Buffalo Schools’ Career and Technical Education Department: Fulfilling Buffalo’s New Employment Needs by Procuring CTE Grants
Robert P. Harris, Supervisor, Buffalo Schools Career and Technical Education
Ever since the inception of Buffalo, NY’s Vocational High schools in the early 1900s, Buffalo has been a leader in career and technical education (CTE) at the high school level. Buffalo currently boasts of 15 high schools that have made the transition from vocational education pathways to CTE pathways. These schools have survived the economic changes that are visibly and economically evident in the City of Buffalo. Once a hub for manufacturing and now considered a part of the rust belt, Buffalo is going through an economic resurgence. Buffalo’s CTE schools are also going through a resurgence. The community is realizing that CTE is an educational resource that can be positioned to help the city meet its skilled workforce needs. With a current base of 25 programs of study and a state-reported graduation rate of 86.92% for the year of 2014 (New York State Education Department), Buffalo School’s CTE administration believes that it has the wherewithal to meet the challenge.
With economic change comes the need to change how we educate. This means aligning our educational offerings to meet economic and employment goals of our Western New York State region. In the past couple years there has been a push by the governor to highlight and support the driving economic factors that will lead to the economic sustainability of the region. Those factors include the following economic sectors of growth: green energy, hospitality and tourism, health sciences, and advanced manufacturing.
The Buffalo City School District’s CTE department set out to do everything in its power to meet the educational need that would in turn meet the demand for highly skilled employees in these sectors. The director of Buffalo’s CTE, Katherine Heinle, led a pointed focus to write grants that meet the students’ educational goals while ensuring rigorous instruction and supplies and equipment that meet industry expectations. Since 2014 her team has managed to secure and implement three grants totaling $9 million. In doing so she has garnered partnerships with area colleges and a host of high-level industry advisors. The grants include a U.S. Department of Labor grant geared toward the health sciences, a Pathways in Technology (P-TECH) grant geared toward green construction, and most recently another P-TECH grant geared toward advanced manufacturing. All the grants offer a format that includes an expense-paid opportunity to attain collegiate credits and industry certifications. The P-TECH grants offer a pathway to an associate degree at no cost to the student.
As Buffalo continues on its pathway to resurgence, the CTE department will continue to identify grants and programs that will prepare young people for new and innovative pathways to success. The goal is to ensure that students are positioned to take on high-demand, high-wage, high-skilled jobs in new and emerging career pathways. We all know that with our students’ success come the community’s economic success and sustainability.