The Santa Barbara County Education Office offers externship programs to CTE teachers

Photo courtesy of Santa Barbara County Education Office
BACK IN THE INDUSTRY: (From left to right) Relatives and Righetti High School teachers Miguel Guerra, Guillermo Guerra, Alexandrea Guerra, Michael Guerra, and Amy Guerra work at a construction site in Solvang as part of their externship program with the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

Career technical education courses give students the opportunity to learn from professionals in fields like engineering; business and finance; agriculture; and media, arts, and entertainment, said Noelle Barthel, director of curriculum and instruction for the Santa Barbara County Education Office. 

“Many students participate in career technical education classes; there are different academies and stand-alone courses that provide [work-based] opportunities through shadowing or internships,” Barthel said. 

In order to help career technical education (CTE) instructors keep their materials and curriculum up to date with industry standards, the Santa Barbara County Office of Education offered summer externship programs where teachers returned to their field of expertise and enhanced their knowledge, Barthel said. 

“What we want them to do is look for trends there are, engage with new materials, equipment, and curriculum because when you leave the workforce and enter an education setting, you may lose track of industry standards,” Barthel said. “So this helps students learn what the industry needs.” 

In its first year, 11 CTE teachers from the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District, Lompoc Unified, Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District worked as externs in marketing, arts, media, entertainment, engineering, transportation, business, finance, agriculture, and construction industries with local businesses, she said. The program started on June 12 and is set to end on July 21. 

“It really is a chance for them to strengthen what they are teaching; businesses also love to know what is going on in the schools,” Barthel said. “It’s a win-win for our businesses and teachers, and ultimately our students because they are going to be engaged in more relevant experiences because their teachers have spent more time in the field.” 

Teachers worked approximately 30 hours and met with the county and a participating business beforehand to build a schedule and discuss what type of work would be appropriate throughout the week, she said. The first day may consist of touring the facility, meeting with human resources, and discussing externship requirements. From there, the teacher would move forward to a project and ultimately work side by side with a business. 

“Throughout [a] week, they will work together to share the course content and get some feedback on what they are teaching. We give them different questioning sheets to interview employees and look at templates, and take the information that [they] have learned and turn it into a project,” Barthel said. “It doesn’t really end there, it’s going back into the classroom and applying what they’ve learned.” 

During the program’s first week, five Righetti High School CTE teachers—who teach agriculture, building and construction, and agricultural mechanics—worked at a construction site in Solvang and received training in underground electrical systems and connecting the project to the town’s infrastructure, according to the county Education Office. 

“The opportunity to collaborate with those in the field gave us new insights to build our program to current standards,” Guillermo Guerra, a participating teacher, said in a statement. “Seeing the different crews working together reaffirms the importance of teamwork in the workplace. There are many lessons we can add to our curriculum to better prepare our students and grow our program.”

Barthel said that the externship program grew out of the county Education Office’s K-12 Strong Workforce Grant that promotes professional development and included externships in the grant in order to offer a small stipend for teachers to participate in the program. While it focused on North County schools this year, the county hopes to expand into South County and offer more externships during spring and winter breaks. 

“I hope it inspires them and really helps them bring more relevant, more real-world context into the classroom,” she said. “It helps them see what’s going on in their field and gives them the kind of skills and competency to be successful.” 


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Reach Staff Writer Taylor O’Connor at [email protected].

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