Casting Call for Occupational Education: Producing Blockbuster Leaders

Chair, 2008-09 Occupational Education Committee

The 2009 Vocational Education Leadership Institute was held March 12 through 14 at the Sheraton Universal Hotel in Universal City. The Vocational Education Leadership Institute is designed to develop and promote leadership among occupational faculty at local, regional and state levels. It is funded by a federal Vocational and Technical Education Act (VTEA) leadership grant that is administered by the Chancellor's Office for California Community Colleges and provided to the Academic Senate for implementation. The Institute provides training and a range of tools to the faculty in attendance. One of the goals of the Institute is to encourage more active participation of occupational faculty in both their local academic senates and the Academic Senate. This Institute helps to develop close relationships with statewide leaders and other occupational faculty members while informing occupational educators about the resources available to them.

The Occupational Education Committee is the planning group for the Institute. As the location for this year was in Universal City, home of Universal Studios and near to many media production sites (Disney Imagineering, Warner Bros, and NBC, to name a few), we decided to go with a movie theme. Each breakout and general session had a movie title or character in order to describe it. Yes, the temptation was to go really crazy, but I think we kept it pretty much under control.

Act I, Scene 1.We started off the Institute with an address from the Academic Senate President Mark Lieu (The Ten Commandments) providing us with an overview of the Academic Senate, including a review of the "10+1," the items in Title 5 and the Education Code that provide the basis for most of the authority of academic senates in academic and professional matters at the local and state level.

The first set of three breakouts provided a variety of resources, from a presentation of the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory personality test (Spiderman, Shrek, The Terminator: Which One Are You?) to a demonstration of contextualized learning (Some Like it Hot) to a discussion of funding sources from the federal VTEA and Carl Perkins grants (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.and learns what is available for those back home).

A Vocational Leadership Institute would not be complete without informing career technical education leaders about the activities of the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office (The Godfather). And special populations and "nontraditional" occupations, where individuals from either gender comprise less than 25% of the individuals employed in each such occupation or field of work, were discussed in another general session (Rebel Without a Cause). It is interesting to note that three of the Occupational Education Committee members are nontraditional-males in cosmetology and library science and a female in welding technology.

We explored a special and honored category of students-returning veterans (Platoon and An Officer and A Gentleman), hearing personal accounts from two veterans with some of the challenges they face as they adjust to the college environment. And we also heard about a series of successful programs overseen by the Academic Senate-the SB70 Career Pathways (It's a Wonderful Life) and how these have provided for articulation of courses between high schools, Regional Occupational Centers and Programs (ROCPs) and colleges. A strong area of commitment for faculty is in the area of curriculum development (The Right Stuff) as we heard more about the new Program and Course Approval Handbook and the potential application of prerequisites to career technical education courses.

It is always vitally important for leaders to be informed about funding and finances. We had a state expert in community college finances give us an overview (Jerry Maguire-Show Me The Money!) of the state budget and also provided us with detailed profiles of the finances of our local districts. Times of deep budget problems (hmmmm, could that be like now?!!) always bring up concerns about the viability of career technical education programs. A presentation on program review and discontinuance (The Grapes of Wrath) focused on how one college faced these situations. It is also important to look at how different state initiatives can be combined for student success. We saw an example of an award-winning program (The Sweet Smell of Success) that showed how Basic Skills Initiative (BSI) funding was used to encourage career technical education faculty to refer students to college success centers as a component of their instructional program.

Many of the attendees are already leaders on their campuses, but it is always good to hear about others. We were fortunate to have a panel of career technical education faculty ( (All the President's Men.and Women) relate their experiences of hearing the call (of the wild?) and stepping forward to help their faculty colleagues at the local, regional and state level. And faculty leaders are not alone.we explored the importance of collaborative efforts (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) between faculty and administrators on relationships in developing and maintaining programs.

As we mentioned before, federal funding is very important for vocational programs and we reviewed the current Perkins Accountability measures and showed how they relate to effective teaching and learning (Million Dollar Baby). The state's Economic and Workforce Development has resources and information (Star Trek) to lead the way in building capacity in career technical education disciplines and professional development opportunities for faculty. Another important component for a career technical education program can be advisory committees (Advise and Consent). We learned how they can have a dramatic impact on enrollment, outcomes, completer placement rations, training materials and curriculum development.

External matters can deeply affect career technical education programs and nothing more than legislation. We learned what is happening in Sacramento and Washington D.C. (Around the World in Eighty Days-didn't it take longer than that to get the budget passed?) on issues of interest, including Perkins accountability, VTEA funding, economic development and workforce preparation. Of special interest was hearing about issues in regards to concurrent enrollment (The Best Years of Our Lives) of students in both high school and community colleges-many of whom are in career technical education programs.

We finished off the Institute with a presentation of certificates of completion for the attendees and wished everyone a safe journey home (The Sound of Music-"So long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye!"). I feel that the Institute was a wonderful experience for all. A load of thanks to the award-winning efforts of the members of the Occupational Education Committee (Carol Beck, Mission College; Dianna Chiabotti, Napa Valley College; Lisa Legohn, Los Angeles Trade Tech College; Sal Veas, Santa Monica College; and Peter Westbrook, Riverside College) and a Best Producer Oscar r to Jen Gross (Academic Senate Event Coordinator) for all her work in coordinating this Institute.

Make plans for the 2010 Vocational Education Leadership Institute, which will be held March 11 to 13 in the Napa Valley area. See you there!