Washington state is currently facing a severe K–12 teacher shortage, and career and technical education (CTE) teachers — which help prepare students for entry-level jobs as biomedical researchers, physical therapy assistants, robotics experts, forensic technologists and much more — are in particularly short supply.
About four years ago, Olympic College (OC), in Bremerton, Washington, decided to address the CTE teacher shortage by creating a CTE teacher-certification program that would qualify working professionals to become CTE teachers very quickly — in as little as one year.
To participate in the program, individuals must be able to document that they have at least 6,000 hours of professional work experience in one of the CTE training program’s approved work-specialty categories. Specialties range from accounting to worksite learning.
“Most candidates already have plenty of work experience in their fields, so we add in the educational side of their training,” explains Amy Hatfield, OC’s dean for workforce development and basic studies. The college’s CTE certificate program includes courses in CTE classroom safety, student development, leadership techniques and curriculum development. Classes are offered in the evening, on weekends and online to accommodate working adults.
Assessing the need
Why did a CTE teacher-training program make sense for OC?
“For one thing, Bremerton is in a somewhat geographically isolated town on Washington’s Kitsap Peninsula,” Hatfield says. “We learned that many local individuals were traveling to other parts of the state to complete CTE teacher training. We realized we had a great opportunity to offer our own program right here.”
OC also enrolls the second-largest number of military/veteran students in the state; Naval Base Kitsap is located nearby. “Many of our military students have the ideal background to become CTE teachers,” says Mourine Anduiz, who manages the certification program. “One of our most recent graduates worked as a Navy corpsman and is teaching biomedical research and health at a regional high school skills center.”
OC is now one of six Washington colleges approved by the state to offer CTE teacher certification. “It was a really rigorous process to be certified to offer this program,” Hatfield says. “The formal application took a full year to complete, to be sure we were offering a really solid program.”
Striving for continuous improvement
Since the CTE teacher-training program began in 2015, OC has continued to improve its offerings. For instance, a diversity and law course was deemed too complicated and was split into two separate courses. Also, all online CTE classes now start off with a three-hour, in-person group session.
“We learned that some face-to-face time with the instructors early on is really crucial. It helps students get to know their instructors and better understand their requirements,” Anduiz says.
In addition to offering teacher-certification courses at its Bremerton campus, OC holds onsite classes at area high schools that have six or more teachers enrolled in OC’s program. “These teachers may have been conditionally hired, with the agreement that they will complete the teacher-certification process within a year,” Anduiz explains.
About 60 students are now enrolled in the OC CTE teacher-training program, and its first five students graduated in May. Another 10 students are expected to graduate this fall.