What Is CTE?One of the biggest challenges for school systems today is how to prepare students for the 21st century. For decades, schools have focused on preparing students to fill pre-existing jobs with common skills taught by established teachers. Now, with automation and artificial intelligence rapidly making their way to schools, we need to focus on teaching others how to learn, not just how to do.
Trying to figure out how best to prepare for the future has led education experts and policymakers all over the country to push for more career and technical education (CTE), a program that focuses on specific skills needed in specific industries. Its focus is on practical organizations like health care and agriculture — as opposed to theoretical knowledge required for any industry.
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Why Does CTE Matter?Following technical trends is an absolute necessity if America hopes to remain a world leader or even an economically relevant nation in the coming years. It's also a much better way of preparing students than our traditional school model. But what's often lost in the conversation about CTE is that it's not only an education policy but an economic policy as well.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, these courses are designed to provide students with a broad range of alternative pathways and technical skills that can lead them to relevant employment opportunities or college degrees. Students who complete advanced-level CTE courses are more likely to attend college than their peers.
In other words, students enrolled in CTE programs gain job-specific knowledge through hands-on learning and traditional academic classes.
Popular CTE CoursesCTE programs are being introduced in high schools and colleges all over the country, increasing the number of jobs available for students who graduate from these programs.
Their rising popularity has contributed to increased enrollment in postsecondary courses and training following high school graduation. In fact, there has been more enrollment in almost all fields of study since its introduction.
Before this time, many students did not see the value of seeking out further education after high school. However, with the development of these programs, there has been an uptick in the number of individuals enrolling in postsecondary programs every year.
Some of the most popular CTE programs include:
- Automotive Technology
- Business Management
- Computer Information Systems
- Early Childhood Education Emergency Medical Services/EMS
- Literacy Education
Specific Benefits of CTE ClassesAccess to CTE classes is expanding in high schools and colleges across the country as policymakers recognize the career readiness skills students need to be successful. These classes are designed to prepare students for a specific occupation or career pathway by teaching them practical skills and knowledge they can apply directly to their future jobs.
While some may argue that this type of education is too vocational, CTE offers specific benefits for students who want to attend college or pursue a career after high school:
- CTE classes offer hands-on learning opportunities that teach students technical skills, such as how to properly use tools and equipment, how to follow safety and industry standards, how to use computer software, and other career-specific technical knowledge.
- These classes also expose students to different careers, helping them understand how their skills and interests align with certain job positions. Many CTE classes even provide opportunities to interact with professionals in their field of interest, so they can learn more about what it’s like working in that industry.
- By giving students the chance to earn industry-recognized credentials and certifications through testing programs like WorkKeys and the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI), CTE helps them build up their resumes before graduating.
How to Choose the Right Class for You?Many high schools offer career and technical classes, as do community colleges and universities. But how do you know whether CTE is right for you? Here are some things to consider.
Are you a "hands-on" learner?If so, CTE might be a good fit for you. These classes teach practical skills that can be used in the real world so that they may be more interesting than traditional education. Plus, many CTE classes involve hands-on learning.
Do you want to explore different careers before college?CTE classes allow individuals to explore a variety of careers before deciding what they want to study in college or focus on their careers. This can help students decide what kind of career best suits them and avoid wasting time and money on a career path that isn't right for them.
Are you thinking about getting a job right out of high school?Many CTE classes focus on skills and knowledge that will help students get jobs after high school graduation. From office work to construction to automotive repair, there's a wide range of industries that these courses cover — meaning there are many options for students who want to go straight into the workforce after high school.
In other words, think about what you love to do. Maybe you're into video production, auto mechanics, or graphic design. Whatever it is, you're going to spend a lot of time doing that activity. Do you want to do it for fun on the weekends? Or do you want to make money doing it? That's an important distinction because these courses are designed as vocational training and can lead directly into certain careers.
Final ThoughtsEvery student deserves the opportunity to succeed in college and in a career of their choice. If you’re interested in a CTE pathway, you should be given that opportunity to explore it and not be told you need to take another route.
CTE is a key component of preparing students for success after high school, whether that means enrolling in college or entering the workforce. These courses can help you develop the knowledge, skills, and experience that employers value. In fact, research shows that students who take these specific courses are more likely to graduate from high school on time, learn valuable skills - and find more meaningful careers in today’s diverse market.