Future College Parent - Michelle

Not your momma’s CTE program! – Michelle Freidman

For the second episode of the Future College Parent Podcast, I was excited to speak with Ms. Michelle Freidman, Director of Career and Technical Education at CVES BOCES. Michelle lives and breathes Career and Technical Education or CTE. Her passion for her work is so obvious and I so appreciative of how she is able to explain the work she does in an approachable manner.

Episode Timeline:

[03:06] Michelle’s role in supporting parents and students in getting an education.
[05:40] How CTE is growing in popularity
[09:27] Benefits of participating in BOCES’ CTE programs
[16:19] How CTE programs can help you figure out your passion
[17:23] The difference between being college-ready and being career-ready
[21:02] How parents can prepare students for their careers after high school
[26:03] Michelle’s advice for the higher education system
[30:54] Justin’s 5 takeaways from the episode.

Five things I learned from my talk with Michelle!

1. CTE offers students the opportunity to “test drive” learning a skill (or skills) or a career path while still in high school. Don’t pay extra for the experience! Remember Michelle’s nursing example of a student who thought they wanted to be a nurse but then when it came time to provide patient care, she wasn’t a fan! She was a fan of the medical field and was able to focus her energy elsewhere.
2. Have conversations with your students early and often about their talents, what their passions are, and what brings them joy to attempt to link them to a career path. Then encourage and seek out opportunities for them to learn and gain skills.
3. Sustainable lifelong learning happens with skill building. Once you learn a skill or trade, you have it for life!
4. CTE does not mean no traditional college or advance level of career. Your student’s education path doesn’t end with certification in a CTE program. Most trades are now looking for an advanced level of academic experience.
5. Use Michelle’s advice to traditional colleges to benefit you, ask colleges to highlight or map occupational opportunities with degree programs.


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Parent Action Plan!: Parents can download the action plan document to actively engage with their student, secondary, and post-secondary professionals to help their student prepare, chose and finance college.

Lesson Plan & Worksheet: Leaders of activities your student is involved in, and your school administrators can download the Lesson Plan and Worksheet for this episode to help teach all Future College Parents the content of this podcast episode.

Referenced links:

Career and Technical Education (CTE): The Division of Academic and Technical Education (DATE) is responsible for helping all students acquire challenging academic, technical, and employability skills to succeed in postsecondary education and in-demand careers. https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ovae/pi/cte/index.html

Perkins Collaborative Resource: Look up your state’s CTE Profile here! https://cte.ed.gov/

Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES): https://www.boces.org/


Justin Alger 00:25
Michelle, thank you for being here. Welcome to the future college parent podcast. I appreciate you being here and helping future college parents. And thank you also for being one of our first six guests, your guest’s number two, for the sixth episode premiere of the future college parent podcast welcome.

Michelle Freidman 02:46
Well, thank you so much. I am truly honored to have been asked to give a give some feedback at to future college parents after having a couple college students, myself and some little tips and tricks we’ve learned along the way. Well, wonderful.

Justin Alger 03:05
Let’s get right into it if you could share with us your role and describe in what capacity you support parents and students in getting college and career ready.

Michelle Freidman 03:16
I’d love to. So, my role here I work in a career and tech center regional tech centers in New York State. And we work in what we call collaborative sense in what we call a BOCES Board of Cooperative educational services. So basically, in a nutshell, it’s chunking the state into groups of counties where in regionally services can be provided that school districts couldn’t financially support on their own. So, in my part of New York, my centers are located in two counties. And we serve as 16 school districts. So, our students are typically 11th and 12th graders, and they come to the regional technical centers for training in the skilled trades and health careers as part of their journey on to what’s next, whether it’s immediately into the workforce, or if it’s moving on to advanced training and post-secondary.

Justin Alger 04:26
That’s great. And now you there are a lot of acronyms. Right, and you said BOCES stands for

Michelle Freidman 04:32
Board of Cooperative educational services. And that’s exclusive to New York State. states around the country have different ways in which they can regionalize services. But that’s how it’s how it works in New York State.

Justin Alger 04:48
Yeah, wonderful. And actually, I know in our pre interview we talked about because I was unaware whether BOCES or CTE was a national or regional program and I actually did some did some searching myself and, and certainly it’s a national program has been the US Department of Education. Division of academic and technical education is responsible for helping students acquire the academic and technical and employability skills to help them succeed in post-secondary education and in demand careers. And the US Department of Ed website directs you to the Perkins collaborative Resource Network, where listeners can find information about your state’s CTE program. And I’ll of course post the link in the show notes. So, I shared with you I think in our in our LinkedIn conversation, a Newsweek article that talks about how CTE is growing in popularity. And as it again, it provides students with those skills to and credentials to get them directly in the workforce or prepare them for higher education. Are you noticing any enrollment shifts in on your BOCES campus at all?

