How DO They Get Hands-On Experience Anyhow??

SkillsUSA Heavy Mach Oper
Heavy machine equipment is shown here that is part of the SkillsUSA 2017 National Competitions

There are many different types of schools these days. Charter schools, blended schools, online schools, and magnet schools are a few of the types that you hear about. In all of these cases, students who take Career Technical Education (CTE) electives enjoy the courses because the content is practical and practice-able. One question I hear often is: “How does a student get the hands on experience they need to be successful?”

In many cases, the most important part of the answer is the same: “NOT at the school teaching the course.” Yes, there are Vocational Technical centers with equipment that can be used – I am excluding that for the moment. In most cases, students have to take several courses before they are ready for hands-on experience. Once ready, there are several options and they are all the same for each type of school:

  • Job Shadowing, Internships and Apprenticeships: These work-based experiences can be arranged through the school or on ones own.
  • Part-time or summer job: Students work in the place/field that they are interested in gaining hands-on experience – for example, doing basic web design for a local IT company or painting houses for a construction contractor.
  • Dual Credit Courses at Community/Technical Colleges: Student takes a course and earns high school AND college credit while working on industry standard equipment
  • Other – Maker Spaces, CTSO competitions (ex: SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Competitions) , and other opportunities…

The point is, the opportunities are as good as the depth of the partnerships built by the CTE program! The location, format, and delivery of content for that school matter little, and less as more schools use online content.

The bottom line: there is a shortage of workers for these areas, and businesses and colleges are excited when they find interested young students. Use your school as a partner, and together, explore these opportunities. This is a KEY FACTOR in choosing the right CTE program for your student!

One factor that makes today very different and the need to consider careers when students are in high school can be found at: “Career Readiness: Career Planning Starts in High School“, and old article that I wrote but that you might find informative.

What about the “soft skills” though? Let’s tackle those another day:) For now, let’s get to work!

Published by learningcoachk

Former teacher, coach, NASA consultant, instructional designer and CTE and STEM product /program leader here to join you in a journey through learning and education. Here to help enrich your life. Let's journey together. At present, I work for a wonderful company,, and have for almost 12 years. That said, it is important for you to know that anything posted here is NOT the position of K12 as a company, and solely my own musings.

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