DANVILLE – Danville District 118 students will have a better idea about what they would like to do with their life after high school thanks to a newly enhanced Career and Technical Education program.
The district is entering the second year of a three-year plan to expand its Career and Technical Education (CTE) program at Danville High School and, for the first time, is reaching out to include North Ridge Middle School students.
“We’ve always had CTE, but this year we’re showcasing classes and improving the program,” said Daniel Hile, who is the chair of DHS’ Applied Technology Department and the Work Experience and Career Exploration Program (WECEP) coordinator.
“We have been able to access funding to strengthen the CTE program,” he said. “There is strong evidence that Career and Technical Education gives students real world skills and connects them to postsecondary education and careers after high school.”
Starting this school year, North Ridge seventh- and eighth-graders will have the opportunity to learn basic computer applications and keyboarding techniques, take skills and personality assessments using Xello and learn about digital citizenship and cyber safety.
“We are offering the computer applications class in seventh and eighth grade that used to be offered freshman year and pushing (career) orientation down a couple years,” Hile said.
In addition, North Ridge students can earn digital citizenship and cyber safety certifications for taking those classes. Hile said 45 students currently are in the cyber safety classes.
“We’re teaching them online safety,” he said. “In the 21st century, there are a lot of computer distractions. Some are time sucks and some are criminal. We’re teaching them to be good digital citizens.”
North Ridge students also will be assessed to see what profession might be a good fit for them based on their personality, talents and interests, Hile said. That way, students will be able to select classes in high school that will best fit with their career or college goal.
“This gets at what students are good at or what they like to do,” he said of the skills and personality assessment. “Every freshman also has the opportunity to take intro to careers and technology.”
After recruiting at North Ridge last spring, Hile said he has 110 freshmen taking introduction to careers and technology, which entails spending nine weeks in each of four classes: computer-aided drafting (CAD), automotive technology, woodworking and welding.
“That’s the thing about Danville High School,” he said. “There are so many opportunities.
“Approximately 30 percent of our students go to college, but we can tailor their ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth grade years to a career or college,” Hile said of the CTE program. “We can save them money with college credits and certifications that are identifiable by businesses.”
As the CTE program enters its second year of its expansion plan, the program is evolving and improving, Hile said.
“We’re going to have two CNC lathe machines and plasma table, and we’ve improved our computer labs,” he said.
At DHS this school year, the CTE program offers students:
• Ten dual-enrollment courses – five business, three computer and two industrial technology – in which DHS students will earn high school and Danville Area Community College credit simultaneously;
• Twenty sections of industrial technology courses, including Geometry in Construction and welding;
• Sixteen computer courses and 13 business courses;
• Three workforce development courses that include the Work Experience and Career Exploration Program (WECEP) — which allows up to 25 DHS students to land employment opportunities at four Danville employers — and a Global Careers & Professions (GCP) internship course, which allows DHS juniors to job shadow and participate in work study at Danville businesses.
“Geometry in Construction is a double-block class equivalent to a year of geometry and a year of construction,” Hile said. “It gets kids who would normally be lost in a math class to learn about how geometry is used to build a roofing truss.”
Earning college credit and certificates
Ten new dual-enrollment classes are being taught by DHS teachers this school year at the high school.
“DHS and DACC have worked very hard over the summer to come up with more dual-enrollment teachers,” Hile said. “We’ve worked hard to get teachers approved by DACC.”
To be able to teach a dual-enrollment class, the high school teachers must have earned at least 17 college credit hours toward a master’s degree in the subject area.
On the academic side, DHS teachers Todd Burch and Lori Meske teach five business classes, which include principles of business, microeconomics, macroeconomics, financial accounting and managerial accounting. All five classes earn DHS students college credit.
“The classes are the same as DACC’s. I use their material,” Burch explained, referring to his principles of business, microeconomics and macroeconomics classes. “The intention here is if they take the classes here, they’ll continue on and take classes at DACC.
“We’re not only getting them prepped for college, but we’re growing DACC’s enrollment,” said Burch, who has an MBA from the University of Illinois and was an operations manager for Amazon before entering the teaching profession.
“They’re a financial no-brainer,” he said about dual-enrollment classes. “The district picks up the cost of the books and the tuition, and the high school instructors are approved by DACC.
“If we can get a student one semester of college credit before they leave high school, that’s a tremendous cost savings,” Burch said.
Meske agreed. “A lot of our students are finishing with 15 to 18 hours of college credit.”
Kara Hile, who teaches photography and multimedia as part of the CTE program, said that beyond the cost savings to families, dual-enrollment classes give students a taste of college.
“They may not have considered college as an option,” she said. “Dual enrollment gives them exposure to college-level classes.”