Michelle Freidman 06:01
Oh, absolutely. Um, you know, there has been an evolution to get to what we now call CTE or career and technical education. Back in a day, depending on what day you were in, back in the day, it was vocational education, and it was very scripted, and that VoTech was world of work, I usually no post-secondary training at all, it was an either or then we morphed into occupational education, which brought more of the employability skills, the scan skills, as we used to call them. And now, the 21st century skills or the soft skills. And then from that evolution, we came to Career and Technical Education, which is where we are right now, where it is not an either-or option. Most technical fields in training fields require some advanced level of education, not always, but oftentimes, it’s not an end stop. Now with the pandemic, and the and the need for what we deemed essential as essential workers, we’re seeing a surge in and a shift. And those students who are aspiring to go into health careers into the transportation sector, the manufacturing and engineering sector, and all of those components, we’re seeing a leveling of the playing field where it’s not either you’re going to college, or you go to a trade school, you go to a career technical educational center for that all-encompassing training of not just the technical skills, but the advanced academic core skills, and the employability skills. So, we were concerned with the pandemic, because everything shifted to virtual learning. However, we were able to embrace that technology, and still teach those hands-on skills. And I think with the ongoing and really renewed respect for the skilled trades through the pandemic, we’re seeing a lot more interest in pursuing those careers. I mean, when you think about it for all of us, if we have a task that we are asked to do, and there is a viable, valid reason why it needs to be done that way, a certain way. And on a certain timeline, we are all much more apt to say okay, I can do that. And that’s what we find in this academic environment, where we are teaching some very high-level academic core content. But in a way that is practical and applicable, the students can understand the rationale behind it, and oftentimes in the research shows, it is learning that will be sustained learning, it’s not just you know it for the test, and then you don’t remember it anymore. It’s sustained learning and it’s ingrained.

Justin Alger 09:22
You say that mentality, if you teach, teach someone to fish, they’ll eat forever type of deal. You alluded to some of the benefits of participating in a BOCES or a CTE program. But can you expand on some of the benefits you see is that students experience from participating?

Michelle Freidman 09:40
Or and from a parent perspective, I think it’s important because at least parents who are of my generation may have grown up in with a mindset that they weren’t equal pathways of a vocational track or a college bound track. And, as I mentioned before, it’s an either-or kind of you either do this or you do that. And what the takeaway I would like for parents to consider is if you were on a college track yourself, and you went through a traditional four year university, you know, if you are blessed to have had parents who saved and were able to pay for that, if you were fortunate enough to maybe get some scholarships, and even some financial aid, and had to take out some loans, there was a point in which you had to work in something else before you got the degree that you were studying for, to get by. I know, for myself, I worked as a waitress many of us did, whatever we needed to do. I wish I had a skill that could have helped me make ends meet a little easier, or a little sooner than having to rely on whatever I could do to get work until I got my teaching degree. So, I say this because if a student comes to one of our centers for two-year program of study and decides to take the New York state licensing exam for cosmetology because they came to our cosmetology program, that does not mean that the path ends as a stylist in at a chair. That just means that now you have a New York State license to practice cosmetology. And you, perhaps could put yourself through a college program making a bunch more money than maybe I was waitressing or working in a dealership and being able to make that labor rate fixing cars. So, I love to tell parents consider what your options are for your kids to participate in a career in tech program while they’re in high school. Because there is no tuition, it’s part of your public-school experience, at least in New York State, and in many other states across the country, and equip your child with a skill they will have for life, it doesn’t have to be their life’s work. But it’s a skill they will have for life, I would have loved to take automotive technology, I could do something more than fill my windshield wiper fluid. Maybe I could change a tire or diagnose something before, you know showing up at an auto shop. So, we need to break the mold that students who come to tech school, that’s all they’re gonna do, which is amazing what they do. But whether or not they choose to make that their life’s work, what an off what a wonderful option. But their training will never be for nothing. If they choose to just carry that skill with them for the rest of their life.

Justin Alger 10:13
It sounds like a tremendous opportunity, and a gift as you suggested.

