For as long as there have been trades, careers and working professionals, there have been programs designed to train people to work in a multitude of occupations and industries. However, modern-day Career and Technical Education (CTE) goes beyond simply teaching the future workforce. Today, students involved in CTE programs are enhancing their employability and personal skills through experiential learning to set themselves ahead in their future careers. Although CTE has made substantial strides in developing the best ways to prepare students for their future, many outdated perceptions or “myths” surrounding CTE still exist. CTE advocates are called to “debunk” common CTE myths and misconceptions.
Myth #1: Career and Technical Education is for low-performing students or students who don’t go on to college or post-secondary training.
A common misconception people have about CTE is it only adds educational value to students who aren’t college-bound or perform poorly in school. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth as CTE develops students’ potential for college and career readiness by connecting the curriculum they study in their classes to their future through experiential learning. The New Hampshire Association for Career and Technical Education reported that 78 percent CTE courses provide students with context between classroom lessons and the real-world applications. Students are more likely to feel encouraged and motivated to continue their education on into college or post-secondary training when they see the applicability of learning objectives in everyday life.
Students involved in CTE also are statistically more successful in their other classes compared to students who don’t take CTE courses. Eighty percent of students taking college prep academic curriculum along with rigorous CTE better meet college and career readiness goals, compared to 63 percent of students who did not take CTE. Research shows students involved in CTE are more engaged in their education as they are better able to connect courses like math, science and English to their future career.The misconception that CTE is for non-college bound or low performing students is proven false as CTE students statistically have higher graduation rates and higher post-secondary education enrollment compared to other students.
Myth #2: CTE programs lead to careers with low wages.
Today’s students have a wider variety of career options than students in the past. CTE programs open doors for students by allowing them to explore different careers, understand what requirements the career has, gain valuable career-based knowledge and experience and connect students to the industry before they enter it. According to ACTE, advanced CTE course taking in high school is associated with higher wages in the workforce. On average, workers see a two percent wage increase for each upper-level CTE course taken. Today’s employers are less worried about what degree an applicant has obtained and focus more on what skills and value they bring to the business.
There are over 30 million jobs in the United States that do not require a bachelor’s degree that pay median earnings of $55,000 or more. CTE offers opportunities such as industry certifications and connections to vocational schools to further students education in a specific field. CTE brings the business and industry world into the classroom and allows students to engage with the same topics and skills individuals working in the field employ every day. Students leave CTE programs equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to enter their chosen career and propel them through the career more quickly. The job market is an ever-changing landscape in which today’s students are often unaware of their opportunities and potential. The myth that CTE programs lead to careers with low wages is also false. There are millions of jobs in America today waiting for the next generation of skilled workers and innovators.
Myth #3: CTE programs aren’t relevant if a student doesn’t know what career they want.
One of the purposes of CTE is to give students the opportunity to explore different careers they wouldn’t normally come into contact within their core classes. CTE is a valuable resource for students who don’t know what career they want to pursue.
Through experiences in CTE classes, students can identify the best career for them and develop their personal and employability skills through hands-on experiences. CTE is not just for one specific type of student; it is simply a way for any student to prepare for post-secondary life, regardless of educational or career goals.
The idea that CTE programs aren’t relevant to a student who doesn’t know what career they want is a disservice to CTE and the entire student population. CTE allows students to explore the professional world to develop their skills, enhance their potential and identify future career options.
The goal of CTE is to help students achieve success in and out of the classroom by empowering them to take charge of their future through educational opportunities. CTE is relevant and vital for modern-day students because it allows them to plan for the future and develop the skills necessary to be successful in today’s workforce. Career and Technical Education is a comprehensive, equitable field that has implications far beyond secondary education and is a springboard for today’s youth as they transition to the next phase of their education and/or career.