same. Eric (SHS) disliked “seeing the same people all day.” He said it was “boring” to see the “same classmates in every single class.” He gave the example of one of his friends, “I have like six out of seven classes with him. He gets kind of annoying.” Teachers established learning and working environments similar to small, family-oriented manufacturing irms in the area. Students made new friends while working together on daily stations and group projects. Students maintained, started, and reaf irmed friendships within a classroom environment they described as friendly, cooperative, and congenial. Ryan (HHS) described being a student at Horton HS saying, “Well it’s being a student. You just go here, do the classes. There’s people you don’t like. There’s people you do like.” But engineering class was his favorite part of the day: “It’s fun. You’re more active in what you’re doing. You’re more hands on and hang out with friends.” Brian (HHS) explained how HHS capstone projects gave students opportunities to work closely together and build friendships. “It’s a lot of fun because we get to work in groups and I kind of get to meet people through that and make friends.” Overall these engineering programs offer hands-on activities that allow students to interact and get to know each other not just as classmates but also as people. Noah (WHS) said, “It’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of hands-on activities and you meet some really cool people. I’ve made a lot of friends in this class in the last four years that I didn’t overlap any other classes with….” Noah (WHS) believed that completing the program with friends over four years was “de initely” helpful
“because you’ll ind people that take the same interest in you or they might introduce you to something you didn’t know about and it’s been really interesting, so it’s pretty cool.” For Barry (WHS), having friends in class was a challenge to overcome. He was often too social in class and had to learn how to balance being friendly with getting his work done. “I like to talk a lot, but Mr. Wells will set you straight. He’ll make sure that you’re paying attention and he’ll keep you on track.” Teachers allow students the freedom to socialize in class, but they have strict expectations. For example, Mr. Palmer believes students like the engineering program because it’s “self-paced, they actually take charge of their education in the class.” He allows his students to socialize and even listen to music during class as long as they are completing their work. Mr. Palmer did clarify that if students are not doing their work, “I bust them out. I’ll take it from them. I shut down music playing just because being inappropriate for the academic environment…Yes, they have some rules, but the kids are great.”
Low Enrollment of Girls in Engineering Girls are a distinct minority in engineering programs. Only 11 of out of 67 high school students interviewed for this study were girls, comparable to the composition of the programs overall. Other CTE programs, even other STEM CTE programs, draw more girls than engineering programs. For example, district administrator Mr. Frank explained that the Horton HS magnet engineering program does not attract as many girls as the Horton HS biomedical or biotechnology magnet programs. He mentioned that one of the middle school robotics programs has all-girl robotics teams. The district is also infusing engineering design challenges into the K-5 curriculum for all students. Mr. Frank explained that the district hopes that more children, regardless of gender, will complete elementary school with a better understanding of engineering and engineering careers and be motivated to seek out engineering programs in middle school and high school. [T]hat will help us kind of level the playing ield. Because boys and girls are equally represented in the elementary school in its
design challenges, so getting at them younger, making them more comfortable with engineering and understanding engineering and then understanding that the career ields are there and for both boys and girls, you know men and women will help us out in balancing it in later ages. The district is taking several steps to “build a gender-based pipeline and involve more girls” in the engineering programs. Teachers deal with the impact of gender imbalance and attempt to address it in their recruiting efforts. Mr. Wells estimated that girls made up fewer than 5% of West HS engineering students. Mr. Wells believed that girls are excited about the program when they visit the program as 8th graders. Some girls do enroll in the program but change their schedule after the irst day. Mr. Wells believed those girls were “intimidated” that there were “so many males” in the program compared to the “very low” percentage of girls. Recently, WHS added an application process in which students write an essay explaining why they want to enroll in the program which attracts more girls who “knew what they were getting their self into” as opposed to girls placed into the class by guidance counselors. Mr. Wells stressed “we are really making an effort to attract more females” by introducing engineering in middle school and promoting engineering careers and future earnings. He said WHS is also stressing “what kind of opportunities there are for females in engineering and just kind of basically telling them that they’re a female, they ill out an application they’re going to get in.” Mr. Wells did not believe girls faced major problems in his course beyond being uncomfortable as the only girl working in groups with boys. “We do a lot of group work…so they just have to be comfortable when they may be the only female in their group. That’s really the only issue that usually happens.” Mr. Palmer estimated that girls made up about 20% of students in the PHS engineering program. He said each of the girls’ parents told him that their daughters originally did not want to enroll but the parents saw the potential opportunities for them during the Payne HS open house they attended when their daughters were in 8th grade. Mr. Palmer believes his current female students “recruit other girls just by being here.” For example, Elena (PHS) learned about the program in 8th
grade from a boy on her swim team who knew she liked to build computers. She shadowed a 9th grade girl who showed her around the lab and showed her the interactive lessons she and her partner were doing on a mechanical systems station. As a senior, Laura (PHS) may have encouraged other girls to enroll in the program. Mr. Palmer admitted that he stirs up the gender competition in the classroom. “It’s not real kosher sometimes but I will dog the boys about ‘She’s doing it. Why can’t you do it?’” He thinks such chiding pushes the boys to work harder although he does believe the girls in his class “deserve to be engineers.” “They need to be engineers because they think more outside the box than the boys do.”
Being a Girl in Male-Dominated Engineering Classrooms Rachel (HHS) learned about the engineering program when the Horton HS lead magnet teacher (a woman) came to her middle school. Rachel (HHS) and her family were familiar with HHS because her brother was enrolled in a different CTE program at HHS a few years before. Rachel’s mother encouraged her to enroll in engineering. “My mother is the one that told me, ‘Hey you’re good in math and if you do this, you’re guaranteed a job and everything,’ so she kind of in luenced it.” Rachel (HHS) had never really considered engineering before enrolling. She mostly had childhood dreams like being a singer or an actress. She had not thought about her academic strengths and “what I could apply my brain to” until her mother suggested the engineering program. Jessica (HHS) started the program as one of three girls in the magnet program which made her a sort of a curiosity on campus. People like to ask me about it because I’m like one of the only females and I get interviewed about it a lot from the journalism team and stuff… they usually ask me ‘How is it being one of the only females in the engineering program?’ and I’m involved in a lot of sports (volleyball and softball) so they ask me about that and mixing it with my classes and how can I manage it. Rachel (HHS) and Jessica (HHS) both believe being one of the only girls in engineering will be very bene icial to their education and
careers. Rachel (HHS) later explained that she believed there was “job equality in the workplace” and as a woman she would be more likely to be hired than a man. “I have twice as many more opportunities as say a white male does. …[I]f you have two people, a white male…and a woman and they have the same background…the employer will go for the woman rather than the man.” Jessica (HHS) echoed the same sentiment as Rachel (HHS) saying, “I know there’s a lot of competition in the engineering, but it’s easier for females I’ve heard.” For Rachel (HHS), the lack of gender balance in these CTE courses was a “very weird” contrast to traditional STEM and non-STEM courses. She was used to being “surrounded by guys as friends” and there is typically an “equal balance of girls and boys” in traditional classrooms. “But when I go into my engineering class freshman year there was only three girls in there and then one of them graduated the next year, so it was just two.” Eventually, Rachel (HHS) was the only girl in her class because the course was split up into two sections. She laughed and said, “I was okay with it. It was just kind of unusual to have nothing but a guy classroom almost.” Carrie (PHS) was in 10th grade and the only girl in her class. In eighth grade, Carrie (PHS) listed engineering as one of her interests. She shadowed a boy she had been friends with who was enrolled in the ET program. “I worked with him on his station and it was like really fun like we worked with like different wirings and like different machines and it like made me really excited and I liked it a lot.” Carrie (PHS) felt she was better able to focus as the only girl instead of talking to the other girls in the class. She complained that other girls were too talkative and would not complete their lessons. “I like working with boys better. It helps me focus because if girls are there then we’ll talk like whatever.” Carrie (PHS) explained that the previous year, there were ive girls in her class, but this year there were only three. Carrie (PHS) did not know why two girls left. “I guess they just got like bored with it because they weren’t really interested in that stuff” compared to the other girls who stayed. Carrie (PHS) stayed in the program because she liked everything and “Mr. Palmer is my favorite teacher, so he pushes us to do better.” She thought the other girls stayed because they also liked the program. “I think they stayed because they liked it too because I worked with a girl… and she was my partner for a couple of
the times and we liked working together and liked doing stuff at the stations.” Carrie (PHS) wanted to be on the robotics team, but she was on the basketball team and the robotics practice schedule con licted with basketball practices and games. Carrie (PHS) recommended the engineering program to a friend who was a freshman on the girls basketball team. “I encouraged her to do it because it’s fun and I love learning in that class.” Carrie (PHS) invited her friend to shadow her in class to see if she liked it. Carrie’s friend liked it “so she takes that class too now. She’s a freshman so she takes and she loves it too.” Carrie (PHS) sometimes helps her friend after school before basketball practice because they work on the same stations in different class periods. “We’ll go after school before practice and I’ll help her or like she’ll help me if I did a station that she’s done before or if I didn’t do a station she’s done before.” Natalie (PHS) was in a different class than Carrie (PHS). She said that being one of a few girls in engineering classes “makes you feel superior, I guess. I mean it’s good being the only girl sometimes.” This year as a sophomore, she said there were more girls in her class than usual. “There’s actually a lot of girls in our class. I think girls are getting more into it.” When asked why more girls were enrolling in engineering, Natalie (PHS) replied, “I don’t know. I think some girls like the architecture part of it.” At the time of the interview, she had a girl lab partner. She acknowledged that working with boys was different than working with girls, “especially if you do better than [boys]. You feel just kind of accomplished.” Natalie (PHS) grew up competing with her brothers, so she felt ready for competitive gendered classroom environments. When asked how boys feel about working with her, she said, “I guess they’re frightened maybe. I’m not sure.” She felt they knew she was just as smart as them if not smarter. For girls, learning teamwork skills in engineering courses primarily means learning to work with boys. When asked what skills she learned in the course, Dana (WHS) responded, “De initely working with a bunch of boys, just like working with people in general.” Girls described how group activities and projects helped them assert themselves as the only girl or one of two or three girls within male-dominant engineering course environments. Girls learned how to work with boys, but their
presence forced the boys to learn how to work constructively with girls. No boys speci ically mentioned working with girls, but girls noticed how boys eventually changed their attitude toward them. The only thing Laura (PHS) disliked about the program was there were not enough girls because “It is tough talking with all the guys and getting them used to you, but it would be a lot more easier to have more girls and to have the guys get used to it.” Laura (PHS) recalled a speci ic situation while working on stations that helped her overcome the challenge of working with the boys. I was partnering up with more of the guys instead of the girls. The irst station I had I was with one of the girls in my class and the way we were assigned our next station, I was partnered up with one of the guys. And I inally just started talking to him, be like “OK, what am I doing” and we inally got situated and then as time went on I was starting to talk to more of the guys and they inally recognized that I’m not just a girl, I’m here to do what I want to do. She recalled an incident her freshman year in which boys were saying the program was only for boys. “A lot of the guys were just saying ‘It’s just for guys. Why are you even in here?’” The boys would leave the girls out of groups. “But once we got involved with them, they inally let us in.” By the end of that freshman year, the boys and girls started working together. Laura (PHS) said the girls stepped up and explained the course was not just for boys. When asked if she faced any extra pressure as a girl, Laura (PHS) said “No, because…the guys backed off and they just treat me like one of them.” Laura (PHS) felt more comfortable after that irst year and remained comfortable since. Even though the boys “backed off,” a lot of girls eventually left the program. Laura (PHS) recalled that 10 girls started the program with her as a freshman, but only the two of them remained as seniors. Laura (PHS) talked to the girls who left the program and said the other girls felt “too intimidated” and “it wasn’t what they wanted to do anymore, so they left the program” although a few had left the school as well. Laura (PHS) re lected on being one of two senior girls in the program.
