As Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month comes to a close, let’s join in giving another thanks to our CTE teachers and administrators across the country! Their passion and commitment to empowering students in gaining career and life skills is truly energizing, especially at this shifting time in our educational history here in the U.S.
We’ve seen a sea of change over the last few years. We are now celebrating, not stigmatizing, students’ desires to learn “real-life” skills. While a 4-year college experience remains a vital path, new opportunities have rocketed forward with students in the driver’s seats. In a recent survey of Americans by Populace, college enrollment went from the 10th highest priority of a K-12 education prior to COVID, to the 47th priority now; and practical skills is newly the #1 priority for education. This change coincides with the Secretary of Education’s recent “Dear Colleague” letter imploring states and districts to use ARP and ESSER funding to expedite student pathways into high demand careers and help solve our labor and skills shortages. Students, industry, government, and educators are aligned and pushing forward in amazing ways.
As an example, in recent conversations with state Health Science education leaders, I learned about their efforts to meet the demands of the health care industry. They are moving introductory health science programs into middle school and streamlining high school course sequences to successfully move students into the workforce prior to graduation. With early work exposure, learners are motivated to continue their education and training beyond secondary education.
Looking at a different career cluster, I was struck by a request for information this past fall from the National Cyber Director noting a staggering 700,000 open Cyber Security positions right now and a siren call to solve this problem. Relatedly, the Tennessee Department of Education recently developed standards requiring Computer Science as a course needed for graduation. This early exposure and understanding of cyber careers for students, along with continued development through middle and high school with skills-training, certifications, and internships are key to us protecting our networks and digital lives.
This focus on building career paths rings true for many CTE disciplines such as the automotive programs, HVAC, electrical, agricultural science, business, and more being run in secondary schools across the county. All making strides at building skills for careers in demand. At Cengage, we are honored to partner with these educators by providing industry-aligned skill-building learning materials. But it’s these teachers’ palpable passion at a unique transitional time in our educational history that owns the day. Let’s celebrate CTE teachers this month, and all year long!