How our district engages students in a CTE program

Over the past decade, industries across the world have voiced their concern over the lack of tech skills among high school and college graduates. At the end of 2020, there were an estimated 1.4 million unfilled computer science jobs; this figure continues to rise.

However, the education sector’s response is that currently less than half of high schools teach, and only 5 percent of students go on to further computer science study.

It’s not just about educating our students to take a computer science career path. Today, computer science skills are used and applied across all areas of the curriculum and a broad range of careers.

Therefore, in Humble Independent School District, we decided to address this issue by giving more students the opportunity to experience the excitement of computer science.

It wasn’t easy.

The challenges

As all schools recognize, teachers find it hard enough to fit a high-quality education of the core curriculum subjects into each day. A lot of students, especially girls, believe that CTE “isn’t for them” because “it’s too hard,” “too complicated” and “only involves sitting at a computer screen.” Added to this, there is no defined curriculum to teach to and, as with the gap in skills in the workforce, there is also a lack of teachers either qualified or wanting to teach computer science.

Something for everyone

So, in Humble, we wanted to offer enough courses to attract a wider range of students.

We started by painting a portrait of a graduate and the skills they need. Two of the most important attributes of a global citizen are having problem solving and critical thinking skills. To be a good critical thinker and problem solver, people need to be able to take any one task and structure it into manageable chunks, one of the main skills that is developed in computer science. Students who are problem solving orientated will always be able to adapt and thrive in this ever-changing world.

Through this initiative, we started offering our students 170 different CTE course; from cosmetology and cyber-security to automotive and robotics. Our belief is that if we offer them a wide range of opportunities, we’re more likely that they will elect to embark on a learning pathway and develop a deep understanding of an area of CTE.

Starting early

The next step was to introduce this from the early years.

In most elementary grades coding lessons start with game development, which is seen by many, including me, as the ideal way to introduce students to computer science. For the early years, Scratch is a popular option. The use of block-based programming gives these young kids an easy, visual entry into developing games. Many studies have shown that the simplicity of the Scratch environment may be the reason for higher engagement in the early years.

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