My experience is interesting because it’s like I have to get along with all the guys and I can’t just be the quiet one. I have to put myself out there and be like “I’m here. Don’t ignore me” and stuff but the guys—they have no problem with both of us—but you just got to make your presence known with them, being in a classroom full of guys… Because the guys can be a little pushy and not see that we are girls, that we have our own differences, but we can also work together very well. Laura (PHS) said in order to work with guys, she has to speak up and make her presence known and not get pushed around by the guys. At the time of the interview, Laura (PHS) was in a project group with three boys which she said was “perfectly good because I work well with all of them.”
Interpersonal Skills for the Future Quentin (WHS) liked how his engineering classes prepared him for jobs in the future whether they are “simple desk jobs in like of ices to anything in ields of engineering.” He researched different engineering ields and learned from guest speakers Mr. Wells invited to the class. Quentin (WHS) explained that the problem-solving and teamwork skills he learned in-class complement each other and provide him a strong foundation for the present and future. I also learned that working with others is very important when facing a certain problem. Like we’ve had tons of class activities where you have to work on projects with other students and it’s very important because you never know. You might’ve missed something or just having an extra person there to think and go, “Hey guys, I think this is important” or “Hey, let’s try this.” That is very important and it’s important that as a team you can work together with other students and get along with other people to solve one problem you all have. Quentin (WHS) applied these skills at his internship for a local architect. He used the computer programs from class to apply problemsolving skills as well as teamwork skills in the of ice environment. “I’m
working with a lot of coworkers, teamwork skills, we work together and some of those teamwork skills I developed in this class so that’s a major help there.” Quentin (WHS) planned to attend the local community college for two years and transfer to a four-year university engineering program. His dreams were to graduate from college and get a job “that pays decent money” as an architect and/or an engineer, get a nice house, getting raise, and raise kids. Ful illing that dream would allow him to live a “full and happy life.” Jessica (HHS) described herself as “really anti-social” in high school because “there’s so much drama.” She did not want to “associate with a lot of people.” Jessica (HHS) enjoyed ield trips, particularly the only industry tour she took in 11th grade to Lockheed Martin for a Women in Industry event. She was able to network and meet women engineers while also learning about women engineers throughout history and participating in competitions and doing activities. She also did a ield trip to her dream four-year university and got to meet faculty and staff and learn about opportunities include internship programs. When asked what she needs to do to achieve her goals, Jessica (HHS) admitted that in order to be successful, she would need to become more social in college to build the social and professional networks needed to execute her plans. I would have to actually be like a social person while I’m in school… I know in college I’m going to have to break out of this and make sure I have connections to know what to do and people that I have to contact and make sure my list is long enough to for have people to help me. Jessica (HHS) was so inspired by the Women in Industry event and meeting so many women engineers that she wanted to start her professional career at Lockheed Martin and “move up from there.” The Chapter 8 conclusion includes more of Jessica’s story.
Reference U.S. Department of Education. 2018. “Employability Skills.” Retrieved November 17, 2018 (http://cte.ed.gov/initiatives/employability-skills-framework).
© The Author(s) 2020 W. Tyson, Teaching and Learning Employability Skills in Career and Technical Education , Palgrave Studies in Urban Education https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-58744-4_7
7. Projects and Activities That Promote Employability Skills Will Tyson1 (1) Department of Sociology, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA
Will Tyson Email: [email protected] Abstract This chapter details speci ic individual, small group, large group, and classwide activities that help reinforce employability skills: SolidWorks Certi ication Exam at Payne HS and West HS, Payne HS daily station work, Starling HS weekly Design Days, and the West HS annual egg drop and rocket launch. Each section describes the activity and examines how students learn personal responsibility, work ethic and/or various interpersonal skills. This chapter reveals how teachers can structure common assignments and activities to imbue employability skills. This chapter follows up Chapters 5 and 6 by examining speci ic individual, small group, large group, and classwide activities that help reinforce employability skills. This chapter examines West HS and Payne HS SolidWorks Certi ication Exam, Payne HS daily station work, Starling HS weekly Design Days, and the West HS annual egg drop and rocket launch. Each section describes the activity and examines how students learn personal responsibility, work ethic and/or various interpersonal skills.
SolidWorks Certi ication Exam (Payne HS and West HS) Students were particularly passionate about learning CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing) software programs (i.e., SolidWorks, AutoCAD, ArchiCAD). Students mentioned CAD/CAM programs as something they enjoy about their class, a handson class experience, and a major technical skill they acquired. Over 80% of students at Payne HS, Starling HS, and West HS mentioned learning SolidWorks or other CAD/CAM programs. Most had earned SolidWorks certi ication as juniors or seniors or planned to do so. Teachers impressed upon students that earning SolidWorks certi ication would give students an advantage in the workforce and give them a leg up on their college classmates. This sentiment was echoed by employers interviewed for the study as well. For example, Chapter 3 mentioned how one employer, Tom recruited a disabled veteran and offered him a job on the condition that he enroll at the local community college to take a SolidWorks class. One of Tom’s major critiques of Florida universities is that SolidWorks was not taught until the junior year of college. “One of the problems that USF [Engineering] had was they were not teaching SolidWorks until junior in college, junior year in college. SolidWorks is the basic blueprint reading, have to have some.” He later elaborated, “I can’t get them a job [at my company] until they have SolidWorks… If you can’t read a blueprint, you can’t run a brake, you can’t run a water jet, you can’t run a CNC.” Payne HS and West HS students had the option of devoting their entire third and/or fourth year to focusing on a particular topic. Mr. Palmer and Mr. Wells reported that most students chose to focus on SolidWorks with the goal of completing the SolidWorks certi ication exam at the end of the school year. Students were responsible for their own progress. Their passion encouraged them to persevere as they learned SolidWorks, completed classroom activities and projects using the software, and ultimately completed the SolidWorks industry certi ication exam.
Students were motivated by their short-term and long-term career goals along with ful illing their creative urges. Zach (WHS) said, “I like using the SolidWorks software just because you can pretty much create any part that you want and if you want to prototype it in the 3-D printer then you can do that and just see how it works.” Dwayne (WHS) took engineering in middle school where he irst became intrigued by building bridges and constructing other items. When he enrolled in WHS, he heard that he could learn SolidWorks, so he decided to enroll in the program to see if he liked it. And after my irst year of taking Engineering I, I decided I wanted to actually learn SolidWorks and actually learn how to make things because I knew it would help me later in the future possibly. So I decided to take [Engineering] II and III and now I just passed the certi ication for SolidWorks… I’m glad I took it. It’s just always interested me, making things, how things are put together and all that. Dwayne (WHS) explained the creative appeal of SolidWorks, “The main thing is I can really pretty much you can give me a part or tell me to make something like a keyboard or a cell phone I can create it right on the computer in less than ive minutes. It’s really easy just using SolidWorks. That’s probably one of the best things I’ve learned.” Dana (WHS) was highly motivated to succeed in the course and to earn her SolidWorks certi ication. She enjoyed working with technology speci ically drawing designs in SolidWorks and using a 3-D printer and other tools to engrave items for her friends. “I like doing SolidWorks because I like starting from nothing and then just seeing how it can become something big.” She expressed her love for engineering and technology by comparing them to history and progress. It’s just I feel like it’s going somewhere and I think that there’s always something to learn… It’s kind of like history, you know? There’s always something that continues going on that you need to learn about and there’s always need for improvement in everything and I just, I like bettering other people and I wanted to learn how I can do that through technology.
Noah (WHS) admitted that he was not a fan of SolidWorks and he was not interested in 3-D designing especially compared to classmates who were more excited about it. Noah aspired to be an electrical engineer and work in a lab and make circuit boards and test circuits. But focusing on SolidWorks gave Noah (WHS) the opportunity to sit in the lab and work, so he pursued his certi ication. At irst, the process was not fun, but once he learned the computer program, “it got to be really cool” and he started to enjoy it. “If you’re de initely looking to go into 3-D design, anything with engineering really, it’s the CAD/CAM SolidWorks thing, it’s great. It looks really good, but for me personally I would love to just be an engineer in the lab all day.”
Work Ethic and Effort Most students who pursued SolidWorks certi ication genuinely enjoyed designing, but found studying and preparing for the exam to be very dif icult and overwhelming. Dwayne (WHS) was blown away when he irst started using SolidWorks. “When you irst saw the program you’re just like, ‘Wow! How am I ever going to learn this?’ It was that dif icult because I just wasn’t like used to it, but once you get used to it, it becomes second nature.” Dwayne (WHS) did not think he would forget SolidWorks after he learned it “because it’s so much little things involved into it, but once you get used to it, you kind of just do it without thinking.” Oliver (PHS) fully committed to earning his SolidWorks certi icate. He worked on it full-time in class. “It’s really self-driven like if you just don’t want to do something you just don’t do it, but it effects your grade. But if you really promote yourself to do your stuff and do all that, it helps your grade and it helps with you learning the stuff like with SolidWorks.” Oliver (PHS) installed a free SolidWorks demo on his home computer so he would not be restricted to only working at school. “I want to try to get my SolidWorks certi icate, so I’ve been like doing stuff at home with it. I’ve been building stuff and it’s helping me learn the program.” He credits the structure of the class with pushing him to learn more. Dana (WHS) had to overcome her frustrations of originally learning and then mastering SolidWorks.
