As the Department of Education works to remake vocational education, summer internships are seen as a key opportunity for young workers to get on-the-job experience. NY1 reporter Lindsey Christ explains.
Don't call it vocational school–now it's Career and Technical Education, or CTE, which officials have spent years trying to develop into a pathway to prestigious, high paying jobs. It is far cry from the traditional view of vocational school as a dumping ground for students not seen as college material.
"I believe in CTE. It's one of my top priorities," said Chancellor Carmen Farina.
Friday, Farina spent the morning meeting with 100 students from six CTE schools, underscoring her commitment to this type of practical, hands-on education as the school year is about to begin.
"You are very well-dressed. I would give you a job!" she said.
While the old vocational schools gave students skills to succeed as auto mechanics or machinists, the new CTE schools are focused on teaching high tech skills like computer coding and security and providing hands-on experience through corporate internships.
"As the economy has changed, as we've moved kind of from the production economy to an information economy and high-end service economy, vocational education, which is the term we no longer use, of course, also had to change," said David Fischer, Executive Director for Youth Employment for the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York.
The shift began under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who made his billions a titan of technology. He opened 33 CTE schools as mayor–a push that Mayor de Blasio has continued. It is a rare area of overlap for two mayors who otherwise have very different education agendas.
"Youth employment transcends politics, there's no question about it, and I think it's a public policy issue," said Jeff Barker, New York State President at Bank of America.
So a city-sponsored summer internship program that began under Bloomberg has expanded under de Blasio. It gives CTE students the chance to actually experience a job.
"Learning how to be on time, definitely. Learning how to take the subway. Learning what's expected of me, in like a professional work environment," said John Jerome, a student at Bayside High School.
There are 120,000 city high school students in career and tech programs now, a number the chancellor says she wants to increase.
"We want to put CTE programs in every single school that has the space," she said.