On the career side, DHS teacher Joanna Howard teaches three computer-based classes, which includes Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint and Microsoft Excel. Students who take those classes can earn certification as a Microsoft Office Specialist.
DHS teachers Jason Boehm and Clint Rebman teach two industrial technology classes, principles of engineering and introduction to engineering, which are also Project Lead the Way classes. Students who take those classes can earn an OSHA 10, which is a nationally known and industry-recognized certificate that entails 10 hours of training.
“We were thinking, ‘How can we get our high schoolers certifications that will lead them to a career?’” Hile said, explaining the reason behind adding the computer and industrial technology classes.
“For example, OSHA 10 is a general industry certificate recognized by automotive and construction trades,” he said.
DHS industrial technology students also can earn industry-recognized credentials for taking the five-hour training in StartSAFE StaySAFE (S4). Hile said there are 115 first-year industrial technology students currently taking the S4 training.
“We are teaching PowerPoint and Excel this year, which will not only earn them certifications, but they also get electronic badges that they can put on their LinkedIn pages,” Hile said.
In addition, students can earn electronic badges for completing OSHA 10 training and for taking Adobe classes, which includes PhotoShop, PremierPro and InDesign, all taught by DHS teacher Jana Drennan in her Digifolio class.
“Adobe is new this year for graphic design kids,” Hile said.
Going to work
Not only does the CTE program provide job skills, but it also places students in jobs through the Work Experience and Career Exploration Program (WECEP).
“WECEP has been around 50 years,” Hile said. “It was a grant-supported program for teens in poverty.”
“Through WECEP, we give kids who are 14 and 15 years old an opportunity to get employability skills,” he said. “We identified eighth graders at North Ridge this spring and had them apply to WECEP.
“It’s a risk for the employers, who were Culver’s and McDonalds,” Hile said. “But I had 13 incoming freshmen, and the employers chose to keep them on.”
Students in WECEP also spend time in class learning about employability skills, resume writing and workplace responsibility and receiving OSHA training, if necessary for their job.
“WECEP is a privilege and, if we do this right, they will be career ready,” Hile said.
Another CTE program that allows DHS juniors to get a foot in the door at Danville employers is Global Careers & Professions (GCP) spearheaded by Drennan.
“GCP is job shadowing on caffeine, and in the second year of CTE plan, we moved it to junior year,” Hile said. “It’s career exploration and 20 hours of job shadowing and experience.”
Drennan said, “Half of my kids in GCP are doing internships. They are job shadowing the mayor and dental hygienists.”
Hile said he is excited about the third year of the CTE program’s expansion plans.
“In Year 3, we will have an electronics and robotics lab, and a career lab where students can come in for resources and work on their LinkedIn pages or on certifications.”
But the biggest addition that is expected to be unveiled during the 2020-2021 school year is a business incubator.
Burch, who teaches dual-enrollment principles of business, microeconomics and macroeconomics, is spearheading the business incubator project.
“We’re trying to attract interest from local businesses to either be on a board of directors or be part of the instruction themselves,” Burch said.
“We would really dig into the entrepreneurial side of things,” he explained. “Teams of two or three students would develop projects in the incubator that they would present to Shark Tank-like experts.”
Drennan said she has known students who either do not know what they want to do for a living after high school or have no idea how expensive college can be.
“They say they want to be a doctor, but kids don’t understand what it takes, how much it costs and what skills they need,” she said.
“One girl told me she wanted to be a doctor and go to UCLA, which costs $53,000 a year,” Drennan said. “When she learned how long she would have to go school and how much it would cost to become a doctor, she changed her mind. She’s a nurse now and makes a good living.”
Joanna Howard, who teaches computer-based classes at DHS, said, “Maybe you don’t want to go to college. They’re not aware you can be an electrician and make good money.”
This school year, Greg Hilleary is teaching introduction to computer applications, career and college readiness, business management/marketing and sports management/marketing. For the past few years, though, he helped run DHS’ woodworking class, which is part of the CTE program.
“Whether they’re going on to college or a vocation, I’m talking to the kids about what it’s really like outside of the walls of the school,” Hilleary said.
Hile agreed. “Not all our kids are going to college, but they can make a great career in welding or woods.”
Rebman, who teaches dual-enrollment industrial technology classes, also teaches automotive technology.
“If I have someone who wants to make it (automotive technology) a career, that warms my heart,” he said. “We’re trying to make it dual credit so they can get certified at DACC.”
It just so happens that auto mechanics is one of Rebman’s students’ life plan after high school.
“I plan on finishing school, going into the Army and being a mechanic there,” DHS senior David Brown said.