I kept getting it wrong and so I would just keep redoing it and I would get frustrated, so I would just have to like stop for a day, but I would always try to come back to it and get it down… I had people help me, but it’s just like there’s a lot of questions like, “Why do you do this? Like just tell me.” and they’re like, “Well it’s just how the SolidWorks works” but you just have to take a break sometimes and go back to it because…the hardest one for me was the rim because it was nothing was like super exact. It’s just kind of forms with the inner angles of the wheel, so it’s not like you just do a straight line and you measure everything out. It was like you have to just kind of be naturally good at SolidWorks. When asked if she had become “naturally good” at SolidWorks, Dana (WHS) responded, “You can never be perfect unless you’re [name of a boy in class], ‘Mr. I get a 100 on everything’, on his certi icate, but yeah there’s always something more that you don’t know.” SolidWorks lessons can take two or three days to complete. Students relied on teachers, classmates, and books to help them complete the lessons. Unfortunately, teachers were not always available as discussed in Chapters 5 and 6. Most classmates had not taken the exam, so they were not available to help either. WHS students reported using SolidWorks study and reference books that were several years behind the actual software. WHS students described how they overcame challenges through persistence. Xavier (WHS) referenced learning code in robotics and spending a week as a class iguring out how to do solve a problem using SolidWorks saying, “[Y]ou have to push yourself to succeed… It’s mostly just straight up determination.” Tim (WHS) described trial and error as a “fun challenge” to overcome when completing a project. Will (WHS) learned to carefully follow directions when building in order to avoid repetition by retracing his steps. Simon (WHS) felt that focusing on SolidWorks assignments in his third year was monotonous so he would “just get in and do it real quick” and back track if he did something wrong. Learning and applying CAD/CAM tested students’ patience. Tyler (WHS) struggled with the speci icity required to pass the exam. “The test was pretty long and you have to be very speci ic with the mass of
some things, so you have to go back and redo and that would take hours to redo a part. So that was pretty challenging, but I overcame and passed it.” Repeating various tasks in class helped him to pass the exam. “I knew what tripped up a lot of kids and so I made sure not to do that. Mostly repetition and practice because my 10th and 11th-grade year a lot of kids didn’t do SolidWorks, but I knew that I wanted to be certi ied, so I practiced sooner. I think just the early practice gave me an edge over the other students.” Walter (PHS) was one of several students who said that SolidWorks was the main challenge he overcame to be successful. “I did a bunch of tutorials and stuff and then I went from not knowing anything on it in a year to getting a certi ication… Just worked on it every day.” Over one year, Walter spent every day studying tutorials in class with classmates who were also studying for the certi ication exam. He also asked Mr. Palmer for help as needed. He was one of seven out of 10 students who passed the exam the previous year. Linda (WHS) was preparing for the certi ication exam. “You just completely study. That’s because it’s so dif icult to pass the test. Like only four out of ten people passed it last year.” Students noted how few students earned their certi ication. Throughout the semester, they studied together, completed projects together, and often took the certi ication exam at the same time. But not everyone passed which fueled students’ desire to earn certi ication. Alissa (WHS) did not pass her SolidWorks certi ication test during her third year. “I did not pass that. I don’t know why. I’m just a bad test taker in general. So that’s my weakness, but other than that I think I would’ve passed it.” She enjoyed talking about how learning SolidWorks supplements what she learned in her AP Calculus B and C and Physics Honors courses. She continued practicing, retook the exam, and passed. The end of Chapter 5 details Alissa’s ongoing struggles with selfcon idence.
The Bene its of Hard Work and Responsibility Students who persevered and passed the exam bene ited personally, academically, and potentially professionally. Teachers encouraged students to complete certi ication exams in order to bolster their college applications and resumes to show evidence of their hard work. Mr. Palmer explained that SolidWorks certi ication often helps students
gets internships or paying jobs. “[I]t attracts a lot of students to our program when you tell their parents that they can become certi ied in something and they can articulate that certi ication into a college credit, a free three-hour drafting class.” Students buy into this motivation. Most students said they earned SolidWorks certi ication as juniors or seniors or aspired to do so in order to improve their job prospects or give them additional preparation for college. Dana (WHS) described the reaction she received when showing her SolidWorks certi icate to her family and friends. “[P]eople actually looked at [the certi icate] and they were like, ‘Oh wow, that’s really nice’ cause some [jobs] require it actually, so that’s been a bene it.” Dwayne (WHS) also believed being certi ied in high school gave him plenty of options later in life, making it worth the hard work. “I’m only certi ied but if take the professional test later in life there’s a lot of jobs that like look for people who can actually use SolidWorks program.” The skills he developed in high school give him the ability to create something in SolidWorks and send it to the 3-D printer. “Then you have a prototype you know show it to a company but just something that it was really good to know… [I]t broadens your horizons more, you can have more opportunity for things.”
Payne HS Daily Station Work: 20 Stations in 30 Days Mr. Palmer came to PHS as a physics teacher. PHS administrators tasked Mr. Palmer with starting a new engineering magnet program. He had the option of purchasing a number of different manufacturing and engineering curricula. He chose a manufacturing curriculum that requires students complete 20 lessons in 30 days. The equipment includes 20 stations that have 20 lessons each. Each station covers a different ield. Students must complete the 20 lessons for their station in 30 days at their own pace. Mr. Palmer explained, “Our program gives them a shotgun blast of the engineering ields in general so they can look at aerospace and say, ‘Hey, maybe this might be it!’ or electricity and electronics or mechanical systems or industrial engineering.” Mr. Palmer set up the program so irst and second-year students in the “get a little piece” of different ields. Then third-year students can either continue working on stations or specialize in a speci ic area such
as architectural software design, engineering modeling design or manufacturing production. Mr. Palmer described this third year as the “focus year.” Most students choose to earn their SolidWorks certi ication by preparing for the exam. Other students also complete certi ications that allow them to test out of courses offered at local community colleges or technical schools. Fourth-year students complete a capstone project throughout the year.
Personal Responsibility With only 30 days to complete 20 lessons, Mr. Palmer generally requires students to work in pairs at each station. At the beginning of each six-week period, students pick a partner and pick a station, a process Nathan (PHS) described as “a little hectic.” Students select their lesson and station and follow the manuals to complete station tasks. Leonard (PHS) described Engineering I as “mainly a self-taught class” because students divide into groups and “we go off to a station and we kind of, we pretty much read the lesson plan, we igure out how that implements to our station, and then we carry out the lesson involved with the lesson.” Classes are also completely self-paced and students are responsible for completing all 20 stations in 30 days. Any lessons they do not complete are taken out of their grades. Mr. Palmer puts the deadline date on the white board and students know they have to be done by then. At the time of the interview, graduation day was the deadline. Mr. Palmer believes this design gives students leeway in case equipment breaks down or students struggle. He explained that some lessons take more than one class like using a PLC (programmable logic controller) to wire schematics and pneumatics and electrical components together. Mr. Palmer relies heavily on experiential learning as opposed to lectures. He tells students, “I do no lecturing. I work with you kids oneon-one.” Mr. Palmer’s daily class routine starts with ive minutes of taking roll and giving students any information they need for the day. After that, it is just “cutting them loose, getting them to their stations, getting them signed on, getting them working.” At that point, the students begin working, he wanders around the classrooms answering students’ questions and “kind of looking over shoulders.” Mr. Palmer described a typical day in which one pair works in the aerodynamics
station while other pairs work in electricity and electronics or CAD/CAM or a Mastercam online courses students can complete for certi ications or college credits. Each pair works on something different because they can choose whatever stations they want. Stations are the primary component of the course for irst or second-year PHS Engineering students. Quincy (PHS), an 11th grader in his second year in the program, explained that stations are the “only requirement” in the course. Every PHS student mentioned stations as a source of stress, a source of pride, something they like and/or dislike, and generally as a challenge they have to overcome. Greg (PHS) thought the stations were cool because he gets to work on a “variety of different…engineering or technologies.” In the current six-week period, he completed lessons on SolidWorks, sensors and pneumatics, and a wind tunnel. He was working on electricity and electronics at the time of his interview using capacitors and resistors. The variety was appealing to all the students. Linda (PHS) described the stations as fun because students are allowed to do “a lot of what we want and at the pace we wish.” She considered the 30-day restriction to be a net positive. “[A]lthough we have to have that deadline so we learn, we have more time to learn and we can learn as much as we can. And there’s so many just different things that we can do with the program and there’s just so many choices.” Michael (PHS) was a sophomore in his irst year of the program. He liked that he was always at a different station. In contrast to Laura (PHS), he added, “I’ve never been at a station that I hated.” For Michael (PHS), the only challenges in this course come “if you’re not 100% applying yourself.” Otherwise “if you’re involved and you read every step, it’s pretty head on, straight forward.” Overall, Michael (PHS) described the pace as “leisurely” but students who fall behind risk missing a lesson or two and some get in trouble if they are not responsible with the freedom they are given. The main challenge of the stations is that each lesson can be tedious and students do not know how much time they will take. Randall (PHS) noted that it was dif icult to catch up after spending two or three days on the same station. Leonard (PHS) explained that sometimes it takes three or more days to complete a lesson especially when starting the irst lesson in a station. “It’s kind of tricky to recover from it.” Christopher (PHS) and Kent (PHS) remembered activities in which Mr.
Palmer provided instructions at different workstations while students rechecked the stations to ix a problem that did not square with information the manuals. Such activities forced students to manage their time wisely. Natalie (PHS) pointed out that the instruction manuals are often unclear which makes it more dif icult to complete the lessons which impacts their grades. “I mean I’ve gotten them done eventually. It’s just challenging to get them done.” The main challenge Rowan (PHS) had to overcome was time management. “I have never been good with time management no matter what goes on. I have always somehow messed up on time. So you kind of have to learn what time management is in engineering, especially because he gives us 20 lessons to do in 30 days.” Through the program, Rowan (PHS) learned to incorporate a schedule into his daily routine otherwise, “you don’t get anything done… Sometimes its writing things down. Sometimes it’s having reminders throughout the day. And it’s de initely, this is when your due date is. Plot it out.”
