Career and Technical Education
Feb 8, 2021

Do you remember that question in middle school about what you wanted to be when you grew up?  Did you answer an astronaut, a fireman, a police officer, computer network technician, construction worker, aerospace, chef or an engineer?  Choosing your career path is a hard decision to make, especially with so many changing industries.  Technology has made many careers more accessible, and schools are incorporating new learning opportunities to help find your long-term career.

There are many options available, from culinary arts, manufacturing, and healthcare.  Should you become a doctor or nurse, industrial graphics designer, or a master chef?  The list can go on and on.  One place you can investigate the many options available is through Career and Technical Education.  It can introduce students to excellent careers with local and international companies needing new technical employees.

Where Did Career and Technical Education (CTE) Begin?

You might be thinking that focusing on technical aptitude and a long career has only been a recent concept.  The truth of it is that CTE reaches back to the beginning of the United States in the late 1770s.  A strong knowledge base and a cumulative set of skills were considered to be very important in the early days of our country.  What we consider new technology, and what skills are needed for each technology, has continued to evolve over time.  There has been over a century of federal investment to educate the citizen of the United States in CTE, which breaks down into four major time periods:

The Beginning (1776-1826)

In the early days of the United States, building and educating future leaders was stressed regularly.  The goal was to offer a free public education to students to give them a career path that offered longevity and opportunity.  Certain trades offered free apprenticeships for students, while others entered the education side to begin building a system for teaching.

The Framework (1826-1876)

The next fifty years of the United States started to visualize the framework of CTE.  The early years started many students on the path, and now the curriculum was creating a steady stream of workers with skills in trades.  New schools were being created to offer education and skills for specific industries, which began to also start to see women’s colleges participate with CTE development in the 1840s.

The Modern Curriculum is Defined (1876 – 1926

After a hundred years of development, the first manual training school was recognized in St. Louis, Missouri.  The year was 1879, and it saw the establishment of the modern career and technical education learning model.  This new model was a mixture of classroom and hand-on learning, which had never been done together before.  Two years later in New York the first defined “trade school” was established that was focused on solely educating students with classroom knowledge and a set of skills focused on a specific industry.  Later agricultural schools began to teach an education based on specific agriculture and the exploration of specific CTE curriculum was supported through bills in the U.S. state and federal governments.  The Smith-Hughes Act, formally known as the National Vocational Education Act, was adopted in 1917 to provide federal aid to each state with the intent of promoting precollegiate vocational education in agricultural and industrial trades.

The Big Push for Acceptance (1926 – 1976

This era of career and technical education was spurred by World War I and World War II.  Each expanded the interest in education to offer citizens re-training to enter the workforce after serving in the military forces.  Adult education became a focus and links to serving in the military were made to skills needed in the trades and general workforce.

What Does CTE Look Like Today?

Knowing the history allows us to look at the options available today with CTE and understand how they are incorporated with modern society.  Technology is in our life every day, from computers, to smart phones, automobiles, and communication.  There are many CTE programs available that focus on a long career with technical training.  Some of them are:

These listed options are just a handful of the many CTE options available, and each will continue to evolve as technology changes year after year.

How Can CTE Work for Me?

You may find an interest in one or two of the career and technical education fields listed, but aren’t completely committed to taking the next step.  You might be asking how it would benefit you going forward.  If that’s a concern, perhaps these statistics will offer more support:

High School Students

  • High school students involved in CTE programs are more engaged in the classroom, perform better in school, and graduate at higher rates compared to non-CTE students.
  • Students enrolled in one CTE class for every two academic classes have shown less risk for dropping out of high school.
  • High school graduation rates for CTE students averages 93% compared to around 80% for non-CTE focused students.
  • There is a direct correlation of students continuing to college and higher education when they complete a minimum of two CTE focused credits. Ninety-one percent of students enroll in college.

College Students

  • Community and technical colleges cost a fraction of the traditional larger university campuses and keep students focused on their technical trade.
  • Research shows that technical graduates can out-earn bachelor’s degrees from larger colleges and universities.

Business Return on Investment

  • Career and technical education offers businesses the opportunity to close the skills gap in high-growth industries that are challenged for qualified STEM graduates.
  • Nearly 50% of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) need employees with less than a bachelor’s degree, which a technical college or trade school can produce.
  • The current projected growth for healthcare positions by 2026 is expected to grow an additional 18% (~ 2 million new employees)
  • Infrastructure is a concern for the future as technology and transportation change, and nearly 3 million workers will be needed to design, build, and operate the implementation of housing, utilities, and telecommunication upgrades.
  • Green technologies including solar and wind energy and electric transportation will expand in the future. The need for qualified graduates to implement new technologies is projected to grow.
  • Currently around 80% of businesses project that they will experience challenges trying to meet customer demand due to a shortage of qualified technical employees.

February is as CTE Month to celebrate Career and Technical Education opportunities available for students across the United States.  If you’ve ever wanted to investigate education options that Sno-Isle TECH offers, this is the perfect opportunity for students to research their career and technical interests and their potential opportunities for a career in the future.  Contact the school for a future visit or peruse through each of the listed classes available in coming semesters. CTE courses offer a glimpse into the future where students can get a jump start on their career.