Creating Job Opportunities

By Karla Jones
Wednesday - July 02, 2008
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Karla Jones

By Karla Jones
Director for Career & Technical Education Center

As director of the Career and Technical Education Center, I’m often asked what exactly our center does. My standard answer is that the Career and Technical Education Center is the administrative office for the federal funds that come into the state for Career and Technical Education.

Our office distributes the funds to the state Department of Education, the University of Hawaii Community Colleges, and the state Department of Public Safety.

When I tell this to most people, they nod their heads, smile and then they move on to another subject. I often wonder, “Do people know what Career and Technical Education is, and why should they care?”

Career and Technical Education (CTE) connects classroom learning with real-world relevancy. The framework for this learning is structured through career pathways. Career pathways are broad groupings of career specialties/occupations that have common skills and knowledge.

There are six career pathways: Arts and Communication; Business; Health Services; Industrial and Engineering Technology; Natural Resources; and Public and Human Services. The pathways allow students to explore careers that require different levels of education and training.

Through the Career Pathway System, students are qualified to seamlessly transition into the work force or into a post-secondary institution.

My own experience with CTE started at an early age when I was exposed to programs that prepared young and old alike for the work force.

When my high school counselor told me I wasn’t college material, I was devastated and challenged myself to prove her wrong. I wanted to dedicate my professional career to working in programs that helped prepare young people for work. Fueled with this passion, I became the state director for Career and Technical Education (CTE). Over the past 10 years, my biggest accomplishment has been the development the six-career pathway system.

CTEC's Dirk Soma and Karla Jones
CTEC’s Dirk Soma and Karla Jones with Hawaii Pacific Health’s Kristen Inouye and Carl Hinson

Dirk Soma, president of the Hawaii Association for Career and Technical Education (HACTE), an advocacy group, emphasizes the critical link between education and industry. HACTE recently hosted its Hawaii Future Fortune 500 Scholarship and Awards ceremony. The successful event featured a luncheon where students talked story with business mentors.

“This event showcased how CTE is interconnected; students, teachers and business come together to create opportunities,” says Soma.

At this year’s event, I awarded the prestigious State Director’s Award for Exemplary Service to CTE to Hawaii Pacific Health. The award is based upon the outstanding commitment of a company to build linkages between the classroom and industry. With the current state health-care shortage, Hawaii Pacific Health has responded with foresight and offered students in the Health Services Career Pathway internships and granted travel awards to national competitions. Hawaii Pacific Health is a stellar example of how businesses and industry can get involved with CTE.

So why should you care about Career and Technical Education?

In the big picture of things, a solid foundation in education or training leads to a qualified and skilled work force, which leads to an overall improvement in our local economic development.

If you are a business owner or a human resources manager, instead of grumbling about not finding qualified workers, stop and ask yourself if you’ve been looking in the right places. Have you called your local area high school or community college and voiced

your business needs? Perhaps a pipeline from their school to your company can be established, ensuring a qualified worker pool.

If you are a teacher, be a conduit for connections. We all have daily interactions with different types of businesses; make connections for your students or through your teaching material.

If you would like to learn more about CTE and our upcoming 2008 Power of Pathways Conference, visit our website at

I hope I have brought some clarity to defining CTE and, instead of a conversational dead end, the big picture will be clear and you will ask yourself, ‘Where do I fit it in?’”


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