Teamwork Mr. Palmer infuses teamwork skill development into his 20 station lessons in 30 days curriculum described in Chapter 7. Students help each other in random pairs, but stations are also a collaborative affair in which Mr. Palmer helps students, students help each other outside of pairs, and even between class sessions. In this respect, everyone helps each other. Greg (PHS) likes working with a partner because “you get two brains instead of one.” He and his partner watch the instructional videos that come with the stations and work together to igure out dif icult stations, especially on topics that are unfamiliar. Quincy (PHS) described the stations as “self-paced” and found it particularly challenging to complete stations without a partner. Most students enjoyed working with a partner and believed partners alleviated much of the stress to complete 20 lessons in 30 days. Mr. Palmer even allows pairs of students from different class sections to work in shifts on projects like the PLC that take more than one class session. “I just tell them I run it like a job… [O]ne class will start it. The next class will come in pick up where they left off. Then the next class, the next class, the next class, until it’s built.” After one group inishes the task, Mr. Palmer tweaks the task to force the next group to
troubleshoot and complete the task on their own. Mr. Palmer develops students’ communication and teamwork skills by “busting their chops about journal keeping” to encourage students to be good teammates. “[I]f I’m a technician and I walk into a job and another technician has been working on that job, I get to see his notes and see what he’s done so I’m not replicating what he’s done.” Carrie (PHS) explained that with seven classes sharing stations, if someone in a later class takes down a station, she has to restart the station the next day. Sometimes she leaves notes for partners in other class sections so she could meet up with them to work on stations together before or after school. Students believed working with a partner eased that pressure of completing all 20 lessons unless their partner did not take the assignments seriously. Edward (PHS) explained that in the irst two years, teachers randomly paired students together, so there was more risk of a partner who would “goof around and mess around.” Quentin (PHS) said, “Every now and again you get a student that just kind of doesn’t care and that kind of takes away from the value as a team.” Elena (PHS) had a friend in another class section who was upset by a partner with whom she had a personality clash. Students were wary of being paired up with the “regular slackers” (Martin, PHS) who were not hard workers. For Rowan (PHS), classroom enjoyment comes down to his station partner: It’s really come down to some of the students that I get put with. I’m not going to like everyone and I understand that, but there’s just some kids that end up signing up for it who I don’t know if they’re taking it seriously or it’s because it’s an easy A depending on how much effort you put into it. So it’s just some of the students that end up signing up for it I dislike, but that’s just because it’s me. I’m not going to like everyone in the world. Natalie (PHS) liked working with a partner because it “teaches you a lot, especially if you want to get into like the engineering career when you’re older” but complained that some students did not actively take charge of their education. Natalie (PHS) complained sometimes her partner does not help her complete the work. When asked if her lazy classmates pass the course, Natalie (PHS) replied, “Probably not…but I
mean, it’s their choice.” She did not know why they bothered to take the course. When Laura (PHS) started, Mr. Palmer would give both partners credit even if one did not do the work. She preferred the current system in which partners who did not do work do not get credit. When Edward (PHS) partnered with students who do not want to do the work, he either forces them to do the work or just does it himself without giving them credit for it. For that reason, Edward (PHS) felt that “meeting new people and having to work with them” was one of the only things he disliked about the program. He later explained that he overcame that challenge because he is a “pretty nice person, pretty sociable.” So he gets to know his new partners and then “you just get to work and you get to know the person better through that.” Once he gets to know his partners better, “the work becomes easier and you low better.” Lance (PHS) entered the engineering program familiar with teamwork from working on cars with his dad at home. “It’s with my dad we have to do wiring for the car, inside the car with the radio, and work with the motor, all the functions with it. It’s pretty dif icult but my dad helps me like Mr. Palmer does.” Lance (PHS) said he liked working alone or in pairs and gave an example of how having a partner helped him overcome challenges. He explained that he usually gets stuck while working on stations that involve motors and wiring. One lesson involved ixing and replacing a motor. “You have to learn the components and you have to wire a certain thing to get a motor started, so you have to get the system right before you can start the motor, so it seems pretty hard.” Lance (PHS) read the book and told his partner the wiring components and his partner ixed the motor. “It helps having a partner because you could do two things at once to help you inish it.” Lance (PHS) was grateful the classroom teamwork experience connected with his experience working on cars with his dad.
Helping Behaviors As consequence of 20 different stations with 20 lessons each and regularly getting new equipment, Mr. Palmer often does not get to use the stations before the students do their lessons, “I’m learning it on the ly as they’re learning it.” He would explain to the students, “You’re actually teaching me some of this stuff. Some of the software I have
never touched because no one’s really showed me any interest in it.” Over the course of the school year, Mr. Palmer gradually encourages students to rely on him less and rely on each other more. He wants students to become experts on each station and be comfortable sharing that expertise with their classmates. He tells students, “You show me interest in it and I’ll let you run with it and you can teach me and I will refer kids to you.” So students learn the stations and then continue to learn by serving as an expert consultant for classmates on the stations they have completed. By halfway through the school year, students are asking each other instead of asking Mr. Palmer. Usually about semester break…I stop getting asked questions, the everyday questions. “Well why isn’t this working?” “Why does this happen? The book says this.” They start asking each other, “Who’s had this station? Why isn’t this working like this? Oh, I’ll come over and show you….” (Mr. Palmer) Students generally preferred asking their classmates for help instead of going to Mr. Palmer. Students generally found Mr. Palmer intimidating, at least initially. Oscar (PHS) and his partners typically exhausted all other possibilities by asking classmates for him before going to Mr. Palmer for fear of asking him a “stupid question.” Oscar (PHS) generally believed this was a good strategy. He explained that if he was working on a CNC mill, it was good to ask Mr. Palmer plenty of questions “because you don’t want to break a drill bit and then that gets him mad and then it costs him money.” But for other stations, he and his partners would “just keep going at it” until they “eventually get it.” Leonard (PHS) said seeking help from Mr. Palmer was frustrating because Mr. Palmer would tell them “Well it’s your station. You have to igure it out.” This forced him to spend more time combing through the manuals. Leonard (PHS) said Mr. Palmer forced students to igure out problems for themselves “unless something’s actually broken.” Patrick (PHS) explained that Mr. Palmer is often busy helping other students, so they have to wait for his help. With only 30 days, pairs often cannot afford to wait for Mr. Palmer because it’s “extra time you just have to sit there.” For that reason, they rely on classmates who had already
inished the station, even seniors who completed the stations in previous years. “Sometimes the seniors know how to do it, so you just ask them and then they end up telling you.” Andrew (PHS) seeks out other classmates “that may have already done that lab and understood it better than I did… I just usually try to start with students because… they can like understand where you’re coming from because they like may have had the same problem before.” He only asks Mr. Palmer “if it has to get to that.” Students often help each other with stations across groups. Students describe an implied reciprocity by which they ask for help and are willing to help others. When a kid does a station and they move on to the next station, all of us, we will have a problem and then we’ll go to them and we’ll be like, “Hey, can you help us out with it so we don’t look stupid’ and they’ll come over and they’ll help us out”. (Elena, PHS) Elena (PHS) helped several classmates on a mechanical systems station because previous classes will take down the station. “I have had to come over to the mechanical systems station before because there’s a problem with lashing periods and one period will put up a part and then the next period will take it down and so a lot of kids, they’ll just be like, ‘Oh it’s taking us so long to get this part up’ and ‘I’ll be like I can come over and help.’ And I’ve helped a lot of kids on that station.” Peter (PHS) and his partner once inished a series pneumatics stations in only three weeks. They worked independently but also helped classmates with their stations. “There’s like a couple stations that I know of that are really hard and so we’ll go back there and if we have previous experience with all those we’ll go out there and help them.”
Starling HS Weekly Design Days A typical Starling HS Engineering class session is about 20% traditional lecture and interacting with students and the rest is hands-on labs. First-year students mostly work on computers and learn basic engineering skills like soldering techniques they may not learn in
college. Second- and third-year students are responsible for design projects. Mr. Stein draws from the end of his engineering career when he worked at a software company teaching engineers how to use design software to automate the design process. The design projects are “more research-based designs” in which Mr. Stein gives students a scenario, sometime to design, and he leads them through the design process. He encourages students to pick something interesting to them that they will follow through with. Students brainstorm, establish criteria, and develop a design. Mr. Stein designates Friday as Design Day when students can work on their own individual projects under his guidance. Mr. Stein helps students plan by asking them, “OK, what are your problems? What are you going to be doing?” This is an adaptation of the “20Time” policy made popular by Google and other technology companies in which employees can dedicate 20% of their time on a project of their choice (Brookhouser 2015). Part of Mr. Stein’s motivation for Design Day was re lected in his regularly conversations with an old fraternity brother who is a mechanical engineer. Mr. Stein recalled his friend discussing how often he needed to call a machinist to help him complete a job. “There’s an art to designing to make it manufacturable and that is not something that is taught well at the college level. You get it through experience with machines.” Mr. Stein believed Design Day helped prepare students for a job out of high school and for college by giving them crucial experience and technical skills they were not going to get elsewhere. Design Day also helped students develop employability skills needed to keep that job. Part of the preparation for college was taking the class to USFTampa campus every February for the annual USF Engineering Expo, a community event in which USF Engineering students host activities and open up labs for children and their families. SHS students display their design projects at the Expo. Mr. Stein explained that the Engineering Expo gives his students exposure to USF Engineering and gives children and their parents exposure to the SHS engineering program. The Engineering Expo is more bang for the buck because it gets kids exposed to things that they can do at college from their point of view. It gets them to demonstrate their own designs and
it helps me recruit for little kids, so I get more bang for my buck by doing that then me and another teacher sitting at a science fair. Mr. Stein and his students bring lyers to the Expo to give to parents to help recruit kids into the program. Mr. Stein also gets to catch up with his former students enrolled in USF Engineering. The Expo was a unique opportunity for students and motivation to complete their projects on time. Students have the irst six months of the school year to complete their project in time to present it in February.
