The Evolution of CTE
For more than 100 years, what we now call career and technical education (CTE) coursework’s main goal has been to prepare students with trade and life skills to help them become productive community members who are gainfully employed. On a national level, “vocational” education was founded on the premise that young people needed training to adapt to a newly industrialized workplace. As years passed, programs evolved to also pursue post-secondary education as part of a career continuum. When vocational education was rebranded in 2006 as “career and technical” education, the change represented a shift in career preparation philosophy. Combining technical skills and academic education strengthened CTE programming, preparing students with rigorous coursework, oftentimes allowing students to work, earn income, accumulate industry certifications and credentials, and receive college credit within the same academic year. 80% of high schoolers who took CTE and college preparation courses met college and career readiness goals, compared to 63% of students who only took college preparation courses.
In Virginia, nearly 300,000 students have been enrolled in CTE courses annually. And, at Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center (CATEC,) Charlottesville’s regional technical education center, we are serving about 300 high school students grades 10 through 12 annually. Jointly owned by the County of Albemarle and the City of Charlottesville, CATEC serves students in both school divisions as well as students from surrounding counties and home-schooled educations.
Students who take CTE courses have experiences beyond the high school classroom. With CTE programs now organized into 16 Career Clusters, students can seamlessly transition from high school programs to the workforce to post-secondary education. 95% of students enrolled in CTE courses graduate from high school. On average, 600,000 students earn dual-enrollment college credits while enrolled in CTE courses. With more than 88% of CTE students planning to continue their educations after graduation, students can begin their transitions to post-secondary learning while still in high school, saving them money on tuition. In the 2017-2018 school year, CATEC students earned 1,382 college credits and for the 2018-2019 year school 161 students earned 1,825 college credits. Partnering with Piedmont Virginia Community College, Blue Ridge Community College, Central Virginia Community College, and Reynolds Community College, allows CATEC students to enter the workforce full-time upon graduation or work part-time while pursuing their post-secondary academic goals.
Relevant Work Experience
Real-world experience is a key element that makes CTE coursework relevant to students’ lives. 81% of high school dropouts say relevant, real-world learning opportunities, like CTE, would have kept them in school. At CATEC, 100% of our students have work-based learning opportunities, taught by industry experts. Work-based learning experiences at CATEC include field trips, guest speakers, job shadows, internships, and youth registered apprenticeships. Youth Registered Apprenticeships and Registered Apprenticeships give students opportunities to get high school credit, work experience, and income, all while building employee-employer relationships. Registered apprentices earn 2,000 hours of on-the-job training. CATEC’s Adult Education and Apprenticeship program have more than 300 Registered Apprentices from 55 local employers. According to the Department of Labor, after apprenticeship completion, 94% of employees retain employment.
Additionally, all CATEC students have opportunities to improve their professionalism along with their technical skills. Students work on soft skills that cover Virginia’s 22 Workplace Readiness Skills identified by community employers.
CTE plays a vital role in helping businesses close the skills gap by building a competitive workforce for the 21st century. CTE students participate in coursework that leads to employment in high-skill, high-wage, and high-demand occupations. More than half of CTE students plan to enter the workforce in their industry-of-study, using their high school educations in their immediate futures. Health care occupations are projected to grow 18% by 2026, adding more than 2 million new jobs. CATEC offers courses in Nurse Assistant, Veterinary Science and Emergency Medical Technician. 3 million workers will be needed for the nation’s infrastructure in the next decade, including designing, building and operating transportation, housing, utilities and telecommunications. CATEC currently offers Building Trades and Electricity coursework.
With 36% of STEM jobs requiring post-secondary credentials that students can earn while taking CTE courses, high school credentialing and certifications are becoming increasingly important to the savvy high school student. About half of all STEM jobs are open to workers who don’t hold a bachelor’s degree, making these jobs accessible to workers who hold credentials, certifications, and licenses. But, nearly half of Fortune 100 company talent recruiters report it difficult to find qualified candidates for positions that only require a two-year degree. 43% of young workers who earn licenses and certifications earn more than those with associate degree. 27% of young workers with licenses and certifications earn more than those with a bachelor’s degree. At CATEC, in the 2017-2018 school year, students earned more than 480 certifications. In the 2018-2019 school year, students earned more than 550 certifications.
CATEC is a regional technical education center that helps high school students and adults obtain the jobs they seek. Students have opportunities to practice hands-on and work-based learning activities alongside academically-driven curricula. CATEC prides itself on its built-in value, equity-based programs, and contribution to students' learning journeys.