By Mike Marsee
It was David Horseman’s third career that brought him to career and technical education, and he said it’s an ideal time to be in the field.
The Stanford resident was named associate commissioner in the Office of Career and Technical Education at the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) this summer, his latest role in a 24-year career in education that didn’t begin until he was in his 40s.
Horseman worked as an engineer and a small business owner before turning to career and technical education (CTE) on the suggestion of his sister-in-law, who worked in the field. He has spent 24 years in education, beginning as an electrical technology teacher at Garrard County Area Technology Center and later serving as a principal at area technology centers in Casey and Garrard counties. Horseman came to KDE in 2014 as a regional supervisor.
He was named director of technical schools and federal programs in 2015. On Aug. 1, Horseman assumed his current role as the leader of an office that oversees CTE programs at 53 state-operated area technology centers, almost 50 other career and technical centers and in virtually every comprehensive high school in Kentucky.
Horseman holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Kentucky and a master’s degree in industrial education from Eastern Kentucky University.
Kentucky Teacher talked with Horseman about the changing role of his office:
What are some of the most significant changes you have seen during your time in career and technical education?
“When I got into technical education, I realized it was probably the best-kept secret in education. That’s probably the biggest change I’ve seen, the awareness of the education community as a whole to the role that career and technical education has with the business community.
“The emphasis on being career-ready has become as important as being college-ready. And now with the emphasis on being ready for the next step, it’s not either-or, it’s being ready. That probably is one of the biggest, most positive things that has happened.
“Another one of the big changes was moving from the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet into KDE, and the progress made with the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) in aligning our coursework with them, which has led to opportunities for dual credit and articulation for students.
“Another thing we’ve done is work on instruction, which directly relates to the students, and increasing the number of industry certifications and improving the career pathways that are available to students.”
Do you see further changes on the horizon?
“I do. The technology is increasing and its applications are increasing at an accelerated rate. What we know today may not be applicable tomorrow. We have to be able to interact with this new technology and adapt to what the new jobs are going to be.
“We look at it across the board, and it doesn’t matter if you’re in agriculture or IT, it’s all changing. If it involves people, what’s coming on the horizon is going to impact how we do all of our jobs.”
How has the prioritizing of career and technical education within KDE affected your office’s work?
“It adds another sense of urgency for us to really dig in and grow the programs that we have to fill those gaps in skills and talent that are out there.”
What are some of the things your office does well?
“We’re very connected to students, which has to be the primary focus of everything that goes on in the department. We have student organization sponsors that keep us connected to students.
“I think that our connection to business and industry is also a strength, and you can see the influence of that on our graduation requirements in the options students have for demonstrating career readiness. Those connections help us provide better resources for the districts and schools that are working to get kids ready for that next step.”
In what areas do you want to see your office improve?
“We want to move to higher-quality career pathways from grades 9-16 so that a student can be more efficient, taking courses that will actually count toward something and be effective for their college experience.
“We need to do more work with employer engagement to facilitate work-based learning experiences for students. I think that’s a key to getting students connected with what essential skills are and what they need to know to be successful in a job.
“We’re working to improve our postsecondary linkages – apprenticeships, dual credit and articulated credit – trying to strengthen all those opportunities to give students more advantages once they transition to college or whatever the next step is.
“We’ve got work to do in all three of those areas, and those happen to be the priorities for our office.”
Are the connections between CTE and business and industry stronger than they have ever been?
“They are, and it means we have to work that much harder. The business community is desperate for employees. We have to up our game to try to make sure that we’re getting kids to be part of that talent pipeline and make sure they’re prepared to go into that next step in education or into employment. It’s not just teaching them technical skills, but the essential skills.
“Students have to be agile enough to be able to continue their learning and to realize that the number of high school-qualifying jobs is getting smaller and smaller. Everyone is going to have to have some type of secondary experience, whether it’s an apprenticeship, community college or university.”
Is this a good time to be involved in career and technical education?
“It’s as good a time in some ways as I’ve seen from a perception standpoint. CTE is being emphasized not only at our state level, but also at a national level. Through the recent reauthorization of the (federal Carl D.) Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, career and technical education has had more federal funds added and gives us the opportunity to create a state plan to focus on how we can innovate and change.
“That’s the exciting part. We don’t know what’s ahead and that keeps us fresh, that gives us an edge that we all need to do our best.
“It’s a really exciting time, and we’re looking forward to the challenge. I have a great leadership team and staff that really are committed to the work.”