Freedom and Personal Responsibility Carl (SHS) liked the freedom of the projects explaining that students can pick a group or work alone. “There’s no limit to what we can [do]. There’s no like ‘Oh, you speci ically have to build this.’ [Mr. Stein says] ‘You can make up whatever you want and as long as you draw it out for me and make a technological write up for me you can build it.’” Brenda (SHS) was a straight A student whose strengths were math and science. She explained how the self-directed freedom of the engineering program was unique in her class schedule. “Because we’ve been in the engineering class with Mr. Stein for so long, we don’t really…study in that class. It’s just you make your own projects and you have to build whatever you say you’re going to build and have the entire design process with it. So that’s just, it’s kind of like a class for yourself, I guess.” Katie (SHS) and her group were building a ield model of the Brooklyn Bridge that she expected to take to the Expo. They did not want to use balsa wood like they typically use for bridge projects. Katie (SHS) explained that they have “complete” creative freedom even with respect to materials. Well if you let our teacher know what you need for your project you can get it in the school. So from what I know the school will help pay for whatever materials we need but also we can go out. If it’s not that expensive we’ll go out on our own and go buy whatever we need.
Carl (SHS) explained Mr. Stein gave them links to websites where they could get cheap materials. Students felt empowered to do what they want because learned the skills and had complete support and resources from Mr. Stein and the school. Gary (SHS) enrolled in engineering because he thought it was a “cool class.” He initially had problems with coding, but got through it. He liked the design part. “Hey, this is how can you make this work and then just igure it out. I was always pretty good at that.” Gary (SHS) did a design project in which he designed a bird feeder. The main requirement was that birds had to be able to feed. The current semester, he and his group were adapting a two-player card game called NOIR: Deductive Mystery Game to make it an online interactive game. In this game, one player is the killer and the other is the inspector and they each have to accomplish goals and stop their other player. Aaron (SHS) believed the engineering program was fun because he gets to do projects that interest him. His sophomore year, he and some friends made an air cannon for the design project. They used compressed air to launch objects like a tennis ball or an orange. He got to test it at the Expo.
Work Ethic Eric (SHS) described the class as “easy” saying “if you pay attention to your work then it’s easy to get an A.” The hardest part is to complete the projects on time. Students devoted time outside of class to inish their projects. According to Evan (SHS), Friday Design Day helps make sure students are not “just fooling around” and encourages students to work on projects on weekends and during breaks. Evan (SHS) worked on his design project “every single day.” His current project started as a wind powered motorcycle in which wind turbines charge the battery to create an “in inite charge” on the battery. After some research, he decided that was “too costly” and “too advanced” for what he was able to do. He converted his idea to making a motorcycle by adding an engine to a standard cycling. He was making it on his own and acquiring his own parts. “I just want to try to go beyond what I can do this year and try to do it.” Ben (SHS) had to move out of his “comfort zone” in order to complete projects that require more time outside of the classroom. Ben
and his partner had an ambitious plan to build a robot that moves on its own that could detect people and make a sound and maybe even shoot them with a water gun. They decided to cut back on their free time. They set up days to meet up and work. Sometimes these meetings would con lict with other things but Ben (SHS) said, “we would just have to meet up and get the project done.” They were not able to complete the project but after spending so much time on the project they acknowledged how much they enjoyed it. Ben (SHS) said, “And it was a bit unfortunate, but it really gave us an idea of how much we were really getting into in the engineering program.” David, Eric, and Carl (SHS) were working on a Rube Goldberg device. David (SHS) described the device referencing a popular classic cartoon. It’s like an elaborate device to do something that’s relatively simple like a Tom and Jerry device. Like on Tom and Jerry they will have something like a bowling ball roll down and it’ll hit something. It’ll like cut a string and the string will do something. It’s just like a domino effect down, it will do something simple like lick a light switch or something. His group had to reverse engineer a solution by going backward to ind out how things worked. Eric (SHS) explained that in order to overcome the dif iculty of projects, his group would “take a little piece of the project like every day” and progress from a sketch to a model to a complete project. He further explained how they divided the tasks in order to complete work on time. In our group, we broke it up into like the one person had the little track that the marble had to go through with the magnets so it propelled and that would hit the dominos and one of my other friends brought the dominos in or will bring them in and then me and my friend are making the ending for it. Carl (SHS) believed that Design Day and projects taught students how to manage their time better. David (SHS) explained that his group has to work on their Rube Goldberg device in class and out of class to make sure it is completed by the deadline. Eric (SHS) and David (SHS)
lived close to each other so they planned to work on their project during Christmas Break to help inish it before the Expo in February. David (SHS) said the process was “kind of time consuming but in the end it’s pretty cool. It was interesting to do.” He enjoyed the personal process of designing the Rube Goldberg device so much that he planned to use what he learned in architectural drafting to design his own house one day. Carl realized that the design project taught students how to write and how to manage time ef iciently. Perhaps most importantly, Carl understood it was for fun.
West HS Annual Rocket Launch and Egg Drop Every year, Mr. Wells and other WHS teachers visit middle schools in the district to tell them about opportunities at WHS. His goal is to get eighth graders and their parents to come to an open house later in the year where he gives them an in-depth presentation and a walkthrough tour of the classroom. When asked what originally interested him in the program, Kevin (WHS) mentioned the open house and seeing the projects WHS engineering does every year. “Mainly it was all of the projects that they showed us that we do like egg drop challenges where we build devices to prevent an egg from being cracked. We build rockets…and that’s really interesting to me for some reason.” Victor (WHS) also said building rockets was a “motivating factor” to enroll in the engineering program. Mr. Wells assigns the same exact annual classwide activities to all of his students, freshmen through seniors. The activities most mentioned by the students were the rocket launch and egg drop competitions. Seventeen of 19 Weston HS students interviewed mentioned the egg drop and/or rocket launch event as what interested them in the course, a speci ic thing they enjoyed, and/or a speci ic challenge they overcame in the course every year. Both activities were also unique because they were regular activities so students go to try new fuels and new ideas every year. Zach (WHS) explained the egg drop competition in detail: We do an egg drop and we had to come up with the best way to drop the egg from a certain height to where the egg would land safely and it wouldn’t crack. So he gave us speci ic supplies and
then we had to use those supplies to come up with a design to secure the egg and make sure it doesn’t break when it falls. For the egg drop competition, Mr. Wells gave students a gallon Ziploc bag and a few small materials such as “couple cushions, notecards, straws and a balloon” (Will, WHS) to build a contraption that would allow an egg to survive a two-story drop off the bleachers at the football ield. Zach (WHS) used the egg drop as an example of projects “where Mr. Wells gives us an idea and we have to igure out the best way to solve the problem.” Students made a parachute, casing for the egg, or even a helicopter. For the rocket launch, Mr. Wells gives students a set of items and tasked them build rockets. Students test rockets powered by water, air, ire, fuel cells, CO2, engines, and/or other energy sources. Mr. Wells took the class out to the football ield and groups competed to see which rockets launched the farthest. “So every month we have a project where we’ll build a rocket, whether that’s a water propelled rocket or air propelled rocket or even like at the very end we had a ire ignited rocket.” (Samuel, WHS) Victor (WHS) liked working hands on with the rockets, especially the “little explosions.” “We’ve done like air, airpowered and then water powered and things like that so it’s pretty basic stuff, but it’s always fun at least work hands on and then see what the inal result is.” Students liked getting to use different sources of fuel and getting several chances a year every year to be creative. Victor (WHS) said building rockets was his favorite activity because: [T]here’s a large variety of rockets that you see at the end of the project. So there’s so many different ways to build yours, whether you’re looking just for something that looks cool or really performs well. And I thought that was pretty cool just because you get to infuse a little bit of your own creativity into the project. The rocket launch was a highlight of the year for many students, including Dwayne (WHS). “When we make rockets, we probably make three or four of them a year at least. They’re always different and each
one’s more complex, more advanced, and faster and it goes longer, gets funner and funner, but they’re all different.”
Work Ethic Mr. Wells thinks what students like least is the “typical grind” of the daily routine, “doing the same thing over and over again.” Regular classwide activities break up the daily routine of station work and SolidWorks to allow students to utilize the broad array of skills they learn in the course. Barry (WHS) explained that during the third year, students work on SolidWorks “almost every day” and “take a couple breaks” for the rocket launch. Simon (WHS) disliked how the class was mostly SolidWorks, but he was glad they were building rockets. For Samuel (WHS), the egg drop and rocket launch were a nice change of pace the class from the strict focus on SolidWorks certi ication. Instead of a daily grind, students appreciate that they get to do the same egg drop and rocket launch over and over again every year. They inevitably do not succeed the irst time, so they get to try, try again year to year. Quentin (WHS) recalled irst testing his parachute system with fake eggs. [A]ll of a sudden our parachute system isn’t working like we thought it was. It’s not deploying properly. It’s just not grabbing the air. It’s not slowing it down. And so then we have to kind of salvage what we can and rebuild and make sure it works. Through completing the egg drop, rocket launch, and other activities, Quentin (WHS) believed the class helped him develop a new mindset. “[I]t’s all right if you run into a brick wall. Back up. Think about it. And then go at it again.” Kevin (WHS) liked how that annual projects gave him opportunity to see the improvement in his problem-solving skills and gave him motivation to work harder on the project year to year. He explained that typically students only have time to think about why a project “wouldn’t, why it didn’t work.” Annual projects take advantage of the four-year program: “You get the next year to maybe ix the projects because we do the same exact projects every year in order to see how much better we’ve gotten at solving problems and designing our
projects.” The main difference in the egg drop and rocket launch from year to year is “you have a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t really.” Kevin (WHS) explained that as a freshman everyone used the Ziploc bag as a parachute to prevent the egg from falling at full speed. His junior year, his group used the plastic bag to make a helicopter-like device to slow down the egg by spinning it. “Yeah it held up better than the parachute and it wasn’t affected by the wind as much.” As a result, he’s been able to save his egg “several times.” When he used the helicopter design, Tim (WHS) recalled that classmates though “Oh, it’s not going to work” but it ended up being the best design. In his irst year, Dwayne (WHS) made a basket for his egg and it broke on his irst drop. His second year, the egg survived every time until he took off the parachute. His senior year, the egg stayed intact even after taking off the parachute. [T]hroughout the years you learn. You learn better ways to do things. But that was probably one of the hardest things was just like getting used to making things and like using your head in different ways to create things. Because in the beginning, you don’t really know what to do, but then once you get like a basis, you just build off that. Tom (WHS) found seemingly simple rocket tasks quite dif icult. “And like you would never think a nose cone is like hard to make. Like you’d think ‘Oh, just a nose cone, that’s easy.’” He had to learn how to properly cut a nose cone out of paper. “You have to roll it up in the right, and if it’s too long then it’s not going to have stability. I don’t know. It’s just a lot of different tweaks that you have to do.” Tim (WHS) said his main challenge was coming up with designs for the egg drop and rocket launch. He did not feel like it was a challenge he had to overcome. Instead, it was a “fun challenge” because he embraced the responsibility and embraced trial and error. He would sit down with his group and come up with a plan and tell themselves, “You know what? This idea may not work. It may work. Let’s try it.” He appreciated learning that it was important to opening himself up to failure in order to create opportunities for success. “And if it worked it worked. If it
didn’t, you try again. So that was a good challenge I think. I liked that aspect of the class.” By slowing down the egg without a parachute, the major skill Tim (WHS) learned was to “just learn to experiment with things that are completely way out there and making them work.”
