Career Technical Education (CTE) provides students with the academic and technical skills, knowledge and training necessary to succeed in college, future careers and to become lifelong learners.
Unlike vocational education of the eighties, where the courses were strictly intended to prepare students for direct entry into full-time work and not college, the evolution to CTE directly impacts college and career readiness of high school students. The purpose of CTE is to ensure that students leave high school prepared for both the workforce and postsecondary education.
The Gallup-Purdue Index suggests that college graduates who had an internship or job where they were able to apply what they were learning in the classroom, were actively involved in extracurricular activities and worked on projects that took a semester or more to complete, doubled their odds of being engaged at work. Still, only 6% of college graduates say they had all three of these experiences. These are the exact experiences offered in a well-structured CTE programs.
According to a study conducted by the Russell Sage Foundation, students with a concentration in CTE are nearly 15 percentage points more likely to graduate high school than the national average.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan describes CTE programs as providing “instruction that is hands-on and engaging, as well as rigorous and relevant.” He stated that CTE programs “are helping to connect students with the high-demand science, technology, engineering and math fields — where so many good jobs are waiting.”
Even with all of the noted benefits of CTE programs, only about one in four students (28.6%) earned five or more CTE credits, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Most students have some interaction with CTE during their high school experience, but only a few are engaged.
Critics will argue that students aren’t ready to choose a career track, or that CTE shifts their focus away from college preparatory courses. Supporters recognize that CTE teaches students more than just about being successful in a specific career, but intangible skills that will enable them to be successful in life.
In the 21st century, we need to prepare all students to succeed in a competitive global economy, a knowledge-based society, and a highly connected digital world. Students should be taught to become lifelong learners and be able to re-skill frequently over the course of their professional careers to meet the swiftly changing demands of the workplace. In today’s economy, it is important to have flexibility and ingenuity to thrive in jobs that haven’t even been created yet. All of these I skills are taught in rigorous CTE programs. The nature of the workplace has changed, and CTE is the part of teaching and learning that can have future leaders career ready.
Does your school offer a rigorous CTE program? We’d love to hear more about it. Feel free to share!