As the sound of an air nailer “pop” echoes from the jobsite at the 50th constructed student built house, it’s just another physical piece of evidence that Careers in Technical Education are still a very vital path for today’s CRCSD students. 

“It gives me so many different opportunities to figure things out in the trades, to see what I want to do and if I enjoy it or not,” says Owen Hutchison, a junior at Kennedy High School.  

What was once called “vo-tech” or vocational-technical education has ebbed and flowed over the years. But the flow is stronger with the immediate demand for students, who pick up valuable skills learned in what are now called Career Technical Education or (CTE). These course offerings provide students hands-on lessons and a pathway to careers that can make an impact. 

“Our students typically have one maybe two opportunities in the trades each year,” says Dan Lough, the Cedar Rapids student built house instructor. “Last year with having a smaller class, (of seniors) they all had multiple opportunities (from the trades) they could go to after high school to local construction companies.”

The CTE courses are not only construction related. CRCSD offers coursework in Business, Computer Science, Culinary, Design, Engineering and Manufacturing. Students can also take basic coursework in Automotive and Welding. A partnership with Kirkwood’s Linn County Regional Center offers students the opportunity to earn college credit while in high school in many different academics.

“Through a Governor’s Future Ready Apprenticeship, CRCSD will participate in the Iowa Health Careers Registered Apprenticeship Program through a consortium model,” says Tara Troester, CTE content lead. “This partnership includes Grant Wood AEA, Kirkwood Community College, Iowa Workforce Development, and area schools.” 

At the start of the school year, Troester was featured in an online article by Fox News Digital, showcasing CRCSD’s commitment to CTE courses and the importance these courses have on students. 

Through these CTE courses, students learn key concepts in the classroom and then can apply those real-world applications in a hands-on approach through CTE courses. 

“Well, I hate sitting in the classroom,” chuckles Ethan Hutchens, a senior at Kennedy High School. “This is all hands on, which is nice. You don’t just sit there and be like ‘this is how you build a house, you actually build a house’.”

However, the skills that are learned in the CTE courses, “provide some of those skills that we don’t usually learn until we’re working our first jobs, such as responsibility and time management,” says Troester.  

“It teaches them not only the hard skills of putting the components together and knowing what the components are in construction,” says Lough. “But it also teaches them soft skills and employability skills that they don’t always get from other places, and we teach it right along with building a house.” 

CRCSD values providing CTE courses that contribute to every learner becoming future ready. 

Troester adds, “CTE classes provide foundational learning and experiences for students in high school to explore careers and develop skills that prepare students to advocate their education and navigate what is best for their career options.”