Social Skills Group projects at West HS gave Simon (WHS) and Tom (WHS) valuable experience working with people different from themselves. Unlike many other students, Simon (WHS) did not know anyone in his class when he started the program. A speci ic skill he learned was working with people from “a different group.” He explained, “I’m not used to these kind of people. I’m more of a musician.” He was taking several music classes as a senior, in the marching band, and played in three other bands outside of school. Simon (WHS) described his engineering classmates as being “different, muscular” but he still liked the congeniality of the course. “Everyone’s nice still, even though it’s different people. They have a lot of fun. There’s not a lot of formalities to it, at least not in high school.” Despite feeling different than his classmates, Simon (WHS) felt the program was a fun, af irming environment that was more relaxed than his perception of a more formal engineering workplace. Tom (WHS) had to overcome the challenge of “sociability” or dif iculty making friends in class. He described himself as “talkative” and “always friendly with people” but he admitted he struggled with getting along with people from “different cliques” in school. Tom (WHS) credited the egg drop and rocket launches with helping him become more social in class. Just basically through rockets, like going outside and everyone’s just like a big family almost. Like we’re all going outside together, laughing at it and having fun, just having a good time. Like you go to a barbeque and it’s just like everyone’s there and just meet new people and having a fun time. It’s like the same thing in this class. The engineering class was a mix of his main group of friends as well as the “baseball kids,” and boys from other cliques. He sort of knew
some of them but “had no clue” who some of the others were. “So we just talked and I mean we’re not best friends, but it’s like we know each other, we talk. It’s not like awkward around them. It feels like a homeroom almost.” Tom recalled a funny incident in which his group made a small cargo net for their egg, but the egg lew out of the net and landed on a classmate. [My classmate] got so messy and we got in trouble for it, so I didn’t like getting in trouble, but it was funny. It was like because we dropped it off the top of bleachers and it just lew out, landed right on the kid and Mr. Wells was like ‘You got to make sure not to throw them into someone’s hair.’ It was so funny. He’s like lipping out it was pretty funny. Mr. Wells got angry, but Tom and his classmates laughed and bonded nonetheless. WHS students describe the egg drop and rocket launches as large classwide events that help bring students and even the school together. Barry (WHS) even recalled that some of the “really high powered” rockets land on top of the school building and the principal goes up there and throws them back down to the students. Students had the option to work individually or in teams on their egg drop and rockets. Students from multiple classes did the rocket launches together and seniors helped freshmen and sophomores with their projects. Even the problem-solving components were social for Tom (WHS). “You’re always having a good time and seeing what other people are doing and you’re tweaking what you’re doing, you’re giving info and taking it and it’s kind of cool.”
Reference Brookhouser, Kevin. 2015. The 20Time Project: How Educators Can Launch Google’s Formula for Future-Ready Innovation. San Bernardino, CA: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
© The Author(s) 2020 W. Tyson, Teaching and Learning Employability Skills in Career and Technical Education , Palgrave Studies in Urban Education https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-58744-4_8
8. Eyes Toward the Future Will Tyson1 (1) Department of Sociology, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA
Will Tyson Email: [email protected] Abstract The book concludes by recapping the primary contributions of this work in the context of research on career and technical education and employability skills. These contributions are reinforced by pro iles of two students details how they learned employability skills and how they plan to apply those skills toward their future educational and employment pathways. The chapter ends with a discussion of strengths and limitations of the book, recommendations for future research, and an brief outline of next steps including research on balancing college prep and career readiness. The knowledge, skills, and dispositions gained from PK-20 education are critical to the advancement of our citizens through their professional careers, particularly in STEM. CTE has been a marker of the turning point of education in this century (Dougherty and Lombardi 2016). CTE speci ically prepares students who would like to enter the workforce immediately after high school as opposed to or in addition to enrolling in a college or university although it has taken place inside a much larger trend of the marketization of education as a whole (Bartlett, Frederick, Gulbrandsen et al. 2002). CTE speci ically prepares
students who would like to enter the workforce immediately after high school or work in a career-oriented job while enrolled in a college or university. Many students work part- or full-time while pursuing higher education. It is critically important for students to graduate high school with the skills to enter college and/or the workforce. Students who acquire the proper academic, technical, and employability skills for the workforce can enter STEM jobs while pursuing STEM degrees. CTE programs such as career academies have made a signi icant impact in the overall educational enterprise as well as investments from federal funding bodies, policymakers, and other educational constituents who expect these programs to provide a return on investment for students who participate (Israel, Myers, Lamm et al. 2012).
Primary Contributions This book represents research indings from ieldwork conducted in Tampa Bay area high schools and STEM businesses. It was necessary to interview high-tech and manufacturing industry leaders to understand the skills they expected potential workers to gain in those pathways. The resulting PathTech Tampa Bay study was a holistic examination of secondary and post-secondary pathways into what are generally considered to be “good tech jobs” that acknowledge the challenges individuals face within education and employment sectors. Employers drew from their vast experiences hiring and iring and training young workers and often spoke with frustration about the lack of employability skills in the workplace. These STEM employers need to hire young workers with the right technical skills to replace an aging technical workforce. They are willing to train up young people with the right work ethic and interpersonal skills. Most of the employers recruited into the study based on recommendations of high school and community college educators and administrators. Most were active on K-12 and higher education advisory boards. They hosted internships and apprenticeships and most hired high school students, college students, and recent high school graduates to part-time and full-time jobs. These employers did engage in some “kids these days” type rhetoric bemoaning lack of personal responsibility or work ethic among youth, but overall they seemed optimistic about the promise of
young workers. For example, in Chapter 3 Harold complained that young workers are from an “entitlement generation” who “lived off the fat of their parents” but was impressed that his two young interns were able to “rise to the occasion.” These employers were also staunch advocates for CTE programs and/or European-style apprenticeship models and the potential of such programs to prepare high school students for the workplace. Career academy teachers in this study utilized a multi-faceted approach to narrowing the soft skills gaps articulated by local employers in order to equip their students with the knowledge and skills needed in industry. In that regard, teachers adapted their pedagogical approaches to help prepare their students for the twentyirst-century work environment by providing authentic learning experiences in which students performed job-related tasks. As Mr. Palmer put it in Chapter 8, “I just tell them I run it like a job.” Teachers assigned a variety of individual, pair, and team problem-based group projects that challenged students to develop and hone ideas. These activities required students to properly manage their time and resources. Teachers gave students the freedom to try, the freedom to fail, and the freedom to eventually succeed. Through these assignments, teachers attempted to mimic the manufacturing work environment to ensure students have the proper personal qualities and interpersonal skills to be employable upon completion of high school. Teacher and student interviews revealed that CTE courses—unlike traditional academic programs—require holistic approaches for their implementation to be in tune with occupational demands. This study also supports the intangible bene its which might be realized as a result of Florida’s Career and Professional Education (CAPE) Act of 2007 which required each school district within the state to establish a career academy. In totality, these work-based learning experiences along with school–employer partnerships might be a viable strategy to address issues related to the skills-gap crisis reported in recent literature (Symonds, Schwartz, and Ferguson 2011). STEMthemed career academies allow Florida educators to embrace the challenges of preparing youth for jobs in a broad and diverse manufacturing sector active in rural and urban areas of the state.
Students gained invaluable work-related experiences and deeper insights into the roles and responsibilities of manufacturing employees. This study contributes to consistent evidence that CTE is useful in building a range of noncognitive skills (i.e., Gottfried 2015). These indings re lect an overlap in what employers want in an employee and what students want to accomplish in CTE classrooms. This is a welcome contrast to claims such as those by DeFeo (2015) that high school CTE programs have had a limited impact on labor markets possibly due to a strong incongruity between the students’ career goals and the steps needed to reach them based on program metrics and objectives. Students in this study are aware of the skills they’ve acquired. Some students even articulate exactly how they plan to use those skills in college and the workplace as shown at the end of Chapters 5 and 6 along with extended vignettes about Jessica (HHS) and Dana (WHS) below. Jessica (HHS) and Dana (WHS) described how the personal qualities and interpersonal skills they acquired in their CTE courses would bene it them in college, in future careers, and their personal lives.
Student Narrative: Dana (WHS) Dana (WHS) was a senior who transferred to WHS during her junior year. WHS was a “better learning atmosphere” than her old high school although she did miss the drafting program there. She was taking drafting as a junior when she transferred after her drafting teacher told her about the engineering program at WHS. “Yeah I was upset when I transferred and I couldn’t go to drafting [classes] anymore.” Later in the interview she complained, “They don’t have drafting here and I was like really upset about it because I really like that class and so I had to switch to like journalism. It was not the same.” She was still bitter a year later, but she was glad she came to WHS. “[WHS] Engineering was brand new at the time and they were obviously trying to get a lot of females interested in it. So they told me to join and so I just did and I really liked it.”
