An interview with Shelli Sowles: Career and College Readiness Specialist


It’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month in Minnesota. No better way to start it off than talking to Shelli Sowles, the 2017 National Career Guidance Award winner selected by The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE). The ACTE Excellence Awards recognize individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to CTE, programs that exemplify the highest standards and organizations that have conducted activities to promote and expand CTE programs. Award winners serve as inspirational leaders to ACTE: they embody the core values of serving their students and being committed to CTE.

Picture of Shelli Sowles from century College, MN, recieving an award plaque.
Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow (left) presented the ACTE Career Guidance Award to Shelli Sowles (right), for her commitment to advocating, educating and communicating the value of career and technical education (CTE).

Who are you and what do you do?

Shelli Sowles: I am Shelli Sowles, the 2017 National Career Guidance Award winner, and I’m proud to represent the Association for Career and Technical Education in Minnesota, the Midwest, and across the nation.

In my position I coordinate the secondary Federal Carl Perkins grant for the Northeast Metro consortium, and also work at the 916 Career Tech Center as the Career and College Readiness Specialist.

I am the proud mother of three beautiful daughters, 7 year old Benna and twin 3 year olds Rayla and Dessa. Although I enjoy traveling and adventure, I’ve spent much of my life within a 10 mile radius. I was raised in North St Paul, graduated from Tartan High School, currently live in Vadnais Heights, and now work on the Century College campus.

My favorite part of the job is my co-workers; their passion for student success is evident in every part of their work.

In your view, what role does CTE play in Minnesota’s workforce readiness?

Sowles: I recently had the opportunity to testify in front of a Minnesota Senate committee and share the exciting opportunities students, business/industry, and communities have because of Career and Technical Education. When Career and Technical educators partner with communities and local businesses everyone wins.

Students gain:

  • a broad range of understanding the multiple facets of a career field,
  • motivation to stay engaged in their learning and graduate high school at a higher rate, and
  • confidence in themselves and a focus on their future.

Communities gain:

  • revenue from population growth and an increase in tax base when people live and work in their region, and
  • individuals who are “invested in” and “proud supporters” of the community.

Business and Industries gain:

  • knowledgeable employees who are pre-trained in a field,
  • employees who are invested in the company—resulting in less turnover, and
  • a workforce pipeline where students move directly from classroom to work.

I believe that Career and Technical Education is not only for “some students,” but can benefit all Minnesotans when we partner together.

Can you think of one technical skill that every person should know how to do?

On my job, I have learned so many skills that have come in handy in life. I learned how to care for an injured person (broken bone), learned how to change a tire, and I even how to curl hair to perfection!

So much math goes into the construction pathway and simply owning a home means you usually have projects around the house.  I believe everyone should have is basic construction knowledge—how to read a tape measure and safely pound a nail. It’s a money saver when you can fix those issues yourself with confidence.

Learn more about career and technical education programs at Century College.

Photo courtesy of Army Recruiting.

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