Specialized counseling: All for one and one for all

UMOJA, Program for Accelerated College Education (PACE) and Honors have dedicated counselors to keep students on the right track. However, Career and Technical Education (CTE) students are left to general counseling.

Pierce College has no CTE counselor.

Dean of Academic Affairs and Career Technical Education Tom Vessella said the importance of specialized counselors is their knowledge of the courses and their ability to help students navigate the programs.

“I worked in an environment with specialized focus counseling previously to Pierce and it was something that I liked and thought worked really well for us and the CTE programs,” Vessella said.

Director of Transfer Center Sunday Salter said the previous CTE counselor went beyond what was expected of traditional counseling.

“I think what was unique about that counselor is that they were doing additional things like helping with internship and job placement, which is not typically the job of a counselor,” Salter said.

These opportunities are important, because CTE students study for a specified career. Associate Professor of Auto Service Technology Alex Villalta appreciated having a CTE counselor while the position was occupied.

“In prior years we always had a designated CTE counselor that dealt with everybody from not just auto, but everyone that would overlap in industrial tech, which is Computer Numerical Control, electronics, welding, engineering and obviously automotive,” Villalta said.

Villalta believes that not having a CTE counselor affects students’ success.

“Now that the position is not there anymore, I feel that it’s going to impact our students’ success because everything starts at the bottom,” Villalta said. “Everything starts from the guidance or the pathways that are generated inside of the counselor office.”

Some of Villalta’s students have had negative experiences with regular counseling.

“We’ve seen and we’ve gotten feedback from [students that] sometimes the counselors don’t even know that we offer automotive or they may question the student,” Villalta said.

Some counselors may give students misinformation, according to Villalta. In one instance, a student was directed to go to a different campus for a class offered at Pierce.

“She was directed to Los Angeles Trade Tech to take a welding class because the counselors told them that we did not have a welding class here,” Villalta said.

Industrial Technology professor Michael Van Dyke shared similar concerns.

“Our programs are fairly complex in some areas and there’s a sequence of classes it needs. A lot of times students get steered the wrong direction, if they get a counselor who doesn’t know or doesn’t seem to care about our program,” Van Dyke said.

Interim President Larry Buckley said a CTE counselor differs from other forms of specialized counseling because they do not work with singular cohorts.

“The CTE counselor idea is a little different,” Buckley said. “It’s not with a singular small cohort. It’s with career technical programs from business, nursing, to welding and auto. It is envisioned as a full-time position with all of these responsibilities and working with different cohorts of students, students on track for degrees and certificates. It’s a much more sophisticated and larger responsibility than an instructional program counselor like in PACE, UMOJA or Honors.”

Vice President of Academic Affairs Sheri Berger and Vice President of Student Services Earic Dixon-Peters were tasked with coming up with a plan that helps make a decision, according to Buckley.

Buckley wants to ensure the money that could be spent on a CTE counselor is put to good use.

“There’s money to do this,” Buckley said. “I just don’t want to put the money into the wrong thing. I don’t want to hire a full-time person salary and benefits that given that structure isn’t providing services.”