The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) represents the public school system for the entire state. North Carolina public schools started utilizing NCCER curriculum in the mid 90’s through the initial leadership of Carolinas Associated General Contractors (AGC) Vice President, Tommy Caldwell, and NCDPI Consultant Sherrill Goodman. In 2009 NCDPI became the official NCCER sponsor for the established program, and is now represented by Craig Pendergraft, Education Consultant, Student Certification and Credentialing, Career and Technical Education for NCDPI.
Several decades ago, NCDPI recognized the industry demand for a skilled and trained workforce and sought out NCCER curriculum for their CTE program. The initial sponsor was the Carolinas AGC chapter. The curriculum process and credentialing of students was hampered by the underestimated number of student credential completions. This became a challenge for the sponsor. As the need for national industry recognized credentials grew, the NCPDI CTE division began to look for alternative ways to sponsor the NCCER program. After conducting industry and stakeholder surveys and meetings, the consensus was that NCDPI CTE would be best to sponsor a successful program.
The official proposal for adoption of the NCCER curriculum by State Board of Education, for the Construction Education Program areas, to include Carpentry, Electrical Trades, and Masonry, occurred during the 2008-2009 calendar school year. Currently, the NCDPI offers Core Curriculum, Carpentry, Construction Technology, Electrical, HVAC, Masonry, Plumbing, Welding, Weatherization, and Your Role in the Green Environment. Each craft training area is closely monitored by statewide associations, contractors, community colleges and other workforce development agencies in order to meet industry demand.
Currently, NCDPI has over 600 NCCER certified instructors teaching in their CTE division. In the past three years alone, 13,515 students have earned NCCER credentials. The program’s success has been highlighted in the positive high school graduation rate – in 2012 94% of all North Carolina students enrolled in a CTE program graduated high school, compared to 80% of traditional students.
In 2009, when the NCDPI program was restructured, official partnerships were established with various industry associations including: Carolinas AGC, the Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. (ABC), the North Carolina Home Builders Association (NCHBA), the North Carolina Association of Electrical Contractors (NCAEC), the Carolina Electrical Contractors Association (CECA), the Brick Association of Carolinas, the North Carolina Masonry Contractors Association (NCMCA), the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), many large and small contractors, and the North Carolina Community College System. Craig Penedergraft, NCDPI’s sponsor representative, credits the success of NCDPI’s constructioneducation program to “the relationships that existed and continues to grow between all of our partners and the NCDPI consultants.”
Each partnership plays a unique role for this statewide program. Local and state-level associations such as NCHBA, CACG, ABCC, NCMA, CECA, NCAE come together with local contractors and suppliers to support high schools by serving on advisory committees and providing guidance. These partners also arrange field trips, provide materials and supplies, serve as guest speakers, as well as chairing SkillsUSA® regional and state competitions.
For large organizations, like school districts, who are planning the launch of an NCCER program, Pendergraft suggests gathering support from associations and contractors who already use the NCCER process. He also encourages other sponsor representatives to educate their local workforce development agencies, community colleges and industry organizations that are not familiar with NCCER. In this way, there is support for the NCCER process “from the top down.” Taking ownership through accreditation for an entire school system gives a strong foundation for education and industry partnerships.
To provide a clear path for students, NCDPI involved the North Carolina Community College board in the initial advisory board for the NCCER statewide program. During conversations about seeking NCCER accreditation for the state of North Carolina, it was critical to provide a clear understanding about how student articulation would happen from high school level courses to those programs offering college credit. The conversation is still ongoing, allowing high school instructors to collaborate with college instructors who offer NCCER credentials.
Implementing and maintaining an NCCER craft training program may have varying costs, dependent on the size, scope and type of organization sponsoring. The basic cost considerations for the NCDPI included:
- Initial fee to become an NCCER Accredited Training Sponsor
- Cost of sending 25 people to the Master Trainer Instructor Certification Training Program
- Accredited Training and Education Facility application fee for each school participating
- Bringing participating schools to NCCER standards based on facilities and equipment
- Teacher salaries
- Instructor Certification Training Program training and kits
- Textbooks – 25 books per set for each program, per school including teacher and student editions for Core Curriculum and levels one and two of specified crafts
- Annual NCCER maintenance fee
After four years as the official NCCER sponsor, the NCDPI has seen valuable benefits from their NCCER craft training programs. From the student perspective, high school students who have attained a credential, obtain a documented skill set, and are, therefore, more marketable in the employment arena (helping to reduce training costs for business owners) and better prepared to succeed in a post-secondary environment. A benefit for educators is the ability to gauge the level of understanding regarding specific skills and knowledge within a course of study and adjust instruction as needed to ensure student competence.
Overall, the value of CTE is highly recognized in North Carolina. The mission of NC secondary CTE is to empower all students to be successful citizens, workers and leaders in a global economy. The hands-on approach, a standard in the CTE classroom/lab, provides students the double value-added opportunity to “touch” and “experience” what they are learning. Students not only learn the theory, but put that theory to practice; using the relevant tools and equipment in relation to the curriculum and potential career choice in which the student is interested. Pendergraft advised that to make the most of an NCCER program, the sponsor should “Focus on the process of standardized, stackable credentialing that will lead to productive employment and post-secondary opportunities.”
Running a CTE program over an entire state of public educational agencies is no small or easy task. Pendergraft noted that each achievement for the NCDPI has been a team effort:
“Communication, collaboration, and leadership are vital attributes that have helped to ensure success with implementing, maintaining, and growing our NCCER programs. The collaborative efforts between the NCDPI CTE designated NCCER Sponsor, State CTE Directors, Regional Coordinators, various other LEA staff members, the ICTP-trained classroom instructor, and Business and Industry Partners, combined with consistent communication and direct leadership have helped to make our programs successful.”