How Virtual Labs Give CTE Pathways Students a Head Start in Their Stem Career

Ginelle Testa

STEM careers are booming with a shortage of workers, so it’s an excellent opportunity for Career Technical Education (CTE) students to find in-demand jobs. “The U.S. Department of Labor projections show that 15 of the 20 fastest-growing occupations require significant science or mathematics training.” CTE STEM teachers need to be able to offer a hands-on way to learn skills, and virtual labs are just what is needed in classrooms.

Emily Dehoff teaches biochemistry and life sciences, including an animal science program in Vermont, at a rural CTE high school. She uses Labster virtual labs to prep her students for wet labs and does experiments for which she would not otherwise have the resources. She said that students are tired of video lectures and worksheets and are much more engaged with virtual labs because they come to class with confidence.

The successes virtual labs can offer are:

  • Exposure

  • Training

  • Accessibility

  • Achievement

  • Experience

  • Technology skills

Why are virtual labs career-boosters for CTE STEM students?

  • Exposure - Students have the chance to mimic real-life experiences to see if they’re pursuing something they’re passionate about. STEM drop-off in classrooms is real because students find it too challenging and not interesting. Virtual lab simulations may be just what hooks them. Did you know that fun in the classroom can help with memory retention? 

  • Training - Virtual labs can be used to prepare students for wet labs. For example, a biohazard safety training is much safer to be done virtually and will prepare students with that confidence Emily from Vermont said her students have with Labster. Further, students can repeat the same lab over and over again with room to fail and without expensive lab equipment. 

  • Accessibility - Students have exposure to labs that may not have been accessible in wet lab form. While they don’t have the chance to go to Mars in real life, they will be able to with virtual labs. They can learn about physics or any other topic in a way that is unique to science simulations. Have you dreamed of having students gain experience in a lab that’s just too expensive to afford to have in the classroom or to use repeatedly?

  • Achievement - Studies have shown that students learn twice as much when they have access to Labster virtual labs than they do with traditional instruction on its own. 

  • Experience  - Students who have hands-on experience have more to offer post-graduation opportunities. Their expertise with virtual labs could be what lands them that job after school is complete. Diane Sigales of Livingston High School used Labster in her class and said: “One of my students sent me an email after he graduated. He got a job as a freshman in a research lab at his college because he did not have to be taught how to do the research.”

  • Technology skills - It’s not a secret that technology is playing an ever-growing role in the future of employment. Technological skills mean increased job security and growth opportunities. It used to be Excel that was required of job-seekers. For STEM students, it’s now hands-on experience with the labs expected of them at their future jobs.

There’s a shortage of workers for middle and high-skill STEM jobs. CTE provides a fantastic opportunity to bridge this gap, and virtual labs are a tool to support this effort, placing students at the top echelon of the job market.

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