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Taking a Pathways Approach to Career and Technical Education in Minnesota with Programs of Study

Taking a Pathways Approach to Career and Technical Education in Minnesota with Programs of Study

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) is recognizing the importance of industry partnerships and exposing students to career options at a young age. In keeping with new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requirements that each student be provided with a well-rounded, postsecondary focused education, Minnesota has enacted a new program ensuring that all students have a Personalized Learning Plan by the 9th grade to ease the transition out of high school. Career and technical education (CTE) offerings are an important component of these plans, and the MDE is taking meaningful steps to make sure that schools and districts provide effective programming.

The MDE has identified these core elements of high-quality programming:

  • An unduplicated sequence of strong academic and career and technical courses that incorporate applied, contextual, cross-curricular and interdisciplinary instructional strategies.
  • Exploration of careers within a career cluster and/or pathway through the identification of potential career opportunities and the postsecondary training and educational requirements of those choices.
  • Opportunities to participate in structured learning experiences and career and technical student organizations (CTSO).
  • Alignment and incorporation of secondary and postsecondary education elements such as curricula, standards and assessments.
  • Preparation needed for students to enter employment in a specific occupation that aligns with business and industry standards and may lead to an industry-recognized credential or certificate at the secondary level.
  • Preparation for postsecondary education. Career and technical education programs provide a purpose and rationale for academic preparation and aid students in meeting the entrance requirements for college programs.
  • Opportunities to earn college credit for college courses successfully completed during high school (e.g., dual/concurrent credit or articulated credit).

Understanding CTE Programs of Study in Minnesota

The MDE Programs of Study (POS) provides a framework of components to help schools and districts implement rigorous academic and CTE curriculum. At the highest level, this framework breaks down six career fields as a starting point for the development of logical, applicable CTE programs of study:

  • Business, Management, & Administration
  • Agriculture, Food, & Natural Resources
  • Arts, Communications, & Information Systems
  • Engineering, Manufacturing, & Technology
  • Health Science Technology
  • Human Services

With these six career fields in mind, high-quality POS follow a pathways approach to CTE education, beginning with broad career exploration opportunities to help students determine which pathway is right for them. From there, foundational courses for each of the six identified fields provide students with the basic knowledge they need to move on to specific curriculum and skills for their chosen career path before wrapping up their POS with preparation for or completion of career-specific credentials or assessments. 

Best Practices for High-Quality CTE Programs of Study in Action

The MDE CTE Rigorous Program of Study framework provides valuable guidance, but one of its true strengths is that it allows space for district interpretation and adaptation, which is essential to meeting local industry needs and connecting students to readily available jobs. As your school or district thinks through the logistics of a CTE program tailored to your community, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Reach out to local business and industry to connect students with hands-on opportunities to experience real-world jobs and form mentoring relationships
  • Explore MDE requirements for implementing a formalized work-based learning program to help students acquire critical job skills and recognized industry credentials
  • Incorporate age-appropriate career exploration beginning in elementary grades so that students are well-prepared to design a Personal Learning Plan when they reach 9th grade that will facilitate a smooth transition to postsecondary opportunities
  • Partner with area universities and community colleges to better understand industry demands and provide students with opportunities to earn dual credit
  • Consider leveraging online courses to augment your CTE offerings and build out high-quality POS that cover expanded career fields

Minnesota CTE Programs of Study in Action

Schools around Minnesota are already implementing high-quality CTE programming aligned to the MDE POS framework. Look to these two programs for inspiration to design curriculum pathways and build industry partnerships in your own school or district:

Exploring Potential Interests and Careers (EPIC) – St. Cloud Technical and Community College

St. Cloud Technical and Community College’s Exploring Potential Interests & Careers (EPIC) program is an outstanding example of building local industry partnerships to provide students with direct exposure to careers across a variety of fields. The program relies on an annual event to connect high school students with professionals from many area businesses and industries and to expose them to career-related exercises that help them determine concrete career and postsecondary goals. St. Cloud Area School District 742 is taking EPIC programming a step further by implementing career exploration curricula that requires all freshman students to participate in rotations that expose them to all six MDE-sanctioned career fields so that they can make better-informed choices about CTE-aligned course enrollment throughout the rest of their time in high school, building on foundational skills they have interest in towards career-specific credentials.

Bridges Career Academies & Workplace Connection – Central Lakes Perkin Consortium & Region Five Districts

Bridges Career Academies is a unique consortium program that supports schools and districts in northern Minnesota to provide high-quality, sequential CTE curricula and connect students with career skills development opportunities. The program was founded with the mission of empowering students to explore career possibilities, strengthening connections between public schools and local industries, providing CTE leadership and resources to educators, and promoting regional industry needs and opportunities. This is achieved through hands-on career exploration days, business tours, classroom speakers, employability skills curriculum, a “Career Depot” job board for high school students, and more. Participation in Bridges programming is offered free to all districts in the Central Lakes Perkin Consortium and those located in Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd, and Wadena counties.

Edmentum is proud to be a leader in online CTE curricula. Interested in learning more about how our library of over 100 semester-long CTE courses built with a pathways approach in mind and aligned to Minnesota state standards can support your school’s or district’s MDE-approved career and technical education initiatives? Check out our complete course catalog for Minnesota, or take a look at our archive of CTE blog posts!