The intangible benefits of career and technical education (CTE), as seen by a teacher and a grandparent
‘He’s Doing Something He Loves’
For 18-year-old Savion Hollis, welding classes proved a great entry point to a career.
Wilmington resident Edie Trovinger thought her grandson would go to college. He still might, but right now, months after graduating high school, Hollis is working full-time doing something he loves and making decent money.
Hollis was drawn to Delcastle Technical High School because his sisters had gone there. His experience from day one, says Trovinger, was extremely positive. He played lacrosse and football and he hit it off with his teachers. “His welding teacher was phenomenal,” she says. “They had a great relationship.” Hollis went to the Delaware SkillsUSA competition two years in a row. In 2018, he took home a silver medal for welding sculpture; in 2019, he got the gold. Before he started at Delcastle, Trovinger explains, “I told him even if welding is not something you stick with, this could be your fallback and it’s a good experience — once he got in there, he excelled.”
Hollis participated in the school’s co-op program as a senior, alternating between two weeks of work in his trade and two weeks of classwork. He graduated in May and went straight to work. “He got this great job, and they just hired him full-time making $20 an hour,” Trovinger says. “For an 18-year-old, that’s pretty good!”
Trovinger feels CTE was the perfect choice for her grandson. “I never expected this from a vo-tech — a lot has come of it, and I’m really pleased,” she notes. “Savion’s a very smart kid. I had high expectations for him. I wanted him to go on to college and do engineering, but he’s really content with what he’s doing, and he can only excel from here. He’s doing something he loves. Not too many people go out, from high school, and get into something that they love and actually make it a way of life.”
[caption id="attachment_203949" align="alignright" width="606"] Bryan Bryant | Photo by Moonloop Photography[/caption]
‘They Need to Learn How to Talk to People’
CTE can be a great intro to soft skills as well as job skills.
Delcastle Technical High School offers 24 career areas, and the New Castle County Vocational Technical School District as a whole offers 44. Bryan Bryant, who graduated from Delcastle and worked in the field for years before becoming an electrical trades instructor at the school, says the vo-tech student experience is not just about learning plumbing, carpentry or electrical skills.
“It is so much more than that,” Bryant says. “My job is to prepare them to be ready to go out and work. So not only have the skill set to be able to go out and perform their duties, but also how to interact with adults. They need to learn how to talk to people.”
Part of that, Bryant explains, is helping students find ways to communicate with potential employers. “They live on their phones,” Bryant notes. To help them get ready for job interviews, he has students take photos and videos of their technical work at school; after a while, the student ends up with a decent portfolio that highlights his or her technical skills. Then, in a job interview, they can ask, “can I show you some of my work, do you mind if I get my phone out?”
“It’s a good ice breaker,” says Bryant, who has been teaching at Delcastle for 20 years. “I embrace the technology of their phones. I let the students know there’s a time for it and we can use this as a tool.”
A natural people person himself, Bryant stresses to his students that being able to relate to people is an important part of being a professional. Whether they plan to work on job sites in a construction setting or go into people’s homes as a service technician, he notes, they should be able to communicate. “Find a common interest with someone,” he says, “and sell yourself. I can talk to anybody in high places and in low places about anything, and that’s what I tell them — you need to not just know what you’re doing here, but watch the news, be a well-rounded person, know what’s going on in the world. And eye contact is a big thing — keep your hands out of your pockets, stand up straight, and make eye contact.”
Bryant worked for 14 years as an electrician before becoming a teacher — and he also mentored and trained students from Delcastle while he was still in the field. Asked if he misses the work, Bryant laughs. “On cold, cold days when I come driving in, I tell my students, you don’t know what you’re in for,” he says. “But I do miss the nice spring days being outside putting pipes in the ground.”