Monday, September 14, 2009

High Schools Should Add Certification Training to Career and Technical Education Programs

Many high schools have incorporated IT certification training into their technology curriculum, giving students practical, hands-on experience along with their more traditional theoretical education. Walla Walla High School in rural Washington State and the King Career Center in Anchorage are perfect examples. Other schools are still debating, and some haven’t even given it serious thought. So why should high schools incorporate certification training into their curriculum?

Less than a year ago, Sean Cavanagh in Education Week wrote about high school career and technical education (CTE) programs. He said, “Critics have long questioned whether [CTE] programs challenge students academically in subjects like math and science. Are CTE students being given skills that will help prepare them for challenging, and potentially high-paying jobs? Or are these courses serving to relegate them to low-paying work and outdated career tracks? How can CTE courses be made more academically demanding?”

In response to the important questions Mr. Cavanagh posed, IT certification training may be one of the very best additions to any CTE program exactly because it challenges students academically in a highly relevant science/technology field and prepares them for high-paying work and cutting-edge career tracks. For example, CompTIA’s A+ certification exam—the exam for which most high school and college IT curriculums offer training—“tests for the fundamentals of computer technology, networking and security, as well as the communication skills and professionalism now required of all entry-level IT professionals.” As a profession, IT work continues to grow in demand like few other fields, even in a struggling economy (http://redmondmag.com/salarysurveys/). Preparing students for the information technology field, with hands-on experience and training, is preparing them for success.

Incorporating certification training into an IT curriculum can be made most academically challenging when teachers combine multiple teaching tools. For example, LabSim training courses offer written lessons, video trainings by industry experts, hands-on lab simulations, and practice exams to gauge readiness for the actual certification exam. By using multiple teaching tools like those offered in LabSim courses, teachers educate students thoroughly in the subject matter and prepare them practically both for the initial exam and the subsequent career.

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