Changing Perceptions of Career and Technical Education

Nitro-x students

For 55 years, Anoka Technical College has provided critical Career and Technical Education (CTE) to support industries like transportation, manufacturing, information technology and more.

Just as program offerings changed throughout our history to meet the evolving needs of a modernizing economy, so too have perceptions of the value of a technical education. Training and education options that may have once been considered second choices are getting second looks from students and key decision influencers in their lives.

Amy Lord, career and technical education (CTE) for ISD 728 in Elk River, says she’s seen the tone of conversations with parents of middle and high school students shift in recent years. From four-year college for all, to career and technical education is great (just not my child), to finally some excitement about apprenticeship, technical training and credentials in high-demand, high-growth occupations.

"We’re getting parents who are saying, ‘Tell me more about CTE. How does my kid get into that,” she says.

Thanks to coordinated efforts and strong partnerships with area K-12 school districts – like ISD 728 – Anoka Tech is helping younger students “get into that” and envision career futures. With strong CTE programs in high schools and programs like Nitro-X and Scrubs Camp students are stepping into labs and learning environments at a point in their development when they can connect education paths to career (and life) outcomes.

And that early exposure to career and technical education matters for students. As Lord puts it, “Kids don’t necessarily know what they’re missing out on unless they see it and experience it.

“Hearing about other people’s experiences and exploring career opportunities with hands-on learning is huge.”

Anoka Tech adds capacity to support CTE partnerships

To continue to facilitate strong relationships with K-12 and other partners, Anoka Tech welcomed Career and Technical Education Specialist Stephen Schrichfield. In his role, Stephen will serve as a primary point of contact for coordination of events, data and partnerships.

2021-22 CTE Events

Anoka Tech is proud to partner with local businesses, organizations and Twin Cities school districts to help establish an early connection between education, training and a career. Through 2021 and 2022, opportunities included:

Nitro-X

Nitro-x student

For three days in June 2022, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students from the Anoka-Hennepin School District tinkered in Anoka Tech auto labs, testing and tuning radio-controlled (RC) vehicles. On the fourth day, they took their work to the racetrack, competing for glory over jumps and around grassy turns.

Nitro-X is a summer camp presented annually by the Minnesota State Transportation Center of Excellence in partnership with the colleges of Minnesota State, Minnesota high schools and industry partners.

Through hands-on design and tweaking of RC trucks, classroom sessions and visits with area auto industry partners, get the chance to build vehicles and their interest in transportation-related careers.

Scrubs Camp

scrubs camp students

According to Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development’s August 2022 reporting, three of the state’s top five in-demand careers are in the health care sector. What better way to help meet that demand than connecting high school students with hands-on experience and training in health care scenarios. And, what better place to do it than Anoka Tech?

More than 50 high school students attended eight hands-on workshops over two days in June 2022 at Scrubs Camp. The immersive experience, presented with support from Minnesota State’s HealthForce Center of Excellence, gives up-close experience with careers in health science.

Fall Fest and Car Show

2021 car show

Inspired by a strong network of local auto enthusiasts and a desire to gather its surrounding community for a fun, all-ages event, Anoka Tech hosted is first Fall Festival and Car Show in October 2021.

A showcase for cars and campus alike, more than 200 visitors perused cars outside and Anoka Tech’s academic offerings inside. Faculty presenters offered hands-on demonstrations to learners of all ages, showcasing programs from welding to surgical technology.

A second-annual event was hosted in September 2022 with plans to continue the event in the future.


Anoka Technical College exists to serve students and the surrounding community with the finest career and technical education in Minnesota. This mission would not be possible without mutually beneficial partnerships throughout multiple sectors in the community. This story is an excerpt from the Anoka Technical College Community Newsletter, Issue 4.

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