Sherry DiBari

Anjanette Hendricks wants to change misperceptions about career and technical education (CTE).

"CTE is not shop," said Hendricks, a 2020 doctoral graduate of Old Dominion University's Darden College of Education and Professional Studies educational leadership program. "It's cybersecurity, dental assisting, nursing, networking ... and so much more."

Hendricks points to the CTE programs available in the 11 high schools and two technical centers in Virginia Beach Public Schools, where more than 112 industry credentials are offered in programs such as cybersecurity, engineering, manufacturing, computer-aided design (CAD), automotive service technology, masonry and cosmetology.

"If only Virginia policymakers and school leaders fully realized that CTE matters, that it is valuable, and that we provide a significant disservice to our students, state and economy when we take the 'technical' out of career and technical education," she said.

Hendricks explained that while the traditional four-year degree is the favored educational model in the United States, CTE, which focuses on skill-building, is often regarded as unaligned with higher education, the refrain being "it is CTE or university, not CTE and university. CTE and the earning of industry credentials enhance the potential of any student regardless of their postsecondary path."

Many companies are in dire need of employees with skills and the industry credentials that validate these skills. CISCO and A+ for example, are highly desired by employers.

"Our school divisions offer these courses and many more to our students, but much more needs to be done to inform parents and those communities who send us their children that CTE and industry credentials enhance their child's potential for postsecondary success," she said. "What we need to have in our communities is awareness. Our kids could be missing out because people don't know about CTE."

Hendricks' background makes her the perfect advocate for CTE. She grew up in an industrial working-class region in Yorkshire, England.

"My family has always been one that has worked," Hendricks said. "University was not an option for my family, not because they are not smart - they most definitely are - but because the opportunity was not there. I wanted to change this history of my family and become the first to to attend university."

Hendricks earned a bachelor's degree in religious studies and applied social studies from the University of York, then a post-graduate diploma in religious studies from the University of Leeds.

After working in I.T. and business administration for a few years, Hendricks, then 24, was offered a position as head of information technology at the Al Shohub School for Girls in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

After five years in Abu Dhabi, she moved to Kuwait and then Qatar for similar positions.

In Qatar, she met her husband, an American. They lived in England for a few years, then moved the family, including 4- and 2-year-old daughters, to Virginia Beach, her husband's hometown.

For the past 10 years, she has worked as a school-to-work transition supervisor for Virginia Beach Public Schools. She serves as an industry credential test specialist and coordinator.

She earned an M.S.Ed with a concentration in K-12 administration and supervision from ODU in 2016. She chose that degree because of her day job. "If I'm meant to help and support administrators in a school building, I need to know what it is they need to know," she said.

Her husband urged her to pursue a doctorate.

"With the Ph.D., I enjoyed every single minute of it, give or take a statistics class or two," she said with a laugh. "It allowed me to focus on my specialty, which is career and technical education and industry credentials.

"The professors are wonderful, wonderful people who are passionate about what they do. That makes you even more passionate about what you want to do."

William Owings, professor of educational leadership in the Darden College, was especially influential. "He is a teller of bad jokes, one of the smartest people I know and has made education finance something special," she said. "I never knew that it could be so interesting."

"It was a delight working with Anjanette," Owings said. "She is a bright and hard-working woman with great attention to detail. I invited the two folks from the Virginia Department of Education who are in charge of the career and technical education program to attend her dissertation defense. A few weeks later they offered her a job."

Hendricks' dissertation, "The Relationship Between the Earning of Career and Technical Industry Credentials and the Virginia Economy," focused on the financial benefits of CTE credentials.

Hendricks' research found that CTE has the potential for a tremendous financial impact. Among her findings:

- Over the past five years, the annual growth rate of completers in CTE programs in Virginia stands at 0.2%. A completer student is one who has earned all the required units in a state-recognized CTE program.

- In that same time period, while 678,046 "soft skills" assessments were administered to CTE students in Virginia, only 133,721 technical content-based industry credentials were taken.

- The potential average annual salary for students gaining industry credentials in Virginia's labor market is $54,311.

- In Virginia, for every four CTE completer students per high school (on average) who graduate and enter the workforce, the annual income tax revenue to be claimed by the state is estimated to be $53 million, or $237 million over five years.

"Imagine if each high school were to add one completer class with 20 students in it," she said. "After five years, the income tax available to the state could be more than $1.3 billion."

Hendricks hopes that her research, which won the National Education Finance Academy Dissertation of the Year Award, will lead to policy and curriculum changes.

The dissertation has been downloaded by the U.S. Senate, as well as in nine countries.

"We need to make sure that when our students leave school, they have the skills and credentials to be head and shoulders above any other applicants out there," she said.

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