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Today we are highlighting two of our partners that we have been working with for years. Matt and Will run the Computer Animation and Web Design (CAWD) program at the Center for Technology in Essex, Vermont. Their students take our certification exams and achieve at a very high success rate. In fact, many students achieve a more advanced certificate based on their scores. In addition to utilizing Web Professionals Global certifications in the classroom, Matt and Will have worked on the SkillsUSA Web Design and Development competition and other competitions for many years. As in the classroom, their students perform very well in these competitions. Matt and Will also used the client assets that we provided for the Vermont SkillsUSA web competition this year.

Matt and Will are helping their students prepare for careers in fields such as game animation and development as well as web design and development. We caught up with both of them to discuss their work, their experience working with Web Professionals Global, and keys to success.

How important is it to offer your students the chance to earn industry-recognized certifications in preparation for in-demand CTE careers?

Matt: At the high school level I think anything that helps separate our students from the masses is important. Most of our students will go to postsecondary education prior to the workforce, so getting into college is our first step.  Not everyone is the valedictorian or the first trumpet player in the band.  We in our class need to develop our portfolio and add relevant accolades, and the Web Designer certification offers us an objective third-party assessment of our students.  

Will: For a technical high school, adding an industry-recognized credential is important for our program and for our students who will be entering the industry. I think the IRC is a good way for students to see that their work in program learning web fundamentals has some merit beyond the classroom.

Can you tell us about some of the success stories involving your students who earned certifications and then went on to further educational and professional endeavors?

Matt: Our students have earned certification during the school year, and then gone on after graduation to medal at the SkillsUSA Web Design competition, and THEN move onto careers related to the industry. It is a nice pipeline that we talk about with our current students to emulate.  

Will: Many students have used their experience in class and have extended their learning and experience outside of the classroom taking on side projects in web development with many students continuing their education at the college level in web programming / application development and graphic and visual arts.

What has the experience been like working on the Vermont SkillsUSA Web Design and Development competition?

Will: This was our first year using the Web Professionals contest prompt and resources for the Vermont SkillsUSA Web Design competition. Mark and Steve put together a really useful package and after a short planning session, I felt confident to use it for the state competition. Students who competed it felt the prompt was challenging enough and allowed for enough creativity to make the contest engaging for a full day event. 

Your students routinely perform exceptionally well in both the certification exams and the SkillsUSA competition. Can you share how you prepare them so well for success?

Matt: We are lucky enough to have a full-day, five days a week technical center. In Vermont we are the only full day center, so we have more time to learn and practice than any other technical center in Vermont. I have to think this has a lot to do with it. We are also in the most populous county in Vermont, so we have more students to build our class from.  

Will: Students take the exam with nearly a semester of web design practice if they are in the first year program, and students who go to the second year program get an additional semester. In addition, Matt puts together a good practice exam with 300+ rotating questions that we drill our students on.  In the end it comes down to practice. We are fortunate to have students for a full day, so we can cover a lot of ground.  

What has your experience been like working with Web Professionals Global?

Will: Nothing but professional. I’ve met Mark and Steve at the SkillsUSA national competition and they put on a great contest. This includes a very good orientation session for competitors and a solid debriefing after the contest. My students have left the national competition feeling good about their work and the information they received from Web Professionals Global.

How have the client assets provided by Web Professionals Global helped make running the state SkillsUSA competition easier?

Will: First and foremost, it saved me a lot of time as the contest manager. It was nice to be able to focus on the judges, the competitors and the space/resource needs on competition day instead of the prompt. The client assets were clear and it was a turnkey solution for the competition. 

How do you plan to incorporate emerging AI capabilities into your programs? What advice would you give to others teaching these technologies as it relates to AI?

Matt: Right now we are working to expose students to AI in as many ways as possible. ChatGPT, Dall-E, Gemini, copilot, and Midjourney are all ways we are looking to add in AI coursework. Web Design and development is going to be different in five years, and AI fluency is going to be important.  

Will: AI and web development are going to work hand in hand. We’ve used generators before, like lorem ipsum for text, and placeholder images for images. Using AI for layouts improves rapid development and iterative design. We are using these tools in class with students now, as a resource, not as a substitute. Knowing what the code does is still an imperative part of design and development, and AI is not a substitute for that knowledge. 

What would you say to other teachers who are considering offering CTE certifications to students?

Matt: Find one which makes sense to your area of studies and make it relevant, as that is all the difference.

The Executive Director of Web Professionals Global, Mark DuBois, serves on your advisory board. How valuable is it to have someone with over 30 years experience in the industry as an advisor?

Matt: Having someone that isn’t learning the ropes every few years provides for relationships and consistency. I know I can reach out to Mark and get good feedback from Web Professionals Global. 

Will: Mark knows the business of the web and has been a solid resource for us for years. As Matt mentioned, Mark provides great feedback to us as we navigate the changes in industry and how to meet students at the educational level.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Matt: Thank you for your continued support on our Advisory Board, and the services you provide for our students! 

Will: Yes, thanks. It is great to have excellent industry professionals, partners and contacts. 

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We are proud to work with schools across the country in implementing certification programs and competitions to develop the next generation of web professionals. If you are interested in learning more, please contact us today