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Benefits of Career and Technical Education

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August 17, 2018 | Dr. Michelle Horton, Director of the Complete Florida Program

For students to succeed in an ever-changing workforce they must be ready for a long-term career. Many students decide going to college after graduating high school is the best path for the career they want. For others, college may not be ideal, or even possible. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 68 percent of high school students attend college -- meaning that more than 30 percent of high school graduates lack desire, academic preparation, or job skills necessary to enter the workforce. Students (and their parents) ask: “What options are available to me, outside of attending a college that can help me have a great career?” Thanks to career and technical education training, students have options to prepare for career success in exciting industry clusters. Career and technical training programs give students a head start on careers in high-skill, high-wage, and high-demand occupations through postsecondary education.

Career and technical education (CTE) is comprised of courses and programs that focus on skills and knowledge required for specific jobs or fields of work. The goal of CTE programs is occupational preparedness, making sure students are ready to enter the workforce with all the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed long-term. Frequently, CTE programs include a final internship or work-based learning experience that helps students develop a network of co-workers and managers who may also become valuable references. These internships also provide students with insight about whether they will enjoy that particular career. Florida CTE programs prepare individuals for occupations important to Florida’s economic development and are organized into 17 clusters geared toward middle and high school, district technical schools, and colleges. With the help of partners in education, business and industry, and trade associations, programs include the academic and technical skills required to be successful in today’s economy.

In addition to technical skills, many students participate in Career and Technical Student Organizations through which they develop valuable leadership skills and participate in competitions at the regional, state, and national level. These organizations help students gain skills and knowledge from their peers. Competitions serve as networking events for students who wish to connect with professionals and leaders in their chosen industry cluster. In some instances, students may receive course instruction or attend an event to connect with leaders in their career field.

For high school students, many CTE programs of study integrate the traditional core academic courses with CTE courses. Rigorous academic curriculum and performance-based requirements may be designated as honors courses. Also, high school students can earn licenses and credentials, often at a reduced cost compared to the cost of obtaining certifications and licenses outside of high school. Should a high school student decide to go on to college, his or her CTE courses, licenses and certifications may be part of a pathway for earning college credit. High school students involved in CTE programs are often more engaged, graduate at a higher rate, and are more likely to go to college than other students. In fact, according to the Association for Career and Technical Education, 91 percent of high school graduates who earned two to three CTE credits in high school enrolled in college.

CTE programs aren’t just for high school students. Even those who are already in college can take part in these programs. In fact, postsecondary adult vocational (PSAV) programs prepare students for in-demand careers they can begin while simultaneously completing their degree. Students who participate in PSAV programs, similar to college CTE programs, often earn certifications and licenses that may be completed in as little as a year that can then be used as college credit toward earning higher level degrees. These PSAV programs give students the chance to apply their knowledge and skills toward earning a bachelor’s and possibly even a master’s degree through articulation agreements between PSAV programs, Florida’s state colleges, and Florida’s universities.

There are many reasons to recommend that students take CTE courses, including the potential to save money on tuition. From obtaining an industry certification to saving money on college tuition, CTE programs set students up to succeed in the long term. Industry certifications help students begin their careers as soon as possible.

An added benefit of completing CTE courses is that students obtain knowledge and skills that help them achieve better paying jobs while attending college. As the cost of college continues to increase, CTE programs can serve as an entry to higher paying jobs. So, no matter if a student chooses to continue their education or enter the workforce immediately following graduation, they are armed with the skills and knowledge they need to tackle their chosen career field. Additionally, in Florida, CTE students who complete three or more CTE courses within a prescribed program, and meet other standards, are eligible for the Gold Seal Vocational Scholarship.

Need information about CTE in schools, for K-20 students? Visit the Florida Department of Education Career and Technical Education pages.