Office of Vocational and Adult Education Becomes Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education

Students in a studio

Technology is a critical tool for career readiness at the Duke Ellington School for the Arts in Washington, DC.

February is Career and Technical Education (CTE) month, and what could be more fitting than to announce that the name of the Office of Vocational and Adult Education has been changed to the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE). Vocational education was recognized as a national priority with the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917. “Career and Technical Education” has now replaced “vocational education” as a more accurate term to describe what and how students are studying to be career ready.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said, “The president and I believe that high-quality CTE programs are a vital strategy for helping our diverse students complete their secondary and postsecondary studies.” He acknowledged that those on a CTE track are helping our nation meet our economic and workforce challenges. “In fact, by implementing dual enrollment and early college models, a growing number of CTE pathways are helping students to fast-track their college degrees.”

Natalie Tran, a Future Business Leaders of America chapter president at River Hill High School in Clarksville, Md., told ED, “[In CTE] over time, you gain confidence—you know what you are doing, you know that you are able to go into the workforce . . . And it’s all about—knowledge is power, and that’s what CTE provides us.”

In 2012, the Obama Administration released Investing in America’s Future, A Blueprint for Transforming Career and Technical Education. The Blueprint calls for effective, high-quality CTE programs aligned with college- and career-readiness standards. These programs provide work-based learning opportunities that enable students to connect what they are learning to real-life career scenarios and choices. Students participating in effective CTE programs graduate with industry certifications or licenses and postsecondary certificates or degrees that prepare them for in-demand careers within high-growth industry sectors.

Student with headphones

A CTE student at the Veterans Tribute Career Technical Academy in Las Vegas, Nev., explains her project to OCTAE Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier

Alvon Brown, a student from The Edison Academy at Edison High School in Alexandria, Va., studied to become an HVAC technician in CTE. He told ED, “. . . instead of just staying with being an HVAC technician, I want to become an engineer and work with HVAC, because I like creating stuff, and I like working—not only do I like working with my hands, I like thinking about what I can do with my hands.”

The Office of Vocational and Adult Education has had a rich history of being in the forefront of career, technical and adult education, providing funding and technical assistance to the career pathways movement, for instance. OCTAE continues to be the office in ED responsible for administering federal CTE programs, as well as the partner adult education programs. The Congressionally-mandated change in name to OCTAE acknowledges the CTE reality and looks to the future as it advances the priorities around preparing all youth and adult students for success in college and careers.


  1. I have a concern for our students that ride the bus.As we see the bulling and disrespect for each other I would like to see a bus aide/monitor on every bus.It would provide safety for the driver and the students and the parents would feel safer as they have to work. They need to be trained in first aid,CPR,and restraining.They also need to be equip in the latest technology and code words these kids use now. I feel if we can stop the issues before school starts we can have calmer classrooms for everyone to have a better learning environment. Please consider this post and I would appreciate your feedback.Thank You,Nancy

  2. I dropped out of high school. I am 25 years old & want to learn automotive skills. Do I Need my GEDs. Where could I start learning after work – evening classes for free? Please help me! I live in Brooklyn, New York. Thank you.

  3. It is nice that CTE seems to be a priority on paper. However, most schools cannot afford the programs. The money that was once used for IA/CT&E is now being used to fund the unfunded mandates that the federal government has imposed over the the past 4 decades. (Special Education, No Child Left Behind, Title 9, and all of the other mandates that the Department of education put in place and then fund at less than 50%) Thus schools have to rob Peter in order to pay Paul.
    If the Department of Education and the federal government really want to support school to careers they need to fund the programs they have put in place in other areas. Otherwise their actions are just lip service.

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