By Charlie M. Holmes
---- — In 2011, there were 95 seniors from the area who attended the Career and Technical Education program offered by the Otsego Northern Catskill Board of Cooperative Educational Services at the Otsego Area Occupational Center in Milford. Of those students, 57 percent started college a couple of months after graduating and 35 percent already had a job by the time they graduated. The remaining 8 percent of graduates were evenly divided between those who had enlisted in the military and those who were still searching for employment.
Scott Conrade and John Gell, two seniors at Oneonta High School, are among the first students to attend the full-day engineering program being offered this year as part of CTE.
“We created a project for the Cooperstown Bat Company to hang their bats up on a wall,” Gell said. “We might get our names on a patent. That’s pretty cool. We wouldn’t get an opportunity for that just taking generic classes to fill up time.”
“Plus we’re taking 12 college credits here,” Conrade added. “We’re taking calculus from Syracuse University and two physics courses from SUNY Oneonta.”
“That saves you a lot of money,” Hudson Valley Community College admissions counselor David Sarnaki pointed out to Conrade and Gell.
Just moments before, the two students had been discussing HVCC with Sarnaki at the booth he was manning during the Career and College Day being held at the Otsego Area Occupational Center.
The director of the CTE program, Joseph Booan Jr., said that students in the program have an advantage over many other people who are just starting out in one of the trades.
“When they graduate they get a piece of paper based on an industry level exam that they’ve taken that demonstrates their proficiency,” Booan explained. “Let’s take welding. They can test right here for the New York State Department of Transportation welding certification exam. You don’t need a certification to go out to be a welder, but if you take that exam and pass it, you’re immediately eligible for employment at the state level. There’s more money in terms of job opportunities.”
Booan also encourages students to enroll in a CTE program even if they don’t think they want to work in that field.
“I don’t want to be a construction worker, but if I had it to do over again, I’d take building trades,” Booan admitted. “I want to know how to fix my toilet. I want to know how to build a masonry wall. I’d liked to be able to build my own deck. I don’t want to do that as a career, but I want those life skills.”
The culinary arts instructor, Jody Albano, agreed that pursuing a CTE program helps people in life even if it’s not what they plan on doing as a career. It’s a point she likes to bring up to the fifth-, eighth- and 10-graders during their field trip to Otsego Area Occupational Center.
“I go around the room and ask them what they want to be,” Albano said. “They want to be a veterinarian. They want to be a doctor. I’m like, ‘OK, how many years are you going to be in school for that? Six years? Eight years? What are you going to do to support yourself from 17 until the time you’re 30? You’re going to have to work in a restaurant. You’re going to have to bus tables.’”
Albano is part of the business advisory board that meets during the school year with BOCES Superintendent Nick Savin. The board is made up of business owners and CTE instructors. Last week, the board’s task was to inform Savin of advances that were happening in their field of expertise so BOCES could make appropriate changes to the CTE curriculum or equipment.
Booan encourages any business leaders from the area interested in joining CTE’s business advisory board to contact him at 286-7715. To learn more about CTE, visit oncboces.org.