John Augustine is the Administrative Director of the Greater Johnstown Career and Technology Center (GJCTC) in Johnstown, PA (Cambria County) and serves on The Challenge Program, Inc.’s Business/Education Advisory Council.
1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’ve spent 21 years as an educator, serving career and technical education (CTE) as a teacher, cooperative education coordinator, assistant director, and director. I also spent a tour of duty as a superintendent, which gave me insight into education outside of CTE. I have served the GJCTC for the past nine school years as the Administrative Director. My major accomplishments include working with teachers to dramatically increase NOCTI scores (technical skill assessment tests), fostering growth in adult education, and infusing online education into the CTE curriculum, all while keeping the cost per student under control. I have served the Western Region PACTA twice as a representative. I have also been elected as State PACTA Vice President for the 2015/2016 and upcoming 2016/2017 school years.
I am actively involved with the community, serving as the past-president of the Blendedschools.net Board of Directors, North Star Youth Baseball/Softball Board of Directors, and coaching youth softball and basketball. I am also the founder of the iPACT Fund, a non-profit community foundation supporting patient recovery through the use of technology.
2. What makes you proud to be part of GJCTC?
I love the rich feeling of belonging to a larger family of GJCTC and Johnstown Vo-Tech alumni. No matter where I am in the surrounding area I am always running into a GJCTC or GJAVTS grad. They are still living here and working in our community and they love the fact they are alumni – their pride is contagious.
3. How does The Challenge Program, Inc. align with the goals of CTE and your objectives for the students?
The Challenge Program, Inc. exemplifies GJCTC’s vision – students as leaders with employability skills for a changing workforce. Our students are graded in three unique areas: 1) Skill Grade – performance; 2) Knowledge Grade – of their chosen profession; 3) My personal favorite – Daily Work Ethic – how they act on the job site, in our case a simulated work environment within our training facility.
4. You have been a member of The Challenge Program, Inc.’s Business-Education Advisory Council for several years. What is the value of bringing businesses and educators together in this forum?
One simple fact: we have their future workforce under our direct care. How do we know what career directions to be pointing the students in without their involvement? Businesses are consumers of our products. Any business that wants to produce a good product is going to seek out customer feedback. The Challenge Program, Inc. provides GJCTC and all schools with a sounding board to do just that.
5. Do you know of any students who have been affected by the Program and/or the awards at GJCTC?
We’ve had a few winners that we’ve been able to track post-graduation: Tom Pisarzcyk, Kairah Lewis, and Catherine Van Slyke. Tom won the STEM award and graduated from our biotechnology program. Now he is attending WVU for a bachelor’s degree in biology. Kairah Lewis won the community service award and is now attending Penn Highlands Community College for criminology and playing on PHCC’s volleyball team. Catherine was in the Culinary Arts program here and won The Challenge Program, Inc.’s Community Service award. She’s now at Johnson & Wales in North Carolina studying to become a chef! To me, what The Challenge Program, Inc. did for them was to give them recognition and reaffirm that they were doing things the right way.
6. Beyond the fall Kick-Off Assembly, have you engaged with GJCTC’s business partners?
We have. Our current business partner is Martin-Baker. Together, with JARI and other local school districts, we have begun to have conversations about how we can aid in training their incumbent and future workforce. Our partnership through The Challenge Program, Inc. opened the door so that we could find these opportunities to partner with them.
Our past business partner, Lockheed Martin, set the example for this. We actually had a designated Lockheed Martin training facility located inside GJCTC and provided live instruction to new employees on safety and materials handling. Lockheed Martin won the Governor’s Workforce Development Award to Employers in 2010 due, in part, to this initiative.
7. Career and technical education is at the forefront of preparing students with the skills and knowledge required for employment, and yet, seats still remain for students to enroll. What would you like to share with about how career and technical education has evolved in the 21st century? Why should students consider attending CTE?
Well, there is a lot of pressure on today’s high school students with so much standardized testing and focus on academic preparation. Career preparation almost becomes a second thought. My dad always told me growing up, “You have the rest of your life to work.” And that’s true. But I attended a career and technology center my senior year of high school and for me, it solidified that engineering is what I wanted to do. I actually started my career as an underground utility engineer.
Not all jobs require a college degree. In fact, according to a recent report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of actual jobs do not. They can be attained with a high school diploma, or some post-secondary training or associate’s degree.
CTE education has evolved in the 21st century. GJCTC takes the ‘career and technology center’ part of our name very literally. We have a 1:1 student to laptop ratio and an online learning management system for every child. Students log in every day and are responsible for answering a question that will help them prepare for the NOCTI. We offer digital curriculum for all of our programs – written text, study guides, and videos. GJCTC utilizes technology in the field every day. I can’t think of an example of a program here that doesn’t use technology.
As humans, we learn by doing. Sixty percent of your time at a CTE center will be spent in learning labs, doing the trade you’ve chosen. This helps to make learning relevant for students.
In addition to receiving your high school diploma, our programs offer students an opportunity to earn national skill certifications. That means that after completing one of our programs, you will be a trained technician in your particular trade in all 50 states.
In short, CTE helps to provide focus to career goals for the rest of your life.