A Back-to-School Message for CTE Educators

Mary Shumway, State Director of Career and Technical Education

Mary Shumway, State Director of Career and Technical Education

Don’t think of summer ending …think of school beginning!

It’s hard to believe but it’s that time of the year again – the beginning of a new school year. As Career and Technical Education (CTE) educators, you no doubt spent part of your summer updating your knowledge and skills to ensure that your classroom experiences are better than ever. Welcome back!

In recent years Career and Technical Education has faced some challenges. Between No Child Left Behind legislation, increased graduation requirements in math and science, accountability in academic subjects and budget cuts, CTE has had difficulty maintaining a full range of options in some schools.

But a recent article – “Stop Stigmatizing Vocational Education” (published online by RealClearPolicy, a catch-all source for policy news and commentary) – suggests that Career and Technical Education needs to become a greater focus in our education system. New technologies (e.g., hydraulic fracturing), global economic trends (e.g., rising wages in Asia), and domestic policy changes are bringing new energy and manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.

What does this mean for today’s CTE students? Even as our nation redefines the knowledge and skill requirements of these new energy and manufacturing jobs, the CTE experiences offer your students today are designed to ensure they are college and career ready. That’s because not only does CTE help students develop technical knowledge and skills, CTE also offers opportunities to develop the social capital, employability skills, and the positive work ethic to make them competitive in the global marketplace.

You can help your students maximize their CTE experiences this year by encouraging them to:

  1. Develop a meaningful College and Career Plan. Make sure they are talking with counselors about what types of high school courses are available to help them learn the hands-on skills needed to succeed in their careers of interest. They will need advice about what postsecondary options are most likely to promote their success, given both their personal and career goals. For most students this plan must also include specific information about how to pay the costs associated with postsecondary training.
  2. Commit to a CTE Career Pathway. A Pathway is like an educational map that will guide students to the high school and postsecondary options that best support their career goals. As educators, you need to be well-versed in the Pathways that are available to students, and especially promote the courses you teach as associated with a Pathway.
  3. Participate in a Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO). Promote the CTSO most related and active for your CTE Area of Study. As you’re aware, every CTSO is designed to advance student leadership, citizenship, and professionalism. The opportunities your students have to be involved in service projects, showcase their technical skills, and network with one another are invaluable to them, but your students’ success will also help you build your programs.
  4. Take advantage of the Skill Certificate Program. The Skill Certificate tests associated with your CTE Area of Study, are great for students, but are also an invaluable public relations tool. Parents and the general public like to be assured that students are learning, and competency-based assessment offers the objective data they’re looking for.
  5. Take part in Work-Based Learning. Internships, Service Learning, Job Shadows, Field Studies and Career Fairs are just some of the ways for students to be involved in learning that extends beyond your classroom. Your involvement in planning or providing such opportunities will make those connections even stronger.

Career and Technical Education is the most meaningful part of high school for many, many students. For some it provides a much-needed glimpse into the future where they can successfully compete for interesting, well-paying jobs. For others it might simply be the first taste of an area of study that they will want to pursue in more depth in high school and beyond.

As a CTE educator, you play the most critical role in delivering a quality learning experience to your students. Quite simply, CTE couldn’t happen without you, and we appreciate all you do. Best wishes for the best school year yet! Please let us know how we can promote your success by sharing stories and comments via email: UtahCTE@gmail.com.

Mary Shumway is the State Director of Career, Technical, and Adult Education at the Utah State Office of Education.

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