U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) is making a push to boost the number of career and technical education (CTE) teachers.
On Tuesday, he introduced the Creating Quality Technical Educators Act with U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Co-Chairs of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, and U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).
The bipartisan legislation would create a teacher residency grant program to help address the CTE teacher shortage in schools and help fill in-demand skilled jobs.
It would target mid-career professionals in related technical fields, recent college graduates, veterans or currently licensed teachers who want to transition to a CTE focus.
Right now, the Virginia Department of Education ranks CTE number four in the ‘Top Ten Critical Shortage Teaching Endorsement Areas’ in Virginia for 2017-2018.
“We’re fortunate in Henrico County because we do have a lot of support and we do have really nice centers, nice equipment and nice programs,” said Henrico County CTE director Mac Beaton.
Still, he said finding the right people to be instructors can be a challenge.
“The real difficulty is the fact that people want to make a living and there is such a demand — whether is carpentry, cosmetology or automotive,” said Beaton.
But making a career change is exactly what Anthony Dejarnette decided to do 11 years ago.
He’s an automotive technology instructor in Henrico County.
“I originally came here as a volunteer to help the other instructor out and I really thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere, the kids and then the thought of giving back,” he said.
Before moving to the classroom, Dejarnette spent years working as a supervisor for fleet maintenance and as a technician for Greyhound.
“It’s been fantastic. A fantastic ride,” he said.
He said one of his favorite parts of the job is seeing his students succeed.
Rebecca Ripley is a junior automotive technology student. She said she’s been into cars since childhood. She went to NASCAR races growing up, then to car meets in middle school and started working on her own car once she hit high school. She said this course was the perfect fit.
“I wanted the experience. I wanted to learn more,” she said. “It’s my dream.”
What she has learned so far has helped her land a gig at a local auto repair shop.
She encourages other students who might not desire a traditional college career path to look into CTE.
“We need a lot more people going into those industries and there are so many job opportunities in them making good money,” she said.
Beaton said Henrico is getting ready to build two additional technical centers.
“We’ll be able to double our capacity,” he said.
Beaton said some of their graduates have gone on to start their own businesses and hire other CTE grads. Others have returned to the school to serve as instructors.
“It really does make a full circle,” he said.
It’s something Dejarnette would like to see, too.
“What I hope is that when we retire, some of these students come back and take our positions,” he said.