As the new director of the DuPage Area Occupational Education System, I am also new to this column, but not to Career and Technical Education. I am excited to bring my previous experiences in Indiana as an area career center director and administrator to Technology Center of DuPage.
Technology Center of DuPage is an area career center that proudly serves 24 high schools in DuPage County and Lyons Township. To meet the demands of business and industry, TCD continuously updates programs, curriculum and equipment in its advanced career and technical education programs.
About TCDTechnology Center of DuPage is the advanced Career and Technical Education elective campus serving 14 high school districts in DuPage County and Lyons Township. Community members may schedule a personal visit or group tour by calling Kathy Rosenwinkel at (630) 691-7572.
As regular readers of this column have learned, career and technical education is not the vocational education of years ago. To meet the demands of a very competitive global workplace, TCD's programs have become more academic and technical, making college and career readiness the main focus of what we do.
Because our programs are relevant to the real world, students have a greater understanding of the importance of academic knowledge in future career requirements.
Programs also teach the employability, or "soft," skills that employers are looking for in future employees. Since most jobs require some form of postsecondary education, being both college and career ready is critical for future employment success.
Working with several community colleges, primarily the College of DuPage, college readiness is achieved through dual credit -- students earning both high school credit and college credit at the career center.
Last year, a total of 5,741 free college credits were earned at TCD. That is a savings of more than $775,000 for DuPage-area students and parents. The amount of college credit each TCD program offers varies, but students who attend two full years have the opportunity to earn as many as 46 college credits.
Career readiness can be achieved in all programs as students gain the academic and technical knowledge critical for success in a future career. In most programs, students have to opportunity to earn industry-recognized certifications that show employers students have the skills and preparation for an entry-level career position.
Last year, more than 600 industry-recognized certifications were earned through TCD electives.
One available certification is the certified nursing assistant, which is now required in all Illinois nursing programs. Students earning this certification while in high school can save time and money and be one step ahead of other high school graduates when applying to nursing school.
Margaret Giacchetti, a 2014 Lyons Township High School graduate, took TCD's Nursing Assistant Training program during her senior year. She was on TCD's A-Team Honor Roll and earned nine hours of dual credit here. After successfully completing the program and mandatory clinical, she was eligible to sit for the state nursing assistant certification exam, which she passed. Today, Giacchetti is a third-year nursing student at Loyola University in Chicago.
"TCD's program helped me a lot, especially when transitioning into clinicals this semester," she said. "I use the medical terminology I learned, and I feel confident practicing skills, entering a patient's room alone, and working in the lab."
She also has an appreciation for how important CNAs and patient care technicians are to a nurse.
"I would 100 percent recommend TCD's program for any high school student considering nursing," she said.
I encourage all current sophomore and juniors in DuPage County and Lyons Township to see what TCD has to offer. Every fall, most DuPage-area high schools bring sophomores and juniors on one of the four Explore TCD field trips hosted by Technology Center of DuPage.
Visitors check out two TCD programs during the field trip. Students who would like more information about the field trip should check with the counseling office at their high schools or visit the Explore TCD page on the TCD website, tcdupage.org.
• Mike Zimmerman is director of the DuPage Area Occupational Education System, the governing body for Technology Center of DuPage and other Career and Technical Education delivery sites in the region. His column appears monthly in Neighbor during the school year.