By Lori Lyn Lirio
IN A bid to expand the student’s career pathways, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands Public School System recently held a career technical conference which brought together stakeholders and educational institutions.
The participants, who attended the conference at Taga Hall in World Resort, include those in the arts and communication business, healthcare services, educational institutions, government and public administration.
Jessica Taylor, CNMI Career and Technical Education program director, said the conference focused more on discussions on career pathways for the students. Moreover, she said they have been tackling career pathways since 2000 with industry partners.
“But the difference of this meeting is we are going to continue to meet, maybe twice a year, and really work on those pathways in the curriculum [to integrate 21st century skills] to ensure that when our students graduate, they will be able to gain entry level employment, if possible, or even go to college and get into a credit-bearing course,” Taylor explained.
“We have pathways and we want to build more of them. We want to expand and we want to engage our business and secondary partners even more to make it so much better.”
When it comes to pathways, Taylor said the PSS curriculum needs the input from industry partners for career and technical education.
“We want to make sure that our standards are also aligned with the standard of industry so that we will be able to teach the skills that the students need. We are also hoping that when they do graduate from high school, they will be able to earn industry-recognized credential or certifications. So when they leave our schools, they have something under their belt,” she said.
Furthermore, she said, the CTE program focused on the workforce and readiness of the students.
“CTE is a major part of the solution to national economic and workforce problem. It is about our future and the workforce and the readiness of our kids and it is about producing children that are going to be ready to contribute to our society,” she said, adding “it is critical, it is not only about our students, it is also about the resources that we can share, the resources that we can leverage so that we cannot duplicate services. It is important that we collaborate and we work that we all aligned and we ensure that our kids have those skills.”
Taylor hopes to develop advisory committee that would expand pathways, skills integrating in the curriculum and oversee its enactment.
One of the participants was CHCC CEO Esther Muña, who expressed support on the collaboration to map out a career path for the students.
“I emphasized the need of involving our policy makers in this discussion as there needs to be more resources and investment provided,” she said.
In health care field, Muña said there are numerous skills that can be applied.
“I examined a book of electrical engineering that was on display and I was pleased to see that on the index they discussed biomedical engineering – a needed skill in the hospital. That’s just an example where health is introduced in a more generalized field. That introduction, however, can bring interest to a student who is still trying to figure out their future career,” she said.
“The individuals at the meeting know and recognize the challenges and I have so much respect for all of them. It is obvious that we know the problems affecting our students and we have our individual ways to resolve them. Now imagine coming together and combining all our efforts. The impact will be great for the CNMI,” Muña said.