According to Deloitte’s 2021 Millennial and Gen Z survey, Gen Z has long pushed for social change, but many now feel the “world is at a pivotal moment.” So much so, that they are “demanding accountability to drive changes that will result in a more equitable and sustainable world.”
What can we take from this as educators? That what we teach and how we teach needs to shift, so that our students don’t just become successful members of society, but they also grow into future leaders. And this all starts with Career and Technical Education (CTE).
The student impact
Bethany, a ninth-grade student at Florida Virtual School, an accredited and statewide online public school district, is passionate about becoming a lawyer and driving change in society, as well as learning about computer science and horseback riding. How do we know this? Because her Computer and Network Security Fundamentals teacher asked her what her career goals and interests were at the beginning of the course.
This course is part of our Applied Cybersecurity program of study, and module six covers cybersecurity and law. During this module, Bethany learned about different government acts like the defense trade act and what can happen if someone obtains unauthorized access to a computer system. Learning about how law and cybersecurity go hand-in-hand has inspired Bethany to take more cybersecurity CTE courses, as well as to potentially become a lawyer who protects against cyber-attacks.
Not only did this CTE course excite Bethany about her future, but it also taught her valuable workforce skills. The labs in the course allowed her to envision what it would be like to work in the field, doing the job. Students are also given a problem, which they must fix using their knowledge from the course. Plus, Bethany was able to get real-world experience within the comfort of a virtual classroom where everyone is still learning.
Through CTE courses we can equip students for jobs they may have never considered, help them develop technical and soft skills, discover new passions, and give them real-world experience that they can utilize upon high school graduation. Not to mention, they can hear from professionals who are currently working in different industries to understand if this is a path they would like to continue exploring.
The path forward
Let’s level with each other – there is still a negative stigma around high school students not going to college and heading straight into the workforce. For generations, the path to success included getting your college degree and climbing the corporate ladder.
Luckily, this workforce mentality is changing. And with 30 million jobs available in the U.S. that do not require a bachelor’s degree and pay an annual salary of $55,000 or more, it’s more clear than ever that college is not the only option.
CTE pathways, especially those that have certifications, can help our students enter the workforce in high-demand, high-wage jobs right after graduation. As educators, it is our role to encourage them to follow whatever path they choose, to make them feel like they are making a difference in the world, and that they feel successful.
What makes “students feel successful” is key. Success does not mean the same thing for every person. Whether it’s working for a non-profit organization that spreads the word about climate change, working a 9-5 corporate job, being a farmer, nurse, teacher, software engineer, and more, our role is to guide students through their options as they discover what their passions are.
Let’s develop more CTE courses to help students find their spark and do what they want to do – which is to make a positive impact on the world.
Matthew Munro is Career and Technical Education Coordinator, Florida Virtual School and FlexPoint.
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