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Career help wanted. University of Idaho meeting the need for career and technical education instructors.

May 29th, 2016

Previously published in the Coeur d’Alene Press on Monday, May 23, 2016

Dale Sprouse spent 30 years making things. Now he’s teaching high school students how to do the same at the Kootenai Technical Education Campus in Rathdrum.

“This is my playground,” said Sprouse, who teaches automated manufacturing and engineering design at KTEC.  “I love what I am teaching. This spring we made solid body guitars and the students really got into it. I am pretty proud of what we were able to accomplish. These kids are going to be filling the manufacturing jobs of the future and that’s exciting.”

His infectious enthusiasm and comprehensive knowledge of the manufacturing world are rare, considering that the state of Idaho has a shortage of Career and Technical Education instructors.

“We have a critical CTE teacher shortage in Idaho. We believe 13 CTE programs statewide closed during the 2015-16 school year because the school districts could not find a qualified teacher,” said Dwight Johnson, state administrator of Career and Technical Education in Idaho. “In some cases high schools have a CTE program operating but have reduced the number of students involved due to lack of teachers. There may be other programs that are not active but not yet closed because they are still looking for teacher candidates. Anecdotal reports from administrators say they many times have only one candidate or very few candidates to choose from in filling positions. They have voiced concerns over the quality of teacher candidates because of the small pool to choose from.”

KTEC is something of an exception. It  has about 12 full-time instructors for about 400 students,  said Director Tim Fortune.

“I would say not only is it a challenge for us to find instructors for our CTE programs statewide, but it’s a national issue, based on the rigor and workplace knowledge that CTE programs demand. It’s difficult to recruit those individuals that are not only industry savvy but talented teachers as well,” Fortune said.

The University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene is working to resolve the issue. It offers baccalaureate degrees in Career and Technical Education (Business and Marketing, Engineering and Technology, Agriculture, and Occupational Education). In addition, the University of Idaho offers the courses required for CTE occupational specialist certification. This industry-based certification applies to more than 90 CTE program areas,  said Dr. Robert Ketchum, a lecturer in the Career and Technical Education Program at the University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene.

“The occupational education teaching program includes five courses that focus on preparing the individual for teaching in the classroom,” said Ketchum.  “They have incredible experience working in industry. They just need some new tools to prepare them for the classroom.”

This year the Idaho Legislature approved a new bill that addresses salary concerns for occupationally licensed CTE teachers. Districts will receive a $3,000 allocation for each CTE teacher they employ who holds an occupational specialist certificate.

Sprouse, who completed the certification program at the University of Idaho, said he appreciated the online format of the classes.

“I really liked that aspect of it,” he said. “You’re able to have great discussions and share different points of view. Some of my friends have expressed interest in teaching and when they find out the requirements, they’re like, ‘Is that all? I want to do that.’”

For more information: Contact Dr. Robert Ketchum at robertk@uidaho.edu or call

(208) 292-2518.

–Written by Marc Stewart, Director of Sponsored Content

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