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CTE Students and Teachers Adjust to Virtual Interviews in Mock Exercise

Preparing students for the real world is a job Heather Cooper takes seriously. So, when the real world changed last year—so did she.

As the internship coordinator and job developer at TST BOCES Career and Technical Education (CTE), Cooper has led a popular mock-interview-style class exercise with her senior students over the past twelve years.

“I’ve been teaching students how to enter a room professionally and give a proper handshake for over a decade now,” said Cooper.  

Over the past few weeks, students at CTE participated in the well-known and much anticipated mock interview event. Only this time, it was done virtually.

“At first, I thought it was going to be disappointing,” said Cooper. “Aside from being something that the students really look forward to and actually enjoy, the face-to-face interaction has always had quite an impact.”

Heather Cooper leads mock interviews online

With many workplaces closed due to the pandemic and the transition of core business functions online, it is only fitting that the real-world-experience advocate quicky adapt to run the mock interview exercise virtually.

Trading in handshake tips for tutorials on online presence, CTE students received a crash course on virtual interviewing skills. A lesson Cooper says she learned right alongside them.

“What does a professional background even look like, right?” said Cooper. “These are all things we were dealing with for the first time and learning together.”

The mock interview exercise is one of the many ways CTE students are prepared for entering the workforce after high school. The students, ranging from ages 16-21, spend half the day of their junior and senior year of high school earning a specialized certification.

The highly competitive program is application-based and offers certification classes in thirteen program areas such as: animal sciences, automotive technology, and criminal justice.

The pandemic has not only affected the way classes are taught at CTE, but also the size of them.

“We have a waitlist every year,” said Cooper. “But now, an already competitive program, like digital media, can only take 12 students.” 

With this year’s mock interview exercise complete, Cooper will now focus her efforts on incorporating more virtual skills and online etiquette lessons into her curriculum.

“Every time you have a new experience and learn something new, its beneficial,” said Cooper. “Even if you can’t see it yet. Sometimes the lesson learned surfaces later.”