Social Skills for Male-Dominated Workplaces
When asked what skills she gained in her engineering courses, Dana (WHS) responded, “De initely working with a bunch of boys, just like working with people in general.” Social skills and teamwork skills were at the forefront. Like girls in other WHS engineering classes and girls at other schools, Dana (WHS) believed it was bene icial for girls in STEM to learn to adapt to male-dominated spaces. Well I’m the only girl in this class. There are a few others in other classes, but I’ve had to like hold my own because they don’t think I know anything and so, but then I usually end up being the leader and they just, they don’t understand that at irst because they’re kind of surprised that I know as much as I do. I’m not trying to be like, “I know as much as they do.” I know just as much. We’re equal. And they look down on you quite often and you just have to like just really stand your ground and show what you know and then they usually come around. I heard that’s how it is even in aviation because it’s very male driven job. Dana (WHS) knew that learning how to work with boys would be good preparation for her future career in the male-dominated ield of aviation. She learned how to assert herself and demonstrate her knowledge in order to counter low expectations held by her male classmates.
Teamwork and Leadership Dana (WHS) also learned teamwork skills and how to be an effective leader and manage con lict. She credited the engineering program for teaching her how to work with other people in her internship. Working with a bunch of people is like really different because usually I just want to do this on my own because then it’s like focus and just yourself. But then I learned that you need to take ideas from other people and that you need to be accepting of their ideas and you can’t just be like close-minded. You have to or else nothing will get done or improved. You need to get that other person to tell you when you’re wrong as well.
She learned these teamwork and social skills through group projects like the annual rocket launch activity. She was planning to do a group project for a local STEM competition and she had a different idea than her two group partners. We all had different ideas and I wanted to do something, it was to create something for disabled people and I wanted to do something for people with Parkinson’s who like have a hard time drinking, but my other two partners wanted to do something for someone who can’t walk so they wanted to do a robot, so we igured out a way to incorporate it together. Dana (WHS) was happy with the collaborative process and the idea even though they did not end up entering the competition.
Plans for the Future Dana (WHS) know she wanted to learn how to make people’s lives better through technology. When she was younger, she visited Kennedy Space Center and met a NASA aerospace engineer. He invited her to sit in the control room and watch a space shuttle launch. “I fell in love with everything he did… I just thought he was like the coolest person ever and I wanted to be him.” Dana (WHS) channeled her interest into an internship at a local avionics company. “Yeah and I really like aviation and aerospace so that’s, I just went down to the [local airport area] and like asked everyone, ‘Can I intern for you?’” She received a course credit from WHS for the internship. Dana (WHS) planned to complete her senior year internship at the local avionics company. She was already committed to enroll in a private university in Florida where she planned to major in aeronautical science and aviation management. She hoped to earn her bachelor’s and start working for an aviation company and get her masters while working. Her long-term goal was own an airline or a maintenance shop. Through her internship, she worked in the maintenance shop for the founder of the avionics irm who is a top distributor in his ield. She described him as a “really driven” like her. “I would love to just be him and you know he’s well known and I would like to own, eventually own my own, and I can work with the planes
and all that.” Eventually she wants to compete with her current boss to be the top distributor in the ield. Dana (WHS) believed she just needed to continue on her current path and “really want it and be really focused and know what I want and just keep going for it.” She believed that with the right work ethic, she could apply the problem-solving skills, leadership and con lict management, and social skills she learned and stay on course for a career in aviation. Between the NASA engineer and the maintenance shop founder, Dana (WHS) identi ied two prominent men in aeronautics and avionics and decided she could be them too. Proving herself as the only girl in her engineering class gave her the con idence to know she could accomplish those goals.
Student Narrative: Jessica (HHS) Jessica (HHS) was a senior at the Horton HS engineering magnet program. She chose HHS because her dad is a construction worker and she was always interested in design and construction. When she was in 7th grade, she helped her dad design his house. It was her irst experience with hands-on learning outside the classroom. “Well it started irst with my dad’s house… It wasn’t really hands-on, but I guess seeing it up front and in person is different than looking at a book or watching it on the Internet or something like that.” Jessica (HHS) had fun observing the process of building a home so she thought, “Well maybe I should think about going into the engineering ield and building things, architecture and stuff like that.” Jessica (HHS) enjoyed the engineering magnet program. She re lected on her experience helping her dad and how what she has learned technical skills at HHS. “I wasn’t really like doing much, but I was there and I was watching stuff. I looked at the blueprints and stuff, I didn’t understand it, but now I can look at them and actually read everything now.”
Work Ethic and Persistence When Jessica (HHS) enrolled in the engineering magnet program, she liked it, but found it dif icult at irst. She was one of only three girls in the program and one graduated Jessica’s freshman year, leaving only Jessica and Rachel (HHS) in the program. Jessica was the only African-
American girl in the program. She was open about her experiences at Horton HS and discussed how she had been unfairly targeted by another teacher in the program (not Mr. Holt). I was the only female in there and like I just felt like he would always pick me out of the crowd like if everybody was talking he would say something to me irst and then like everybody else would be quiet and it was like it just was me. She dealt with medical issues and that teacher did not support her trying to make up work and catch up on projects due to absences. Through the program, Jessica (HHS) developed the personal responsibility and work ethic to persist through hardships to realize her dreams. As described in Chapter 5, Jessica (HHS) sliced her thumb while building a toy car in class, but she overcame her fears of doing hands-on work and was proud of what she was able to build. Jessica (HHS) was highly motivated to succeed because of her family. “My dream is to be successful. The only reason why I say that is because my mother…she’s a single parent and I see the life that she lives and like it’s not like she’s unhappy, but she’s always working.” Jessica (HHS) wanted to make sure that when she starts a family or gets out of college that she has enough money that she does not have to struggle like her mother. It’s been a long life. My mom, I can tell it’s really taking a toll on her. She’s still young but she looks really old and it is hard to watch her, so I’m like, I don’t want to be like that. I want to be able to give back to her once I’m done doing what I have to in school and stuff and I want to make sure my siblings have somebody to look up to to know that it’s okay to actually succeed in life because they don’t really have like, I’m the irst in probably ive generations of my family that actually has the potential to go to college. So I want to let them know that it doesn’t have to be that way. Jessica (HHS) plans to apply her personal skills toward meeting her goals and improving her own life. She seeks generational change and wants to be a role model and help propel her family forward. She has
three younger siblings on her mom’s side and two younger siblings on her dad’s side. Along with her dad’s stepchildren, “well it seems like I’m the oldest of 11, but there’s really only ive of us, but I take in everybody because everybody just I just feel like I need to touch as many lives as I can so I accept them all as my brothers and sisters and I protect them just like they’re all blood.” Jessica (HHS) continued to overcome hardship to persist toward her dreams. She was rejected by her “big dream” four-year university engineering program because of her test scores, so she planned to enroll at the two-year college near that university to complete her prerequisites before transferring.
Strengths and Limitations This research was part of a larger research project funded by the National Science Foundation, titled “Successful Academic and Employment Pathways in Advanced Technologies” (DUE #1104214). There is a reasonable emphasis on “successful” in this book. The goal of the broader study was to investigate successful pathways through high school CTE programs and community colleges into the local manufacturing and technology workforce. For this reason, the CTE programs in this study were selected because these were highly regarded programs within Tampa Bay recommended by community college faculty and administrators as well as school district administrators. Each program received support and resources from the district and maintained a robust comment to CTE. Findings from this study cannot be generalized to other programs in the state, country, or world. These indings do explore what is possible within CTE particularly how students can bene it from these programs.
Selection Effects Selection is a concern with respect to students who participate in these programs. As described throughout the book, these students are general highly motivated, high achieving students with college aspirations, although many were clearly thinking about jobs and careers. The broader history of secondary education features the unequal tracking of students of color and low-income students into traditional “vocational” programs (see Dougherty and Lombardi 2016
for a timeline). This selection is a controversial topic within research on CTE programs, particularly to the extent to which such students are dissuaded or overtly prevented from taking college preparatory track courses. This study does not speci ically examine how race and socioeconomic status impact selection processes, student motivations, or student aspirations. This book does not address these issues because the project did not collect demographic background information for CTE students. The project also does not have demographic information for other students at the school including students in college preparatory tracks to use as a basis of comparison. For these reasons, this study cannot determine who students who selected into these courses differ from their peers. The book does add a fresh perspective to classic and contemporary literature on CTE courses by understanding the motivations and skill development of high achieving students in CTE. This study does examine selection processes with respect to teacher, program, or district recruiting practices and individual student motivations for enrolling in these programs. Each teacher describes their CTE programs as a combination of career readiness and college prep. Teachers also generally describe their students as high achievers who have the option of going to college, getting a job, or both. The vast majority of students described taking college preparatory Advanced Placement (AP) and Honors courses as well. In this respect, these courses are not part of that negative history of CTE in which minority and low-income students are tracked into “vocational” courses. It is also worth emphasizing that schools, districts, and policy makers need to be mindful of how students apply to and are accepted into these programs. Future researchers should seek to include selection effects in their research design and examine how selection impacts initial labor market entry as well as career ladders and pathways. Such a thorough examination could help reduce concerns among educators, practitioners, and policy makers about long-term social strati ication based on initial public investments in education and training as well as private expenditures on community outreach, building industryeducation partnerships, hosting industry tours, and providing internship opportunities for high school students.
Methods and Generalizability Researchers generally accept that lack of generalizability is a weakness of qualitative work—particularly case studies—and let the results speak for themselves in context. The strength of qualitative research is its depth. This study does not attempt to describe national trends in CTE or transition into the STEM workforce. The purpose of this study is to provide examples of how industry-desired employability skills can be successfully taught and learned to prepare high school students for the local workforce. This story is told in one region of the country. Qualitative methods shed light on understudied topics in order to provide useful frameworks for broader mixed methods and quantitative research. This study does not seek to generalize about how students experience CTE and learn skills in other areas of the country or world. This study does provide a framework for conducting research and indings inform classroom practices. Future research should examine personal skill acquisition in CTE classrooms as well as employer perspectives on how personal and interpersonal skills in the workplace. Analyzes of existing nationally representative data of high school CTE coursetaking and postsecondary STEM employment and educational patterns could help explain why readers should care about employability skill transmission in CTE courses as preparation for the STEM workforce. As CTE education continues to grow and lourish, researchers should have access to more secondary data to examine academic, technical, and noncognitive skill development across CTE programs within different con igurations (i.e., comprehensive schools, fundamental schools, wallto-wall academies, and early college high schools) across different STEM and non-STEM ields. Quantitative skills assessments and scales are already prominent in research on skill development. This study also suggests a need to develop valid and reliable measures of noncognitive skill development to be used in qualitative and quantitative research studies in classrooms and workplaces.
