March 8 — 12:00 am, 2007

An hour away, a model for rigorous technical training

It once was rare to find “vocational education” and “high academic standards” in the same sentence – or “technical education” associated with “college prep.” Yet an increasingly sophisticated workforce and complex economy demand that young people receive a rigorous academic and technical grounding.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has responded with a major effort to improve career and technical education (CTE is the new term for vocational education). The objective is to make high-quality CTE available across the state and build it on three core principles:

  • Increased academic rigor for all CTE programs

  • Enhanced industry relevance, with a focus on programs that meet occupational standards and yield employer-recognized certificates

  • Increased connections between secondary CTE programs and postsecondary education and training.

Lehigh Career and Technical Institute (LCTI), about an hour outside of Philadelphia, is one program responding to state objectives. With a state-of-the-art campus, LCTI provides full-day programs that incorporate college prep academics and highly developed technical training, as well as half-day technical programs for students who do their coursework at their home high schools.

In all, LCTI offers 43 competency-based programs with a focus on national skills standards and applied academics. More than 3,100 students from nine surrounding school districts attend LCTI, which also offers postsecondary programs approved by both state and U.S. Departments of Education. About 100 students each year participate in a “Middle College” program that blends secondary and postsecondary education and training with the potential to earn college credits while still in high school.

“Every teacher and student believes they can achieve in postsecondary education and in their chosen career,” said Clyde Hornberger, executive director of LCTI. “Our students must include postsecondary education as part of their career path. In addition, they must attain mastery-level industry credentials to earn family-sustaining wages.”

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