SHSU Joins Area School Districts in Career Technology Education Initiative

Sam Houston State University is linking up with several East Texas school districts to bring advanced science/technology/engineering/mathematics education (STEM) career-oriented and job-ready programs to high school students in the area in what they have dubbed the Career Technology Education Initiative.

Representatives of Coldspring Oakhurst Independent School District, Shepherd ISD, and Goodrich ISD have met three times with Andy Bennett, director of SHSU’s Center for Excellence in Digital Forensics, to begin brainstorming discussions on identifying the districts’ most important needs in terms of STEM education and area workforce needs, and how the initiative can best address both those needs. Cleveland ISD and New Waverly ISD, another area school districts, have also expressed interest in the initiative. The plan is still in its early stages, but hopes for success in bringing new educational resources to high-school level students in the districts are high.

As Bennett recently noted in a recent story on the new initiative by Brian Besch of the Polk County Enterprise, “We are hoping to accomplish a greater capacity and capability to the educational systems in rural East Texas. The goal is to improve on what's there. A program is going to move forward that will increase the abilities for hands-on education, and we will provide a capability to reify the knowledge to the students in a way that makes them viable in the workforce. We're not trying to replace academics with a skill, we're trying to show how the academics fit the skills.”

Each district participating in the initiative plans to contribute time, space and talent to the program. The districts are now working on an inventory of their existing capacities and capabilities. With the help of a grant, supported by Cisco Systems’ grant writing team, Bennett plans to provide each of the three school districts with telepresence equipment, so that each location will have simultaneous access to virtual instruction in the specialized courses, yet such courses will only require one on-site instructor (with teaching assistants at the other two locations). This will ease the districts’ potential burden in adding the new courses.

In the third meeting on March 19, 2014, representatives of the three school districts and SHSU staff, including Bennett, visited with other interested parties at SHSU, including Academic Community Engagement (ACE) and the Project-Based Learning Center, both of which expressed interest in contributing to the Career Technology Education Initiative partnership. In addition, the district representatives met with staff from SHSU’s Medical & Allied Health Programs, who would like to see development of high-school level courses that will provide better preparation for prospective nursing students in the area.

Bennett and others involved in the Career Technology Education Initiative hope that their efforts to provide new STEM-related, hands on, and career ready education leads to area high school students becoming more viable participants in the work force, able to locate solid employment that makes use of their valuable skills and pays a family-sustaining wage. SHSU’s role in facilitating this initiative will reflect the university’s commitment to serving the larger community and the state.