ACTE Techniques April 2012 : Page 42

Fea ture By Carolyn Gorton This Little Piggy Went to MARKET! “WHEN I WAS HIRED AS CTE DIRECTOR IN 2009, I kNEW WHAT NEEDED TO BE DONE—’PACkAGING, MARkETING, BRANDING.’ WE NEEDED tO REACH MORE StUDENtS AND tHEIR FAMILIES tO CREAtE AN AWARENESS OF tHE POSSIBILItIES tHAt CtE OFFERS tHEM.” C AREER AND tECHNICAL EDUCAtION (CtE) IN CHARLOttE COUNty, Florida, has a new identity thanks to the creativity and marketing by the K-12 CTE teachers who decided to make a difference. When you walk into any of the elementary or middle school STEM labs, or high school Career and Professional Education (CAPE) Academies, you see a packed house with students truly enjoying their work. But this change didn’t happen overnight or without a maximum effort from all the team members. It happened at a time when CTE looked like it was preordained for extinction, as remedial reading, core requirements and other mandates were pulling students away from CTE. Through highly orchestrated marketing, these teachers have managed to get a hold on the market. market, we needed human connectivity through conversations. Teachers don’t want to be “talked to.” They want to be “talked with.” My first step in this new job was to meet every technical teacher in the school district for a personal and sometimes “fierce” conversation: 1. What do you teach? 2. What career and technical student organizations (CTSOs) do you sponsor? 3. Are you industry-certified? 4. What is new and emerging in your field? 5. How do you currently market your program? 6. As the new CTE director, how can I be of the most help to you ? These conversations were detailed, and I left each one (all 55 of them) with a long “to do” list for myself. My discovery that none of the teachers even knew they were labeled as CTE teachers was astounding. CTE in Charlotte County sorely needed an identity. Career Duckies swimming in a pond were rescued by CTE teachers for prizes at the back-to-school picnic. Establishing a Need for Marketing Charlotte County Public Schools has about 17,000 students in grades K-12 and has three high schools, an alterna-tive school, and a technical center. The enrollment in CTE courses has remained steady at about 3,200 for the past four years, with little or no marketing. When I was hired as CTE director in 2009, I knew what needed to be done— “packaging, marketing, branding.” We needed to reach more students and their families to create an awareness of the pos-sibilities that CTE offers them. After reading the book, Fierce Conversa-tions: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time , by Susan Scott, I had my first “ah ha” moment. In order for CTE to gain a competitive edge in the Creating That identity Before an identity could be established, I first wanted to create a “Circle of Influence” that would be far-reaching. I started by thinking about the true pur-pose of CTE—to train students in skills for a career, college, the military, and life in general—and then developed a “Circle of Influence” to use as a guiding tool in our marketing development. Using the old theory of MBWA (Management by Walking Around), every CTE lab was visited and conversations PHOTO COURTESY OF CAROLYN GORTON 42 Techniques April 2012

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