Michelle Freidman 13:25
I look at my juniors who come in our allied health program. So, they are starry eyed about becoming nurses, for whatever reason, you know, and so by the end of their junior year, they sit for their New York State CNA license, and they get certified as CNAs. They do their clinicals in the nursing homes, and now they’re working with real people’s Nana’s and Grampus you know and really getting in the field. Two magical things happen. One, they are even more starry eyed about what’s next. And what’s next in their career as a healthcare professional. And their summer of their senior year of college. Now they’re working in a healthcare facility, they’re making really good money. The second magical thing that can happen is, they realize they absolutely never ever never in another day want to be in the healthcare profession. And they were able to test drive it they were able to maybe because they were at a at our tech center see some other career training opportunities after realizing after one year all I ever thought I wanted to be a nurse and now that I realize what that means. I don’t have it in me to do that type of care. But what I do have in me, is the business end of it, and the front office end of it. So, we navigate them to our business and health management program where now they’re doing the hippuric and so they were able to know kind of find where they thought they fit. And realize they absolutely love it. Or they absolutely don’t. And then we can redirect. Now what a great way to redirect when there’s no debt. Not a great idea to get into your clinicals as a third-year nursing student, and how many 1000s of dollars that you had to loan because all you ever wanted to do was be a nurse. And now you realize you don’t like it. So, you walk away from your program. But just because you decided you didn’t like nursing and don’t want to do that anymore, doesn’t mean they say, oh, okay, well, we’ll just erase your college loan debt, because you decided that you didn’t like it. And that’s a really critical piece. That parents I think, don’t realize until it’s too late to take advantage of the career and tech training opportunities while the kids are in high school. Because I think for some reason, my generation, and maybe others after I think that we’re selling our kids short, if we’re over asking them to go to a VoTech school, for some reason, and there couldn’t be anything further from the truth.

Justin Alger 16:19
So even if you don’t have plans to enroll in any one of the programs, providing that or getting that exposure to a program will help you sort of prospect or figure help narrow that process down to try to figure out what your interest might or might not be.

Michelle Freidman 16:37
You know what, it’s always a good thing to maybe take the school up on their open house or call and ask if they would do a tour. And so, you don’t leave anything on the table. You don’t get too midway through senior year and say, Gee, I wish I had gone to the tech school. I wish I had gone to that career center. You can go through, and you can make a decision that yes, I saw everything. I looked at everything, but it wasn’t for me. That’s fine. Um, but you never know, if you didn’t go, there may have been something that would have interest you or you might have wanted a little bit more information.

Justin Alger 17:21
It’s an excellent suggestion. I wanted to shift gears a little bit. We’re talking about, you’re talking a lot about being career ready. Right? But is there a difference? Or do you see a difference between being college ready and being career ready?

Michelle Freidman 17:39
Well, I think we all need to be career ready. Because college is another way to get to your career. Um, I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. You don’t get to college and end, you get to college, hopefully to have the career of your lifetime, right. So, my perspective, the career is what we should be focusing towards. And those technical skills are critical. But those soft skills, those employability skills, those professional skills, those are the skills that in my region, we have over 350, almost 400 business and industry partners that we work with. And they repeatedly tell us we can teach them how to run our machines, we could teach them how to shift gears with new contracts that we have. We can’t teach them how to be good team players. We can’t teach them how to be reliable, resourceful take initiative. We can’t teach that we could teach the skill part. But we want people who are coming to us who are willing to learn who take constructive criticism, who know not to be using their cell phone to Snapchat their girlfriend while there, you know, watching machinery that could potentially harm someone. So, for me, I think what we need to do is really shift the conversation. And I mentioned this too, prior, from where are you going next year to what do you see yourself doing? What would you love to do? And then based on that answer, continually helping to find resources and guidance, to continue to feed that desire to move towards that goal. You know, I aspire to be an elementary school teacher, that was my career choice. But because I kept having opportunities to explore new and different facets of education, facets of education that at 16 years old, I did not know existed, none of us did, right? We didn’t, you don’t know the scope. So, we have to create a culture that inspires kids to keep looking at the career as a whole and different ways to navigate on ramps and off ramps. It’s not a point A to point B journey. So, I think right now, we are heavily focused on where are you going next year. And so, although that’s important, I think the shift in the conversation could really help perpetuate more significant and healthy discussions about options within a sector.

Justin Alger 21:01
And that makes a lot of sense. I think you alluded to some, but What specifically can parents do to foster that? What are we doing next to what are we doing after high school next mentality?

