3 Steps to Successfully Aligning your Career & Technical Education Pathways to Emerging Careers

Abigail Hess

Product Marketing Manager • Career and Technical Education • National Geographic Learning | Cengage

*This post summarizes the key points and lists all direct links to resources, data, and graphs presented in the Emerging CTE Pathways: High Pay, High Growth Careers that start NOW! Webinar from October 2020. Watch the recording here.

While it may be easy to quickly look up surveys like the 2018 OECD Study of 15-year old “Dream Jobs” worldwide or the bi-annual National Society of High School Scholars Career Survey, or many others to get a handle on the kinds of jobs teenagers think they want to work toward, Career and Technical Education programs are directed by Perkins V to think about the needs of the national economy and emerging workforce. CTE programs may begin in 6th-9th grade, providing career exploration curriculum and activities that need to predict industry trends 6-10 years in advance when these students will actually enter the world of work.

In addition to fortune-telling, CTE administrators need to FIRST engage students in a career pathway and keep them in it for their high school career. The OECD PISA Survey of 2018, recorded that out of 600,000 15-year-olds around the world, students were much more likely to agree that school will help them get a job if they spoke to a career advisor at their school. Speaking to someone about their career plans more than tripled the students’ chance of agreeing that school will help them get a job than students who completed an internship but did not speak to a career advisor.

Therefore, to successfully choose course alignments and career pathways for CTE programs, we need to be able to:  

  1. Anticipate the Future
  2. Set up your Programs for Perkins Funding Success
  3. Encourage the Career Journey

Anticipating the Future

Anticipating the Future requires being in touch with local industry partners as well as up-to-date on national CTE education and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment information. We can’t rely on one set of information as the Perkins Data Explorer tracks CTE Concentrator Enrollment and not necessarily total enrollment or interest from students in CTE and CTE-related courses. While Labor Statistics must be extrapolated to state and regional needs and take into account wages, growth rate, job openings, risk of replacement due to automation, and emerging industry needs.

Recent trends show that three areas are meeting most if not all of the job outlook information CTE administrators search for AND are aligned with growing student interests:

  • • STEM means many things, and in CTE, it most often means Engineering courses as it’s own career cluster. The Department of Education CTE Data Story from 2017 highlighted that 35% of CTE Concentrators were in the STEM cluster and STEM-Related Clusters (including Health Science, Agriculture, Food, & Natural Resources, and Information Technology). STEM-related jobs have extreme job growth and an increasing need in our economy from Computer Science Programmers, to Biotechnologists, Engineers, and Sustainability Designers.
  • • Computer Science has been growing for years as many states add Computer Science requirements, offer it as math or science core credit, and fund teacher professional development to add coding and programming courses. Code.Code.org has extensive data on the changing policies state-by-state. In the Summer of 2019, Texas passed HB 963 which instructed the Texas Education Agency to consolidate their Technology Applications programs (core Computer Science) with the CTE Information Technology program to remove duplicative courses and get Computer Science the same funding weight as CTE. We may see more states gaining IT students by combining Computer Science and CTE Information Technology programs in the future.
  • Energy is being heralded as the 17th Career Cluster, as more states add it to their CTE programs. To date, California, Florida, Georgia, Texas, and Virginia all have their own “Energy” Career Cluster, while other states have added it as a new Career Pathway beneath other Clusters as Colorado has with Agriculture.

Setting up Programs for Perkins Funding Success

Setting up Programs for Perkins Funding Success entails an understanding Perkins V, which was re-signed into law in July 2018. However, CTE administrators can safely build out their programs knowing they will help meet Perkins Indicators if they focus on the following questions for each of their Career Pathways:

Each state may very well have tools to help districts offer these pieces of their programs, from state listings of careers that meet the state’s threshold for high-skill, high-wage, and in-demand like Nebraska’s h3 site, to approved industry certification or credentials lists (Ex. Florida CAPE List), to nontraditional occupations resources (Ex: Kansas DOE) and WBL planning tools (Ex. CareerWise Colorado). Some key national tools to use for any state are linked in the list above.

Keep in mind that many industry certifications are too-high a level for High School CTE students, even focused and engaged ones, and may have age restrictions. When looking for industry certifications to align to your courses and programs, consider the following questions:

  • • Can students take this certification in high school? (under age 18)
    • How many testing sessions will it take
    • Will the teachers get feedback to help improve their courses?
    • Is the certification stackable or a good indicator of “door opener” certifications students may earn after high school?
    • Can that certification explain its value/the skills competency from brand recognition and on the certificate itself?

A great resource to start thinking about industry certification is to check our Industry Certification Brochure to see which industry certifications our titles and digital resources align to and how MindTap, the online solution for CTE courses, which offers virtual simulations, practice questions, and more to prepare students for their exams.

Encourage the Career Journey

There are many ways to Encouraging the Career Journey for students from offering a more robust and hands-on career exploration curriculum, to virtual simulations, or in-person work-based learning experiences and Career and Technical Student Organization (CSTO) competitions. But one way that is easy to add to conversations with a work-based learning advisor or career counselor is to offer Professional Role Models for students that they would otherwise never have met in their personal lives. CTE teachers are used to incorporating their own real-world experiences and offering job shadowing in-person or virtual class speakers, or interview projects as part of the student’s grade. National Geographic Learning, a part of Cengage CTE curriculum almost always includes in-text and digital features with the goal of offering real-world experience and a professional perspective for students to truly understand what it’s like to work that job.

Videos, virtual simulations, or branching, decision-making scenarios are often integrated into MindTap, the online learning solution for CTE courses to offer some real-world experience from the pros. This ExploreInside Blog is now offering a new series of blog posts called the CAREER JOURNEYS blog series that highlights real professionals in careers aligned to the 16 (soon to be 17) Career Clusters, with O*Net Career Outlook information as well as their answers to the following questions:

      1. Describe your Career Journey (including education, certs, skills, or personal qualities that led to your job)
      2. How does your role interact with others?
      3. What do you like best about your role?
      4. What challenges do you have?
      5. How do you expect your role or industry to change?
      6. What advice would you give a high school student?

With Career Journeys, we hope to expose more professionals to the CTE student journey and more CTE students to real-world examples of what it’s like to train for find and work in modern careers with an eye to the future changes coming our way.

Examples of textbook features that highlight the professional’s voice, career journey, or advice.

WATCH the October 8th webinar where I investigate the top Career Pathways offered in Middle through High School that lead to high paying, high growing jobs. From an exploration of public data from the Department of Labor and published Career Education trends, to recorded interviews of real-world professionals on the job, and conversations with hundreds of teachers—learn about emerging opportunities for updating, changing, or rebuilding CTE Career Pathways. This session focuses on recommendations that are in line with Perkins V Performance indicators by highlighting Secondary Career Pathways and emerging courses that offer opportunities to encourage students to achieve CTE Concentrator Status and engage in Work-Based Learning experiences.

Imagine Tomorrow

Tomorrow will not look like today. The way you teach, connect and engage students will continue to evolve. Whether you are continuing distance learning or heading back to classrooms, or a hybrid, we are here to help support you: curriculum, digital support, technical support, and professional training. National Geographic Learning is ready to help your classroom prepare for tomorrow.
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