Reenvisioning Career and Technical InformationPosted on 07/02/2015
As the United States and global economies continue undergoing the shocks and rapid transformations that have occurred over the last several decades, policy makers, parents, students, and educators are rethinking the roles education and training play in employment. Tens of thousands of practitioners and policymakers across our country have worked tirelessly over the last few years to ensure that "vocational" education–as our parents knew it–is over.
For a number of years now, this reenvisioning has been taking place in the United States, leading to significant changes in what was formerly called "vocational education" and now re-designated as "career and technical education." Advocates of re-envisioned CTE emphasize that high-quality CTE programs must promote student learning that is both abstract and concrete, as well as teach such skills as teamwork, critical thinking, and collaboration that are essential to modern workplace environments. CTE is now expected to prepare a student of any age for a career at any time of his or her choosing.
There is a high need for workers in many skilled trades as well as applied science and technology fields. But employers frequently express dissatisfaction with the lack of knowledge and skills among jobseekers, and thus question the abilities of high schools and colleges to effectively prepare their graduates to enter the workforce. At the same time, many students do not feel they are adequately prepared in the classroom to obtain jobs. As a result, there is heightened interest in improving CTE among policy makers, and employers seeking a skilled workforce, as well as parents, students, and educators who are a part of or support that workforce.
Despite the availability of high-quality CTE programs, there remains an unfortunate stigma surrounding CTE. Too many students do not know about these rigorous pathways into postsecondary education and a well-paying job or rewarding career. Too many parents think about CTE using their own experiences with "shop class" as a reference. Too many members of the general public who have yet to learn that CTE is not only a viable, rigorous option, but a path into the middle class.
The Obama Administration is committed to doing its part to change the perceptions of CTE. On Monday, June 22, President Obama signed an Executive Order expanding the U. S. Presidential Scholars Program to include students who demonstrate scholarship, ability, and accomplishment in CTE. This Executive Order builds on great collaboration between the executive and legislative branches of government, and reflects the hard work of teams of individuals at the White House, on the Hill, and in the Department. We are extremely grateful for this effort. It moves CTE out of the periphery and raises it to a level of federally-recognized prestige on par with traditional academic pathways and the arts.
A fall 2014 issue of American Educator was devoted to reenvisioning CTE. The publication asserts that there are multiple roads to success in school and in life, and that CTE pathways that are as rigorous as academic ones are critical to successful and rewarding careers. American Educator highlights several of these pathways with the view that they and other CTE initiatives must be vertically aligned and coordinated between secondary and postsecondary programs. Educators, unions, businesses, and community leaders must work together to provide students access to the high-quality programs they will need in order to be successful members of the modern workforce.