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.

MN FutureWork Series Eight

Minnesota FutureWork is a collection of articles highlighting current trends and news that impacts industry, the economy, and careers. These articles originate from various media journals throughout the country.

What is Behind the Recent Increase in Labor Force Participation?
By Didem Tüzemen and Jonathan L. Willis
Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City
November 14, 2016

Companies Are in Short Supply of Cybersecurity Talent
By Xuyen Bowles
Newsfactor Business Report
December 5, 2016

Manufacturing jobs are returning to some places. But these jobs are different
By Ted Mellnik and Chris Alcantara
December 14, 2016
Washington Post

Attracting students to tech ed
By Rhonda Tracy
Community College Times
December 16, 2016

Temp workers, permanent effects: how temps changed the nature of the U.S. workforce
By Meredith Miller
Monthly Labor review
December 2016

How Minnesota’s community and technical colleges are responding to the rise of robots
By Ibrahim Hirsi
December 22, 2016

Trump’s Infrastructure Proposal Could Create 11 Million Jobs. Will the New Jobs Lead to Sustainable Careers?
By Anthony P. Carnevale and Nicole Smith
Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce
January 2017

MN FutureWork Series Seven

Minnesota FutureWork is a collection of articles highlighting current trends and news that impacts industry, the economy, and careers. These articles originate from various media journals throughout the country.

Gartner Identifies the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017
October 18, 2016

It’s Not the Skills Gap: Why So Many Jobs Are Going Unfilled
By Sophie Quinton
The Fiscal Times
November 11, 2016

Working through demographic change
By Phil Davies
December 5, 2016

Fall 2010 Cohort Outcomes: Decline in College Completion Rates Reverse and Lead to Upward Trajectory for Great Recession Cohorts
National Student Clearinghouse
December 6, 2016

Job training programs on the rise for changing manufacturing jobs
By Dee DePass
Star Tribune
December 31, 2016

America Is Still Making Things
By Alana Semuels
January 6, 2017
The Atlantic

An American fault line: High school-only grads left behind
By Christopher S. Rugaber
Associated Press
January 13, 2017

MN FutureWork Series Six

Minnesota FutureWork is a collection of articles highlighting current trends and news that impacts industry, the economy, and careers. These articles originate from various media journals throughout the country.

10 Critical Skills You’ll Need to Succeed at Work in 2020
By Larry Kim

Healthcare jobs you can get without a bachelor’s degree
By Emily Richards Rolen

O is for Occupational Therapist
By Chloe Campbell
Minnesota Employment Review
October 2016

Technological Automation and the Soft Skill Revolution
By Christian Conroy
Georgetown Public Policy Review
November 22, 2016

Tracking Trends – Six Essential Steps for Spotting Your Next Opportunity
By Robert B. Tucker
Innovative Excellence
December 4, 2016

States Aim to Lure College Dropouts Back to School
By Melissa Korn
Wall Street Journal
December 26, 2016

The top 10 skills that will be in demand by all employers by 2020
By Cadie Thompson
Tech Insider
January 21, 2016


MN FutureWork Series Five

The Minnesota FutureWork Scans comes out of the career and technical education (CTE) department in the Academic and Student Affairs division at Minnesota State. These curated articles help the education and workforce community in Minnesota stay on top of trends impacting education and careers. We hope you enjoy this series.

When it comes to IT certifications, trust but verify
By Sharon Florentine
September 19, 2016

The most important skills of tomorrow, according to five global leaders
By Stéphanie Thomson, Editor
World Economic Forum
October 14, 2016

How Much Graduates Earn Drives More College Rankings
By James Stewart
New York Times
October 20, 2016

Pilot Shortage Prompts Regional Airlines to Boost Starting Wages
By Susan Carey
Wall Street Journal
November 6, 2016

Community College Enrollments Drop
By Ashley A. Smith
Inside Higher Education
October 18, 2016

Battling gender bias in IT
By Sharon Florentine
November 3, 2016

Why the ‘Skills Gap’ Doesn’t Explain Slow Hiring
By Sophie Quinton
PEW Charitable Trusts
November 14, 2016

MN FutureWork Series Four

We just wrapped up the CTE Works! Summit, a one-day event bringing together educators and business/industry partners to talk about the future of career and technical education in Minnesota and around the country. These curated articles reflect some of the challenges we will face as we look ahead. We hope you enjoy them.

Series Four

How BASF Is Recruiting More Women for STEM Careers
By Patricia Rossman, Chief Diversity Officer
Industry Week
Oct 13, 2016

The gender gap in tech is getting worse but it’s fixable
By Sharon Florentine
October 26, 2016

U.S. Mfg. Jobs Plentiful, But Skills Lacking
By Brian Ballard
Nov ember 2, 2016

Cleaning in the Digital World – the time for action is now
Europe Cleaning Journal
November 2, 2016

Nurses Are Again in Demand
By Melanie Evans
Wall Street Journal
Updated November 7, 2016

To Close the Skills Gap, Make College Accessible and Affordable
By Lisa W. Wardell
November 11, 20216

Trump has promised manufacturing jobs, but high school grads might want to seek credentialed “middle-skills” posts instead
By Anthony Carnevale
Hechinger Report
November 15, 2016


MN FutureWork Series Three

We hope you’re enjoying the Minnesota FutureWork series. These articles originate from various media sources throughout the country and carefully curated by our content curators.

