Host Joel Gagne discusses vocational education amid a pandemic with Chris McCully, Superintendent at EHOVE Career Center

In today’s episode of the We Love Schools podcast, host Joel Gagne is joined by Chris McCully, Superintendent of EHOVE Career Center, to discuss how vocational education amid a pandemic has needed to change.

EHOVE Career Center is south of Sandusky, Ohio, in northwest Ohio. The career center services 16 school districts and multiple counties. During the pandemic, vocational education has needed to innovate on the fly and make some major changes.

Chris explains that they they specialize in a wide variety of vocational programs with 22 high school programs and 16 adult education programs at EHOVE. Programs are in engineering, police academy, healthcare, fire, EMT and a wide range of other options for students.

“It’s probably easier to ask us what we don’t have right now; we hit all the areas that we need,” Chris says.

“Career centers are a lot about hands-on learning,” Joel says. “We are now in the era of COVID. How has that impacted EHOVE and career centers in general?”

Chris says that it’s important to stay as positive as possible and that school administrators just do the best that they can.

“We try to keep everything as safe as we can,” Chris says. He says the stress on custodial staffs for their career center and pretty much in any school district has been immense during the pandemic.

He says that EHOVE is working on a blended model with both in person and remote learning. Chris says he cannot safely allow students in the lab as many hours as they were before COVID-19. As the pandemic continues, he’s hoping to be flexible to find a way to get students more time in the labs.

Chris explains that students definitely need more in-person time.

“For example, students in cosmetology need X amount of hours in person to be eligible for certification,” Chris says.

He says that it’s been very important for vocational education amid a pandemic to follow local health orders and ensure that people remain six feet apart and wear masks.

“We haven’t had a positive test yet, but we all know that it’s going to happen,” Chris says. “So we have everything in place to notify all of our students, staff and parents.”

Joel discusses how in a previous podcast with Dr. Jim Lloyd, they talked about how every day feels like a snow day, and half of the community will be upset no matter what decisions are being made by school administrators.

“The impacts to career centers are just a lot more profound,” Joel says. “Career centers have a lot of hands-on learning, and you just can’t do it via Zoom.”

“It’s a hard game right now,” Chris says. “We’re just going to do the best we can, and be creative, and find new ways.”

Joel says that for school administrators, this is all a really big experiment. He asks Chris if anything they’ve implemented amid the pandemic will continue when it’s safe for everyone to be learning in person together again.

“We could do more online academic classes in the future to free up more hours in the lab for students,” Chris says. He says it wouldn’t work that way for all students, but for some students online learning is easier.

Joel asks Chris what he would consider to be important to know for a student considering the option of studying at a vocational education center like EHOVE.

“If they want to work and they’re interested in a career, they can have immediate success,” Chris says. “Our employers want people who will work. They need people. There is upward mobility in whatever career that they pick.”

Joel wholeheartedly agrees. He references a previous podcast on career centers and the importance of work ethic and punctuality.

“I could quote a lot of things my dad told me as a kid that really settled in, and a lot of it really does start at home,” Chris says. “If there’s a good work ethic at home, it typically carries over.”

Chris explains that it’s not just about showing up to work, it’s about getting along with your coworkers. It’s about finishing the job and taking responsibility.

Joel asks going forward from a career center perspective, what is the one thing that school administrators in vocational education amid a pandemic will need to be successful.

Chris says that patience will be incredibly important to be successful.

“Patience and flexibility,” Chris says. “It really stretches the limits of our patience and creativity to find different ways to innovate.”

“There’s innovation happening in our classrooms at EHOVE that I’m not even aware of yet,” Chris says. “I’m sure there are teachers out there right now coming up with unique, better ways to engage our students at home or during the limited time they have in person.”

Chris says that he’s seeing teachers talking and sharing and finding new, creative ways to come up with best practices.

“We’ll come out better on the other side,” Chris says. “Jobs aren’t going away.”

If you have questions about your communications plan or vocational education amid a pandemic, reach out to the AHC team.

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