Whether you are trying to get more students to sign up for your class or lobbying to secure funding from your school board, craft training programs can always use some more promotion.
High school career and technical education programs teach their students valuable, real-world skills in an engaging and hands-on way. The things high schoolers can learn in something like a construction trades course can directly translate into a job after graduation. And yet, training programs like this are often overlooked by students, parents and even school administrators.
With “shop classes” disappearing from more and more schools despite a growing skilled workforce shortage, being able to promote your CTE program and showcase its value is more important than ever.
Here are some tips for high school craft instructors about how to raise the profile of your training program and earn more attention, support and interest.
Does your construction training program have an Instagram or Twitter account? What about TikTok?
Social media is one of modern society’s primary forms of communication. People interact with friends, stay updated on the news and find entertainment on their favorite social platforms. That means that social media is a great place for your program to be present.
By sharing photos, videos and other posts of what your students are working on and what they have made, you can showcase the both the practical value of craft training as well as the artistic and creative aspects of it that are impressive and eye-catching. A potential student could see your posts and be inspired to join the program, while parents can get a direct look at the career and life skills their student might be able to learn.
Here are some tips for getting started with creating your craft training program’s social media accounts:
School websites are a central hub where schools can share news and information with students, parents and the community. Since so many people use search engines like Google to look up answers to questions, having a good website is important.
Most school websites have a section with info about different programs, electives, clubs and extracurricular activities the school offers. Is your training program featured? If not, talk to your school administrators about creating a new page to highlight your program.
If you already have a spot on the school website, it’s important to make sure that all the information on it is correct and updated, including contact details.
This can also be a place to pitch the benefits of your program. Include notes about the skills students can learn, any credentials or certifications they could earn, and how time in your program can translate into real-world opportunities. You might even be able to feature testimonials from your former students who have gone on to have success in a career in construction!
Work with your school’s website team and find out what possibilities there are to optimize your program’s page.
Sometimes skilled trades programs in schools can feel a bit isolated from other aspects of a school. Finding ways to collaborate with teachers, classes and clubs outside of your own can be a way to better ingrain your program in the community and culture of the school at large.
When developing projects for your students to work on, consider the needs of other people in the school and how you might be able to kill two birds with one stone.
For example, does the theatre club need set pieces for a play? Trades students can use a project like that to practice various tasks like measuring and cutting wood, assembling small structures and painting.
By partnering with different groups throughout your school, you and your program earn more respect and appreciation among your colleagues, making them more likely to perceive craft training in a positive light. You also can make a tangible impact around your school and showcase the value of your program.
Check out these past winners of our I BUILT THIS! contest for more examples of collaborative projects:
Much like with collaborating with others within your school on projects, you can also look outside your school to give students a way to practice their skills while also raising the profile of your program and giving back to the community.
Does the neighborhood park need replace some benches and picnic tables? Your students can build them and donate them, with a display placard for who provided them for the park. Is Habitat for Humanity building a new home near your school? Your students can help participate in its construction.
One of the top reasons construction craft professionals enjoy their careers is having the power to make a difference in the lives of others through what they build. By contributing to the greater good through community projects, your students get to experience this important value first-hand.
Working in the community also helps your program network and build relationships with different groups. Being an appreciated and respected icon locally for your work around town is a great way to promote your training.
Here are some more examples of how real craft training students have made a positive impact in their community through building projects:
Signing Days are a popular annual event at high schools, where students announce their plans for after high school.
Traditionally, many people think of signing day as when athletes sign their letter of intent to play for a college sports team. Other types of academic signing days are when students share which university they will be attending.
Students who decided to pursue a career in construction rather than attend college previously had no opportunity to celebrate their post-high school plans on these days. But in recent years it has become popular to have a skilled trades signing day, when craft students announce they have been hired by a local company or accepted into an apprenticeship or postsecondary training program.
Holding a signing day event for your seniors who will be starting their career is a great way to celebrate their accomplishments and show your school how craft training can lead directly to high-paying, high-demand careers.
Learn more about the SkillsUSA National Signing Day and how to host your own event.
One of the best ways to promote your training program is being able to call it an award-winning program.
There are a number of local, state and national awards and accolades that your program, yourself as an instructor, or your students can vie for. These can range from contests and competitions based on individual projects to honoring your program as a whole.
There are many different places to look for potential accolade opportunities. School boards, state and local departments for education or workforce development, and nonprofits are some of the many organizations who like to honor the people who are making a difference and doing a good job of it.
One nationwide example is the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence. This annual recognition awards more than $1 million in prize money to public high school skilled trades teachers.
Schools with SkillsUSA chapters can be eligible for a number of different awards, and members can also compete in the many different craft championships that SkillsUSA offers. The top students in their craft in each state can advance to participate in the national championships. Students who compete and perform well in these competitions reflect well on the training program they come from and can bring a lot of support and attention.
Do some research on potential ways to elevate your program through recognition, accolades and awards.
In a world where academics and college enrollment take such a high priority, many high school career and technical education programs face challenges with sign-ups, funding and overall perception.
By following these tips, you can take steps toward effectively promoting your program to key audiences.
Interested in more resources for construction craft instructors? Check out our free classroom materials.