Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

April 22, 2013

Tour focuses need for vocational courses

Bill Grimes Daily News
Effingham Daily News

---- — While vocational courses are alive and well at Effingham High School, one student said students and partnering businesses are increasingly picking up more of the cost.

“Our hospital donates a lot of items, and we have to buy our own scrubs,” said EHS Health Occupations student Tim Gardewine.

Gardewine was one of several students attending a Friday morning gathering to highlight the importance of what is now known as “career and technical education.”

Representatives from state and national career and technical education organizations visited EHS, where they met with students from the “health oc,” and other programs.

Those representatives began their tour in northern Illinois recently, wrapping up Friday with stops in Effingham and Jerseyville.

Ashley Parker of the National Association of Career and Technical Education said the plight of health occupations and other vocational students isn’t limited to Effingham, or even Illinois.

“We’re seeing more business and industry stepping in to support these programs,” Parker said.

One problem, she said, is that federal funding for vocational education has been steadily declining over the past several years despite the presence of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. For Illinois, Perkins Act funding has decreased from $49,157,223 in 2010 to slightly more than $40 million last year.

Nationwide, funds allocated under the Perkins Act have decreased from more than $1.26 billion in 2010 to slightly more than $1.1 billion last year. Parker said those numbers will likely drop even further this year because of the federal budget sequestration.

Parker said she toured several Illinois high schools to better understand the importance of vocational education — as well as spotlight the need for more funding.

“Career and technical education is critical,” she said. “We’re here to reinforce that message.”

Shelbyville High School technology instructor Greg Reynolds, who brought several students from his mechantronics class to Friday’s gathering, said one aspect of vocational education is preparing students for manufacturing careers.

“Manufacturing is a huge aspect of our economy that we are not fostering like we should,” Reynolds said. “We have to face the fact that not all our students are going to college, or even technical schools. So what are they going to do?”

In Reynolds’ mechantronics class, students from Shelbyville and Pana learn about the manufacturing process in self-contained modules before spending time at the International Paper plant in Shelbyville for real-world experience.

Other students at Friday’s gathering represented the Creating Entrepreneurship Opportunities (CEO) class that draws students from each of the six high schools in Effingham County.

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com.