[CTE Month] What Parents Need to Know About Career and Technical Education

Friday, February 10, 2017 -- Sarah Cornelius

Did you know that across the country, students and educators are celebrating February as CTE Month in the classroom? Quite possibly a better question, do you know what career and technical education (CTE) actually is? For lots of parents, it’s just one of the many education buzzwords floating around at PTA meetings and parent-teacher conferences. But, CTE is worth understanding; it’s making a big difference in student outcomes both inside the classroom and in the working world. Here’s how AdvanceCTE, one of the premier professional organizations for CTE educators and leaders, defines it:

Career Technical Education is an educational model that aligns secondary and postsecondary education to labor market demand, and provides students with the technical, academic and employability knowledge and skills they need to success. Put simply, CTE prepares students for careers of their choice.

Got your interest? Whether your child is just beginning to explore career and technical education opportunities or they’re already an enthusiastic CTE learner, here are six things parents should keep in mind:

1. CTE allows students to study subjects they’re excited about

Let’s admit it—some traditional school topics just aren’t that exciting. Algebra? European History? Chemistry? Rattle off course titles like that, and for plenty of students they’ll sound vague and boring. But, with many CTE courses, the conversation changes. Graphic Design and Illustration? Criminology? Nutrition and Wellness? Mobile App Development? Those are subjects that will make kids eyes light up—and keep them motivated to do their best.

2. CTE connects classroom learning to the real-world

Every parent has heard their child question “why” when it comes to learning. CTE curriculum provides that answer. CTE courses are based on teaching kids applicable, real-world skills, and showing how those skills are put to use in different careers—oftentimes students even get to experience working environments first-hand through site visits or internship opportunities.

3. CTE improves graduation rates

Interest and engagement directly correlates to academic success. CTE courses can provide the right mix of flexibility, real-world application, and skills focus to engage students who may have struggled in traditional classroom settings. In fact, according to the Association for Career and Technical Education, students in CTE programs have a 93% graduation rate—over 10 percentage points higher than the national average.

4. CTE is NOT only for students who don’t plan to go to college

Historically, CTE has had a reputation of being the option for low-performing students. However, AdvanceCTE reports that 78% of high-school CTE concentrators enroll in post-secondary education, higher than the overall national average among all high school graduates of approximately 69%, 50% of those students go on to complete their degrees. The bottom line? CTE programs are for all learners. Their goal is always to focus on relevant, transferrable skills, and that is beneficial regardless of students’ post-secondary plans.

5. CTE prepares students for success in in-demand fields

CTE courses seek to teach students skills that they can immediately put to use in the working world. So, it only makes sense that the skills students learn in CTE courses align to some of the fastest-growing job fields, including healthcare, engineering, and skilled manufacturing. CTE bridges the gap between learning in the classroom and competencies needed in industry to make sure that students are ready to be productive members of the workforce.

6. Parents play a crucial role in supporting student success in CTE programs

Parental involvement and support is always a key factor contributing to student success, and CTE programs are no exception. Parents can urge kids to try CTE courses in various career paths they express interest in, help kids make connections between classroom learning and on-the-job skills, become advocates for CTE learning and industry partnerships in the community, and provide ongoing encouragement and accountability as kids complete CTE coursework. As is always the case, taking a true interest in your child’s learning can make a huge difference.

Want to learn more about career and technical education and how to become an advocate? Check out ACTE’s CTE Month resource materials, find out what CTE opportunities are available in your community, and start talking to your child about CTE learning today!    

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