Series Three

Up-skilling Manufacturing: How technology is disrupting America’s industrial labor force
PricewaterhouseCoopers with the Manufacturing Institute
June 2016

Minnesota’s Tight Labor Market
By Tim O’Neill
Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development: Minnesota Employment Review
September 2016

The Talent Tipping Point: Why it’s Critical for Manufacturers to Embrace STEM
By Robert McCutcheon
Industry Week
October 5, 2016

How older workers can thrive in IT
By Sharon Florentine
October 11, 2016

Accepting Alternatives: Career and Technical Education Should Be Embraced
By Michael Jasper
Harvard Political Review
October 18, 2016

The most under-prioritized skill: communication
By Jordan Gonen
Startup Grind
October 27, 2016

Picture of three students talking to each other.
Photo Credit: Alexis Brown


Twin Cities need more ‘girls who code’
By Neal St. Anthony
Minneapolis Star Tribune
October 29, 2016

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Community Partner Views CTE Teachers as Champion Collaborators

~by Tom O’Hern

We often see and hear the acronym “CTE.” What does Career and Technical Education actually entail for high school students?

DECA, Business Professionals of America (BPA), AVID, science, technology and math (STEM) initiatives … These are just some of the high school programs occurring each and every day alongside CTE often with similar goals and intents.

The awesome collaborations I have had with many CTE teachers and their students for several years now has left me with one constant and observable theme: the CTE teacher’s strong desire for applicable opportunities to which students can tangibly grasp success. It’s more than just exposure to new things—it’s a desire to directly linking that student to a pathway for high school and post-high school education and employment.

I’ve also observed “universal teacher advocacy” to which CTE teachers are some of the most insistent educators I know. They listen intently to what their students are interested in and then try to fill that interest with academic, industry and community resources.

This exhausting advocacy includes high-volume student caseloads, a plethora of student Individual Education Plans or Personal Learning Plans, student attendance/absenteeism inconsistencies, student credit recovery … you name it. The CTE teacher has this winding flow of factors that sometimes is askew from what many deem as traditional and normative education practices.

In my own educational lens, the ultimate goal is for CTE students to be their own advocates when exploring the world of work. To ultimately grasp workplace competencies is what the CTE teacher evokes.

I, in turn, try to provide meaningful opportunities for those teachers with two focus features: (1) To provide resources and strategies that do not add more work for the teacher (2) The experiential activity (whether in-class or at a community business location) is meaningful for the students and adheres to the teachers classroom curriculum.

Student career pathways, career and college readiness programs, and circular core clusters are only so effective unless there are adult advocates within any profit or non-profit organization willing to open doors for student opportunity. For example, the continual employee shortages in manufacturing businesses (metals, printing, etc.) in Minnesota is expansive. Filling those gaps is imperative.

The answer does not lay in the lap of CTE alone. It’s a partnership that needs champions and advocates on both the education and the employer sides. The CTE bridge is strong, but the path for students to cross over into the workplace is paved by all who are willing to create and follow-through with commitments to student success.

Tom O’Hern is our guest blogger and High School Program Manager for Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest

MN FutureWork Series Two

We hope you enjoyed the first curated collection from the Minnesota FutureWork Series. MN FutureWork is a curation of articles highlighting current trends and news that impacts the industry, economy, students, job seekers, and career changers. These articles originate from various media sources throughout the country and carefully curated by our content curators.

Start your Friday morning today with a fresh cup of coffee, calming tea, or large glass of lemon-infused water and relax while you peruse the next series of MN FutureWork articles!

Series Two

American manufacturing output is at an all-time high
By Simon Montlake
Christian Science Monitor
June 29, 2016

Medical workforce shortage affects health care in Minnesota
By Trey Mewes
Washington Post/Associated Press
July 16, 2016

This skill could save your job – and your company
By Mara Swan, Executive Vice President, Global Strategy and Talent, ManpowerGroup
World Economic Forum
August 31, 2016

Some companies have taken the next obvious step to filling jobs that sit vacant
By Nicole Sinclair
Yahoo Finance News
September 21, 2016

U.S. quietly works to expand apprenticeships to fill white-collar jobs
By Matt Krupnick
Hechinger Report
September 27, 2016

Will I need a license or certification for my job?
Elka Torpey
BLS: Career Outlook
September 2016

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Introducing the Minnesota FutureWork Series

The Minnesota FutureWork Series is a curation of articles highlighting current trends and news that impacts the industry, economy, students, job seekers, and career changers. These articles originate from various media sources throughout the country and carefully curated by our content curators.

We will post these curated articles weekly in a category called MN FutureWork.

The First Series

The skills supply chain must change as software eats the world
By Mark Muro
Brookings Institution
June 2, 2016

Three Megatrends Transforming Manufacturing
by Stephen Gold
Industry Week
June 3, 2016

The Growing Urgency of Government’s Quest for Talent
By Elizabeth K. Kellar
Tech Wire
June 21, 2016

Half of the high-paying jobs in America now require this skill
By Catey Hill
Market Watch
June 22, 2016

How tech is reshaping work values and goals
By Peter B. Nichol
CIO Magazine
June 28, 2016

Population Futures
Shaping Tomorrow
August 2016

Employers Find ‘Soft Skills’ Like Critical Thinking in Short Supply
By Kate Davidson
Wall Street Journal
August 31, 2016

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