A Broader Audience The primary strength of this book is the use of qualitative methods to understand the interplay between skills desired by local manufacturers
and the skills developed in the classroom by the youngest future members of the local workforce. In addition, the indings are presented in a way that allow an audience of students, parents, teachers, college educators, and employers reading this book to gain important knowledge they can use. Teachers and college educators in traditional STEM and non-STEM courses can see how group and individual classroom activities and projects help students develop soft skills. Educators can igure out how to integrate these activities into all types of courses, programs, and ields for all age groups beyond engineering and engineering technology high school CTE courses. On the same token, employers across different industries want to hire young workers with strong personal and interpersonal skills. Manufacturing and high-tech ields are among many industries with a particular need for young workers in which those workers can apply those skills. There are also many ields in which employers may be hesitant to hire high school students and recent high school graduates. These employers could be reassured that there are some mechanisms in place in high schools to help students learn those skills. These employers should be motivated to develop the industry-educator partnerships necessary to promote skill development while teaching students about a broad range of careers. Students gain personal and social bene its of CTE coursework and pedagogy beyond vocational training for a speci ic job. Perhaps the most encouraging inding in this study is that semi-structured interviews with students elicited such lucid responses about the ef icacy of applied hands-on activities with respect to soft skill development. Students in this study are aware of the skills they’ve acquired, clearly articulate how they acquired those skills, and some even explain how they plan to use those skills in the workplace. In fact, the employability skills acquired by students in this study are life skills that are attractive beyond the workplace or classroom. Parents who read this book should want their children to acquire these skills as they transition into adulthood in order to manage their own independence, maintain friendships and romantic relationships, start families, raise children, and enter other stages of the life course beyond education and work.
Further Research Findings in this study contribute to the mounting evidence of the effectiveness of CTE programs and suggests that participation of students in CTE might enhance schooling experiences related to both college and career readiness. Further research will utilize these same interviews with employers, teachers, school administrators, and students to examine high school college preparation and career readiness through CTE courses. This research will describe industry need for young workers, strategies teachers use to balance college preparation and career readiness, as well as student pathways into these programs and how students learn the applied knowledge skills they need to pursue college and career pathways.
Need for Young Workers Employers believe there is an urgent need to promote manufacturing jobs to young workers. Employers believe manufacturing jobs should appeal to young workers due to the high-tech nature of the work and earning potential, but are wary of outdated negative stereotypes about manufacturing. Employers want to hire talented local young workers including high school students, recent high school graduates, or people with only a high school diploma. Employers believed high school students could get a job right away and/or after graduation with the right preparation; however, several employers were not happy with what they perceived to be the lack of practical hands-on engagement in middle and high school. Employers believe K-12 education should include much more exposure to technical skills and manufacturing careers. As a result, employers were strong advocates for CTE programs. Some employers actively worked with high schools to create CTE programs in which students learn hands-on technical skills and gain knowledge about the local job market. Many employers directly facilitated these opportunities through internships and apprenticeships that directly recruited from local high schools. Employers wanted these young workers to plan their post-secondary schooling by getting a job out of high school and aligning their career aspirations with industry needs then utilizing company tuition reimbursement programs to
pursue two-year and four-year degrees and even advanced degrees. Employers generally believed this pathway was preferable to enrolling in four-year universities without speci ic career goals. These industry perspectives suggest a reconsideration of how we understand traditional school to work transitions.
Balancing College Prep and Career Readiness Teachers actively balance college preparation and career readiness in their classrooms, in part by building relationships with industry, community colleges, and universities to promote pathways into higher education and/or the local STEM workforce. Teachers and district administrators are aware of the concerns brought forth by industry from their regular in-person interactions with industry and advisory boards. They share many of those concerns and describe strategies they use to address those concerns. Most of the teachers entered the classroom with experience in local STEM industry. They use their connections as well as formal and informal relationships to build partnerships between their CTE programs and local industry. Teachers acquire expensive equipment such as CNC machines and 3-D printers from local businesses and/or the funds to purchase them. Teachers also invite industry guest speakers and take students on industry tours. Teachers rely on these relationships to procure information about college and career pathways for their students. Some teachers conduct industry tour and invite guest speakers. Students mention these opportunities when they discuss their college and career plans. Teachers bragged about graduates from their programs who went on to top tier out of state STEM-focused universities such as Georgia Tech and MIT. Teachers equally bragged about students who earned local internships and apprenticeships while enrolled in high school and graduates who earned full-time jobs from connections made in high school. Teachers encouraged students to pursue industry certi ications they believed would give students an advantage in the local job market such as SolidWorks.
Students describe their enrollment in CTE programs as an active process of merging their interest in “tinkering” and hands-on hobbies with their schooling. Students learned about these programs either informally by word of mouth or formally through open house or other recruiting events targeting 8th graders. Students described a variety of technical skills learned through the various activities described in this book. They expressed great pride in the having overcome challenges to learn these skills and described the ways in which they apply these skills in school and in their spare time. They were very aware of how they could apply those skills in the workforce as well. Students describe a wide variety of college and career pathways. A few notable students were already working part-time STEM jobs or internships, including some students who worked for employers pro iled in this book. Most seniors had already been accepted into a four-year university and planned to pursue a STEM bachelor’s degree and enter into a STEM career. Some planned to attend a community college either by choice or necessity, mostly with plans to transfer to a four-year program. Others planned to enlist in the military. Underclass students were also leaning toward a future in STEM as well.
Applied Knowledge Skills This book is devoted to the effective relationships component of the US Department of Education (USDOE) Of ice of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) Employability Skills Framework (USDOE 2018) that includes personal qualities and interpersonal skills. This further research will examine the applied knowledge skills component of the framework. Applied knowledge is the “thoughtful integration of academic knowledge and technical skills, put to practical use in the workplace.” Applied knowledge includes two areas: Applied academic skills “enable employees to put skills based on academic disciplines and learning— such as reading, writing, mathematical strategies and procedures, and scienti ic principles and procedures— to practical use in the workplace.” Critical thinking skills “enable employees to think critically and creatively in the context of their work, solve work-based problems, and make sound decisions at work.” Employers, teachers, and students generally understand these as “problem-solving skills.” Employers describe the basic math, reading, and writing skills
necessary to get a job and how to apply those skills to maintain a job. Employers note how individual and teamwork problem-solving skills are key to dealing with dif icult tasks on the job, particularly troubleshooting tasks that could save the company money. Young workers are expected to apply their basic math and science skills to “solve for X” in order to increase ef iciency to meet lean manufacturing goals. Teachers face the challenge of introducing complex concepts that dovetail with the traditional academic STEM courses like calculus and physics. Students describe how their engineering courses build off what they learn in math and science, but also how the textbook and lecturebased learning courses contrasts with hands-on engineering courses. Students learn how to think like an engineer in order to address the variety of problems they face in order to prepare them to address real life problems. For example, students apply problem-solving skills to a classroom activity that required them to use a sheet of paper and six inches of tape to build a foundation on which they could stack as many books as possible. Seniors apply problem-solving skills to individual and small group capstone projects.
References Bartlett, Lesley, Marla Frederick, Thaddeus Gulbrandsen, and Enrique Murillo. 2002. “The Marketization of Education: Public Schools for Private Ends.” Anthropology & Education Quarterly 33(1):5–29. [Crossref] Brookhouser, Kevin. 2015. The 20Time Project: How Educators Can Launch Google’s Formula for Future-Ready Innovation. San Bernardino, CA: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. DeFeo, Dayna Jean. 2015. “Why Are You Here? CTE Students’ Enrollment Motivations and Career Aspirations.” Career and Technical Education Research 40(2):82–98. [Crossref] Dougherty, Shaun M. and Allison R. Lombardi. 2016. “From Vocational Education to Career Readiness.” Review of Research in Education 40(1):326–55. [Crossref] Gottfried, Michael A. 2015. “The In luence of Applied STEM Coursetaking on
Advanced Mathematics and Science Coursetaking.” The Journal of Educational Research 108(5):382–99. [Crossref] Israel, Glenn, Brian Myers, Alexa Lamm, and Sebastian Galindo-Gonzalez. 2012. “CTE Students and Science Achievement: Does Type of Coursework and Occupational Cluster Matter?” Career and Technical Education Research 37(1):3–20. [Crossref] O’Neil, Brendan, Phil Hopkins, Elizabeth Redman Cleveland, Vardan Genanyan, and Julie Gressley. 2016. West Central Gulf Coast Regional Manufacturers Associations: Manufacturing Sector Pro ile. IHS Economics. Symonds, William C., Robert Schwartz, and Ronald F. Ferguson. 2011. Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century. Cambridge, MA: Pathways to Prosperity Project, Harvard University Graduate School of Education. U.S. Department of Education. 2018. “Employability Skills.” Retrieved November 17, 2018 (http://cte.ed.gov/initiatives/employability-skills-framework). Yarnall, Louise and Julie Remold. 2019. Working Stronger and Smarter: A Handbook on Theory and Techniques for Developing Employability Skills for Technicians. Menlo Park, CA: SRI Education.
Index A applied CTE apprenticeship(s) associate’s degree associates of applied science (AAS) associates of science (AS) attitude
B bachelor’s degree
C career career academy(ies) Career and Professional Education (CAPE) Act career and technical education (CTE) career readiness Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins IV) certi icate college preparatory computer-aided design (CAD) computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) computer numerical controls (CNC) machining, operators, or programmers con lict cooperative education/co-op community college coworker(s) credentials critical thinking customers/clients
E egg drop engineer/engineering engineering mindset engineering technology essay(s)
F family business lexibility Florida four-year degree four-year university
H hands-on helping behavior human resources (HR)
I ideal worker initiative internship(s) interpersonal skills interviewing (employers interviewing potential employees) interviewing (qualitative methods)
M manager manufacturer manufacturing mathematics
O on-the-job training
P passion personal qualities/personal skills personal responsibility problem solving
R rocket launch routine
S science skills gap small business social skills SolidWorks SolidWorks certi ication exam stations
T teamwork technical skills technician(s) two-year degree
W willingness to learn (will to learn) work ethic
Y young workers