Michelle Freidman 21:13
I think we just have to listen, the jabs that our kids are going to be getting, we’ve never heard of them before. So, I think we need to listen, I think we need to know what our resources are. We have to embrace the opportunity for our kids to be employed in ways that are very much outside of our own comfort zone. We come from the mindset. And maybe the pandemic helped us a little bit with this, that you got to get up every day, and you got to drive to a physical place to go to work and dress a certain way and respond a certain way, that world is different for our kids. And the technology that they that are native to them. We are we are immigrants to that technology. Maybe not so much you Justin but I am. So, no matter how versed you are in a second language, you are always an immigrant to that language. And that’s how I look at technology and folks of my generation. We didn’t grow up with it. I can remember when MTV launched, I can remember the first video and right okay, so you know, cable getting cable was a big deal. So, anyway, true. So, we have to we can apply our norm to our kid’s norm because they’re very, very diverse. So, my advice would be to look at their talents and look at their interests, and try to help inspire them to figure out what sector not a specific job, but what sector that could fall in? Is it human resources? Is it health careers? Is it technology? Is it an informational technology? Is it the transportation sector? Is it infrastructure? Is it mechanically based, and then help break down those barriers, that if you are working with your hands, that is just as viable, and just as respectable, as some of the other advanced program components that oftentimes seem to get a little bit more respect? You look at perhaps if your child is interested in doing those cool circuit boards, you know, and the Connect boards have a conversation with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers because they have a quite a remarkable apprenticeship program. And I don’t know if you looked at the national average salary for electricians in this country. It’s remarkable and especially if you have a young person who is inclined that way and loves that kind of work. Those are the we’re so we can’t wait to take our kids on the college tours. You know, we can’t wait to make the circuit you see and on Facebook. Oh, we’re stopping at this college today and then we’re crossing the country where do we go to this college? Have you considered Have you considered the local unions the pipe fitters Have you considered the electrical unions? Have you considered some of those areas of the workforce that are so respected, but yet don’t seem to get the visits or have the conversations? And those are some things that I would encourage parents to have those conversations with your kids, because if you’re having them, then you are letting your student know that these are okay to explore as well. Because they may be thinking like my daughter, I’m supposed to go to college. I don’t know what I’m going to do there. But that’s what everybody’s been telling me since I got to kindergarten that you know, when you get done with high school, what do you do? You go to college? What do you do at college? I don’t know, I just go there. That’s what I’m supposed to do. And then I go to work, and then I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.

Justin Alger 25:51
I love it. Thank you so much for sharing that perspective, higher and secondary education, don’t necessarily have a formal way of communicating. Right? So as a spokesperson for secondary education, what advice do you have for higher education?

Michelle Freidman 26:14
That’s a great question. The advice would be to perhaps look at your degree programs, not just as a list of required courses that end in, you know, the affirmation of the degree, which is critical, correct. But perhaps start aligning that degree program with some clear pathways to where it leads. Now, obviously, if you’re in a degree program for education or elementary education, you know that the pathways most likely into the classroom, as a classroom teacher, but perhaps some of the broader based, you’re getting a degree in English. Okay, that’s awesome. What are your options post degree as far as making a living? So, I think it’s now the responsibility of our post-secondary institutions to start mapping the career opportunities that are aligned to their degree programs, because some of them obviously, are self-explanatory. But some of the other ones and you know, we’ve all had families and friends are like, Yeah, my kid just got a degree in art history. What do we do from here? So, if that really is your passion, I think our colleges have the responsibility, especially with the soaring costs, and most likely, very, very challenging debt, to have conversations with students that are enrolled in their degree programs as to their career pathways. As a result of their degree programs, I perhaps even build in more of the work-based learning components that we do in career and technical education to link those careers into the academic nature of the degree programs.

Justin Alger 28:24
So, you’re suggesting that higher education could do a better job broadly, of defining these career pathways for the academic programs?

Michelle Freidman 28:33
I just, I just think it would be in their best interest. Because just like for us, we have the beauty, like I mentioned to you before, when a kid sees the slope formula on a construction trades test, and says Why do I need to know this? You know, we can answer that. So, when you when you have students who are interested in a degree field, I think our role in the post-secondary education realm is to say, if you come to us, and you’re accepted into our history program, here, we’re going to give you all of that academic background. But we also want you to know that these are your options with a degree in this field. I don’t think those conversations ever happen unless it’s at Thanksgiving dinner with your family, when your uncle that always gets in trouble for saying too much says, well, what the heck are you going to do with that when you graduate? And then everybody sits there like, say that, but everybody’s thinking I’ll put the poor kid who loves art and wants to do something has really no idea what do I do with this when I get done? And I think that could be the next phase and really redefining a post-secondary experience.

Justin Alger 30:08
It makes a lot of sense. I really appreciate you sharing your knowledge of the BOCES in the CTE program and you’re, you’re clearly so very passionate about the work that you do. And I again, I appreciate you coming on the future college parent podcast.

Michelle Freidman 30:24
Thank you so much for having me and I just, I love the opportunity