Beyond ‘vocational’ training

By: | October 3, 2016

For decades, “vocational” education prepared students for a newly industrialized workplace by training them for a specific occupational skill set. Today, Career and Technical Education (CTE) is open to all students, regardless of their career interests. Additionally, CTE helps train skilled workers that are essential in today’s high-growth industries. As skilled jobs become some of the hardest to fill in the U.S., schools around the country are turning to CTE to help train students for their future careers.

Districts in Texas are using CTE programs to meet the requirements of House Bill 5 (HB5), which asks students to choose an endorsement area of study before entering high school. Florida also created a statewide planning partnership between businesses and education communities through the Career and Professional Education Act. California, Kansas, Alabama, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon and Arizona have also invested in CTE programs of study for their K-12 curricula. As more students are exposed to the benefits of technical education, here are four ways CTE can prepare them for the global economy.

1. Diversification within subject areas

CTE introduces students to countless opportunities within their industry of interest. Students looking to pursue a specialized career can learn both the technical side of a career while also gaining experience in business administration and development. This not only helps students become better acquainted with their particular interests, it also helps them grasp the diversity found within the industry as a whole. Through a comprehensive introduction to their chosen career path, CTE helps eliminate the age-old phrase, “I’m never going to use this, so why do I need to learn it?”

2. Extends beyond academic skills

As students begin to explore their education and career opportunities, CTE offers relevant and rigorous curriculum that seamlessly integrates with a student’s academic schedule. In addition to helping students learn more about a career field and completing necessary coursework, CTE teaches employability skills that are essential to any job in the workforce. Studies show that students who participate in CTE affiliated organizations, such as FFA and DECA, not only experience 
higher academic engagement and college aspirations, but they are also more likely to develop problem solving, time management and project completion skills.

3. Increases academic and personal achievement

CTE plays a critical role in keeping students engaged throughout high school, as those who are involved in a career readiness pathway are more likely to stay motivated and graduate with a high school diploma. In fact, just one CTE class for every two academic classes minimizes the risk of dropout rates among high school students. Beyond the classroom, CTE allows students to connect with educators and professionals through formal and informal mentorship programs. Establishing these relationships helps students better understand their role within the industry and offers a greater sense of community, resulting in increased engagement for the student.

4. Creates better career prospects

Through their designated CTE pathway, students are able to partner with businesses for direct on-the-job training, leading to high-skills instruction in high-demand jobs. With this specialized training, students can fill critical roles in today’s fastest growing industries. Students with a CTE-related degree or certification can earn up to $20,000 more per year than those without career and technical training. These high-demand, high-wage jobs can be found across the country, in a wide variety of industries, such as health care, engineering and information technology.

Since its creation nearly a century ago, CTE has transformed into a rigorous educational program that addresses today’s ever-changing economic challenges. In addition to preparing students for success in college and their eventual careers, CTE offers skills that will help them become productive employees—and citizens—of a growing global society.

Javier J. Saenz is assistant principal at the the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Career & Technology Academy.