As a vocational educator at Olathe High School in Colorado, Erin Martinez understands that the nature of career training and education has changed drastically over the past few decades. Today, Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs require students to develop a variety of professional and trade skills that prepare them for the ever-changing global workforce.
“Whether they go into a technical industry or not, it’s so vital to teach students life skills and send them out into the public to educate others,” Martinez said. “As teachers, we’re faced with a big task to train our students to make educated decisions for the future of their chosen fields.”
With a student population of nearly 270 students, Olathe High School is based in a rural, middle-class community in western Colorado. Martinez teaches agriculture classes to 60 students enrolled in the school’s CTE program and serves as an FFA Advisor.
To better incorporate technology and digital resources into its career training curriculum, Olathe implemented iCEV, an online learning platform that delivers comprehensive CTE resources to students and educators. Martinez utilizes the many functions and materials the platform offers in both her classroom and at FFA events.
Olathe FFA Chapter - 2014 National FFA Silver Rated Livestock Evaluation Team (left to right) Advisor/Coach Erin Martinez, Aaron Lenihan, Cassie Franks, Talisha Marchbanks, Kurik Mattics, and Coach Fayanna Flick
While many CTE programs rely on educators to train students for a future in the global workforce, the coursework itself plays a large role in helping students develop their skills. Using online tools like iCEV, educators often adopt a flipped learning model to allow for a more individual learning environment.
“My students can easily access assigned resources on their home computers or mobile devices and be prepared to discuss the material the next day,” Martinez said. “The functionality allows students to interact and apply the concepts in their own way as they continue to learn and discuss the subject material in the classroom.”
Martinez notes that the ease and accessibility of iCEV is a huge benefit to her and her students. The functionality of the online platform allows students to access the resources and assignments through a variety of mobile devices, including phones, tablets and laptops.
“It’s daunting to see how much information there is, which is a great problem to have when you’ve been teaching for a while,” Martinez said. “iCEV makes it easy to find supplemental resources that augment my teaching in and out of the classroom. As the industry continues to change, iCEV allows me to discuss the latest trends and topics with my students during each lesson.”
Olathe FFA Chapter - 2013 National FFA Gold Rated Horse Evaluation Team (left to right) Wade Rowley, Talisha Marchbanks, Cassie Franks, Trace Axtell, and Advisor/Coach Erin Martinez
Martinez stresses the importance of training students for technical careers, especially for the agricultural sciences. The average age of farmers in the United States is 58, creating a concern on who will take over the industry in the future.
“Without having the necessary programs and resources, schools are not able to reach students who want to make a career in a particular industry like agriculture,” Martinez said. “At Olathe, we’re sending young people out into the world with a deep understanding of agriculture and the opportunities within the field.”
In addition to providing iCEV in her classroom, Martinez uses the platform as a supplement to FFA judging and stresses that it is an excellent resource that can be used for a variety of subjects, including agriculture mechanics, meats, livestock, equine and safety. The platform is updated constantly with new material to help both educators and students succeed in these fields.
Of the 60 students that participate in Olathe’s Agricultural Science program, Martinez notes that approximately 75 percent of seniors will pursue postsecondary education through a university or technical school. With the help of iCEV, the skills her students learn in high school will translate into their postsecondary education experience and will only continue to grow as they enter the workforce.