Erick Lehet: A Math Teacher Teaches 21st Century Skills

Let us introduce to you, Erick Lehet. We heard so many good things about what he’s doing and the impact he’s had on career and technical education (CTE) students, that we spent time with him to find out what where he gets his energy and what he sees in CTE that others can learn from.

Picture of Erick Lehet with a great, big smile!
Erick Lehet, instructional coach/technical skill assessment coordinator at the Northeast Metro 916 Career and Technical Center and recipient of the 2016 C. Thomas Olivo Outstanding Service Award.

Who are you and what do you do?

Erick Lehet: I’m Erick Lehet. I work at the Northeast Metro 916 Career & Technical Center with many job titles such as Technical Skills Assessment & Concurrent Enrollment Coordinator, Instructional Coach, Lead Teacher, and Professional Development Chair.

Life is busy around the Lehet household as my partner and I work split shifts. I love being involved with my son’s elementary wrestling team two nights a week, coaching my daughter’s traveling hockey team three-plus nights a week, and celebrating the midpoint of earning my doctorate.  I love winter and participating in our weekly Mendota pond hockey league, where I am also a former city councilman. I’m super excited for our family trip to Yellowstone National Park this summer—we rented a motorhome!

Lehet: Before I came over to the world of career and technical education (CTE), I was a high school math teacher. The most common question I always got was, “When am I ever going to use this?”  In the world of CTE, I never hear that question.

As a high school math teacher, I always thought it was someone else’s job to help students plan for college and think about career choices. In CTE, our industry-trained instructors are balancing the responsibility of high quality pedagogy, students earning certifications/credentials, as well as having students explore the multitude of career and college options related to the training they are receiving. I just thought it someone else’s job to teach students 21st Century Skills—I had math standards to focus on. But in the world of CTE, 21st Century Skills are taught alongside state and national standards in the classroom. When we do this, students can see how the knowledge they’re acquiring applies to the real world around them. This is probably why I’m never asked by CTE students, when and where, they will use math. This combination ensures students are well-rounded and better equipped to confidently pursue higher education and embark on a career path that is sure to lead to success.

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

Lehet: Learn to read a ruler! It’s important.

Erick was awarded the 2016 C. Thomas Olivo Outstanding Service Award by NOCTI, the  nation’s largest provider of industry partner certifications and industry-based credentials for  career and  technical education programs. This is a national honor recognizing his dedication and commitment to CTE.

Danny Sertich is a Young Entrepreneur With Big Dreams

Millennials are taking charge of their future very early on and they’re being exposed to this through unique student organizations helping students connect their academic learning with real-world experiences. We spent time with one young entrepreneur to learn about his business venture and how he got started.

Tell us who you are and what you do.

I am Danny Sertich, Minnesota DECA’s Vice-President of Communications and entrepreneur. As a state officer for Minnesota DECA, I represent 4,700 members. I also have the task of running our State Career Development Conference with the other officers and staff.

Outside of work and school I run cross-country and track, play hockey and golf, and canoe/camp with my friends. This coming summer [2017] I will be going on a 45-day expedition into the Arctic Circle with seven other crewmembers. This expedition will follow the Coppermine River in Canada to the Arctic Ocean. This is a 2nd year trip for the Les Voyageurs, Inc. program after I spent 30-days in the Canadian wilderness with a similar crew and over 350 miles of portaging and paddling.

I have one younger brother, Shjon, and we enjoy many of the same activities. With his blonde surfer-boy hair, he always finds a way to make me smile. I wouldn’t want a different person to be around at home!

We heard you’re a young entrepreneur. Tell us what your business is and how you got started.

Yes! I own Versolin a business consulting firm. I started this after I competed with a business plan for DECA in 2015-16. A category of DECA’s competitive events involved a market research project with local businesses. Students work with a real business to formulate a plan to solve a problem (determined by a topic area put out by DECA, Inc. each year). DECA picks these topics based on trending problems in the business world, so often times these problems apply to the business they’re working with, and the business actually finds a way to implement the plan.

With a combination of my experiences in DECA (the business plan and a market research project) I realized I could actually make money from the consulting that DECA students are already doing. I explored the idea while I worked for the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation, and with the feedback from local businesses there was a common theme. Many business executives and owners had a disconnect with the upcoming Millennial Generation—they just didn’t understand us. Using this gap as my niche, I started Versolin in August and I am now using it to compete in DECA’s Business Growth Plan.

In the recent past, Versolin did more targeted marketing for other businesses than any other service we provided. Now, with the Business Growth Plan, I am evaluating the possibility to engage in the venture capital market (currently untapped in St. Cloud, MN).

What’s the most important advice you ever received?

“Find something you’re passionate about and stick with it,” or “use your talents to make money.”

These two pieces of advice are the reason I am here today. If I didn’t have the courage to start my business or run for office, I’d just be the average high school student.

What advice would you give other students?

If there’s one piece of advice that I’d like to give to other students, it’s to not listen to what other people say. Actually, listen to advice and ignore those who tell you that you can’t succeed.

Minnesota DECA is a career and technical education student (CTSO) organization that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe. Learn more about Minnesota DECA to learn about their mission and how you can get involved.

An interview with Mike Lehn: A Champion for Strengthening Automotive Business Partnerships with Schools

Business/industry and education partnerships—when done right—can reap tremendous benefits for the students, for the business, and for the entire community. We sat down with Mike Lehn, a champion for strengthening automotive business partnerships, to find out why investing in these partnerships is a win-win situation for everyone.

Tell us about your business/industry and what you do.?

Mike Lehn: As the Minnesota Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Industry Education Alliance1 Manager, I work with Minnesota high school programs that have partnered with Automotive Youth Educational Systems programs. I assist those programs and their students with the transition from education to career. ASE students proceed through qualification steps that include a strong academic emphasis, personal development, job shadowing and industry based certification assessments and other criteria.

Pictrure of Mike Lehn.
Mike Lehn, Minnesota Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Industry Education Alliance Manager

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

Lehn: Career and Technical Education is the location where students in high school learn critical life skills which help them focus their passion towards a particular career. Students need to engage in high quality career education as early as middle school and that career education has to be continued throughout their high school experiences with the highest of quality of rigor and relevance.  This career instruction needs to be continuously reviewed by business and industry leaders to ensure that this education is up to date and that it aligns to today and tomorrow’s needs to support Minnesota’s economy.

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

Lehn: I have been working in the automotive industry for the past 40 years and am aware of a multitude of technical skills that technicians are required to know.  But the most critical in my mind is the ability to seek out valid and reliable information to correctly diagnose and repair vehicle problems.

Have you always been fascinated by vehicles? Do you like to drive them or fix them? Learn about careers in the transportation industry at CAREERwise Education, a Minnesota State Career and Education Source.

1 The ASE Industry Education Alliance is a group of organizations under the ASE umbrella providing a career resource from entry-level to retirement for automotive industry personnel and serves as a model for other industries. The ASE Industry Education Alliance consists of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF), Automotive Youth Educational Systems (AYES), and the Automotive Training Managers Council (ATMC). For more information, visit the NATEF website at

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.