Brian Will was inspired to investigate careers in family and consumer sciences in seventh grade. Today the Deep Run High School student is a consultant to the FCCLA Virginia state association and on track to pursue college and the career path of his choice.
Alvon Brown found inspiration in the mechanical processes of working with his hands in an HVAC career and technical education program, and is now eager to pursue engineering after graduating from The Edison Academy at Edison High School.
Brian and Alvon’s stories are just two of many that illustrate the impact of early career and technical education awareness. Many similar stories were told about how career and technical education is addressing the nation’s skills gap at a recent ED Policy Briefing to celebration National CTE Month at the U.S. Department of Education.
“The students were spectacular,” Assistant Secretary of Vocational and Adult Education Brenda Dann-Messier said of the panelists at the briefing. “They were poised, articulate, self-confident and spoke eloquently about their CTE experiences and how well prepared they are for college and to pursue the career of their choice.” Also joining Brown and Will on the panel were Natalie Tran, the Future Business Leaders of America chapter president at River Hill High School, and David Kelly, the national president of the Health Occupations Students Association (HOSA) and an undergraduate at New York University.
Dann-Messier and Senior Advisor on College Access Greg Darnieder hosted a pair of conversations – one with educators and business leaders, and a second with Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) participants. Both conversations focused attention on the need for better alignment between high-quality CTE programs and the labor market, more collaboration among industry, secondary and postsecondary education partners, accountability for improving academic outcomes, and the need to support innovation.
Employers are seeking people with the skills to fill more than three million job vacancies each month. Whether you believe there is a skills gap or a training gap, early career awareness is an important part of the solution. Marie Zwickert, a business development manager for Cisco, emphasized the need to address the lack of technical and workforce readiness skills by raising standards and increasing participation in secondary and postsecondary CTE programs.
Last year, the Obama Administration proposed a blueprint for raising standards and transforming CTE nationally. High-quality CTE programs and Career Academies, like the Cisco Networking Academy, and CTSOs, teach employability skills that include working in effective teams, communications and problem solving, and help to increase students’ technical content knowledge and understanding.
Where rigor and expectations are high, CTE students display a sense of pride that attracts other students to the programs. Students are earning industry-recognized credentials in a wide array of sectors, gaps between college and career readiness are closing, and doors are opening for students to pursue today’s in-demand jobs and the careers of the future.
John White is Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education