The revised state budget proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger contains $52 million for career technical education programs to better prepare high school and community college students to enter the workforce. Such programs are important because they create interest in jobs that are important to the economy and show the relevance of core academic courses. The proposed funds would expand career tech courses and programs; build stronger partnerships with the business sector; plan and implement curriculum for emerging industries; expand internship opportunities; and streamline credentialing for teachers. Formerly known as vocational education, career technical education pairs core curricula of reading, writing and arithmetic with areas such engineering, health sciences, agriculture and marketing. In today’s job world, it is no longer as black and white as “go to college or go to work” as it was a generation or two ago. “It is education on steroids,” said Kenn Phillips, director of education and workforce investment of the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley. “You need both to be successful.” In the revised budget, Schwarzenegger added $32 million to an existing $20 million from a 2005 career technical education bill sponsored by state Sen. Jack Scott. A pending bill sponsored by Scott streamlines the credentialing process for teaching high school-level career technical education courses. In the rush to prepare students for college, it has been forgotten that vocational skills fill a need in the economy and are a means to self-fulfillment, said Scott, whose district includes Glendale, Burbank and a small part of the east San Fernando Valley. Involvement by the business community can include serving on advisory committees to make sure that curricula are up to date; making equipment donations to schools; and hiring graduates of the programs. “Those are the practical ways to show there is a tie between industry and education,” Scott said. The Economic Alliance is working on a pilot program with the School of Engineering and Design at James Monroe High School in North Hills in which students receive credit for taking classes at Los Angeles Valley College. More importantly, Phillips said, the students get an idea of what a career in engineering is like so they can decide if it is something they want to pursue. A key to career tech courses is showing the relevance of math and science classes in a work environment, Phillips said. Valley high school students taking part in the FIRST robotics competition need to know about Cartesian scales as well as how to weld, Phillips said. “That is a [CTE-type class] that is relevant to what they need to learn to develop the robot,” Phillips said. Providing programs that are interesting to students who are not on the college track is critical to slowing down the statewide drop-out rate, currently approaching 30 percent, Scott said. There is a natural tendency to find a class like geometry dull, for example, but put that same student into a construction program and suddenly they see the practical application of geometry on the job, Scott said.