~by Tom O’Hern
We often see and hear the acronym “CTE.” What does Career and Technical Education actually entail for high school students?
DECA, Business Professionals of America (BPA), AVID, science, technology and math (STEM) initiatives … These are just some of the high school programs occurring each and every day alongside CTE often with similar goals and intents.
The awesome collaborations I have had with many CTE teachers and their students for several years now has left me with one constant and observable theme: the CTE teacher’s strong desire for applicable opportunities to which students can tangibly grasp success. It’s more than just exposure to new things—it’s a desire to directly linking that student to a pathway for high school and post-high school education and employment.
I’ve also observed “universal teacher advocacy” to which CTE teachers are some of the most insistent educators I know. They listen intently to what their students are interested in and then try to fill that interest with academic, industry and community resources.
This exhausting advocacy includes high-volume student caseloads, a plethora of student Individual Education Plans or Personal Learning Plans, student attendance/absenteeism inconsistencies, student credit recovery … you name it. The CTE teacher has this winding flow of factors that sometimes is askew from what many deem as traditional and normative education practices.
In my own educational lens, the ultimate goal is for CTE students to be their own advocates when exploring the world of work. To ultimately grasp workplace competencies is what the CTE teacher evokes.
I, in turn, try to provide meaningful opportunities for those teachers with two focus features: (1) To provide resources and strategies that do not add more work for the teacher (2) The experiential activity (whether in-class or at a community business location) is meaningful for the students and adheres to the teachers classroom curriculum.
Student career pathways, career and college readiness programs, and circular core clusters are only so effective unless there are adult advocates within any profit or non-profit organization willing to open doors for student opportunity. For example, the continual employee shortages in manufacturing businesses (metals, printing, etc.) in Minnesota is expansive. Filling those gaps is imperative.
The answer does not lay in the lap of CTE alone. It’s a partnership that needs champions and advocates on both the education and the employer sides. The CTE bridge is strong, but the path for students to cross over into the workplace is paved by all who are willing to create and follow-through with commitments to student success.
Tom O’Hern is our guest blogger and High School Program Manager for Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest