How CTE develops on-the-job learners

Educators must connect learning to the real world
By: | September 9, 2020

Businesses are looking to K-12 education to provide workers who can be trained and retrained as their industries change.

In K-12, this requires educators to connect learning to the real world, says Richard M. Long, executive director of the Learning First Alliance, a partnership of leading public school advocacy organizations.

For example, students who are not captivated by a math lecture can become highly engaged in shop class when they have to calculate angles to measure and cut wood to build something. “The future is not making it academically real, but real real,” Long says.

U.S. schools have not, traditionally, taken advantage of a centuries-old model—the apprenticeship—that could develop more adaptable workers.


More from DA: How rural schools sought opportunity in school closures


Now, many districts are working with local employers and community colleges to create CTE programs where students learn on-the-job electronic, artificial intelligence and welding skills.

Students learn in classrooms for two or three days, and spend the rest of the time at an apprenticeship.

“Businesses are saying to education, these are the math skills we need and these are the lit skills we need, and it’s not basic stuff,” Long says. “Students get to see how the skills are applied the very next day.”

Read the other stories in our series on the future of work:

  1. How to ensure equity begins early when building career skills
  2. How to develop students who are creators, not consumers
  3. Why you should stress COVID-era skills in CTE programs
  4. Why not create your own coding curriculum?
  5. 5 changes that will prepare students for the future of work