ASSOCIATION FOR CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION®
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Editorial Note: The following was written by ACTE Executive Director LeAnn Wilson in response to an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun. That op-ed can be found here.
On January 1, William Durden published an op-ed titled, “Creating a credible alternative to college.” Unfortunately, while his desire for an improved education system is clear, he completely overlooks the clear solution – stronger investments in today’s high-quality career and technical education system.
Today, what used to be known as “vocational education” is referred to as career and technical education (CTE). CTE encompasses dozens of career pathways and prepares students for both college success and a wide range of high-wage, high-skill and high-demand careers. CTE is academically rigorous (CTE students are more likely to meet college and career readiness goals) and student demand is high: more than 90% of students take at least one CTE class.
Mr. Durden’s piece suggests that “the nation needs a robust, well-respected job-preparation alternative to college that begins in high school and seamlessly continues into advanced education and training” – and CTE is that system!
Mr. Durden goes on to warn that “teaching technical skills merely to meet the requirements of a current job is not sufficient.” He is exactly right, but the CTE system of today has already moved away from that approach. CTE doesn’t just teach a specific set of skills meant for careers limited to existing workforce needs. Rather, today’s CTE offers a strong set of academic, technical and employability skills embedded in broader Career Clusters that prepare students to be lifelong learners and advance along career pathways. And, while education in the skills trades is critical to American economic competitiveness and can lead to high-wage careers (e.g. the average salary of a plumber is $55,000), one has to look no further than the city of Baltimore for examples of new and innovative CTE programming that prepares students for careers of the future as well.
For instance, Baltimore City Public Schools offer a robust array of CTE pathways, from information technology and engineering to health and biosciences. What’s more, these programs allow students to earn industry-recognized credentials from companies like Cisco, Oracle and Microsoft, all while still in high school. Students also have the opportunity to earn professional certifications, and each year city high schoolers become certified EMTs, nursing assistants and pharmacy technicians, among other careers.
Lastly, Mr. Durden seems to argue that educational alternatives to four-year colleges don’t exist. In reality, there are over 1,700 2-year colleges across the country, and just like at Baltimore City Community College and the Community College of Baltimore County, many of these postsecondary institutions partner with local secondary schools to offer early college credit through CTE programs of study. These programs offer students the opportunity to work in fields ranging from cybersecurity to veterinary medicine to business management.
This doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to improve CTE. Dedicated educators and professionals work to do this every day. But instead of ignoring existing CTE programs, advocates should focus their efforts on ways that the new Congress and Trump Administration can expand opportunity for all students. Two major items on the federal legislative agenda in particular could help to do this.
First, Congress should reauthorize and update the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act to reflect innovations in the CTE ecosystem and restore Perkins funding to 2010 levels. Funding cuts have real consequences, and Maryland has since seen an adjusted 24 percent decrease in federal Perkins dollars. Second, Congress can increase access to community colleges and certification programs by making important changes to financial aid eligibility during this year’s reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
Robust, comprehensive and rigorous CTE exists as a path to the middle-class for millions of Americans. But student opportunities are often hampered by misconceptions about today’s CTE and/or plagued by inadequate funding. With the support of Congress and stakeholders across the country, every student can have a shot at the American dream.
LeAnn Wilson is the executive director of the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), the nation’s largest nonprofit association committed to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for successful careers. ACTE represents tens of thousands of educators, administrators and other education professionals across the country.
Posted by Jarrod Nagurka on 01/18/2017 at 01:27 PM in In the News | Permalink
Career and Technical Education, CTE
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