America is experiencing a skills gap with employers struggling to find workers, especially in industries that include technical and trade positions. We’re also seeing learners demand more choice and flexibility in their paths from education to employment. They want to be sure the education they choose leads to a secure, well-paying job. Career and technical education (CTE) could be the answer.
CTE encompasses training and education programs that prepare learners for careers in high-skill areas, including:
- Agricultural Sciences
- Building and Construction (Electrical, HVAC, Plumbing and Welding)
- Culinary Arts
With the designation of February as CTE Month, the Association for Career and Technical Education hopes to raise awareness about the benefits of CTE programs and the importance of CTE for learners of all ages.
To learn more about career and technical education and its benefits, we spoke to Jason F., Portfolio Product Director and Jamie D., Senior Director, Marketing.
Jason is the Product Director for Career, Pre-Professional, and Career and Technical Education. He leads a team of product managers who are responsible for the strategy, development and delivery of Cengage Group’s products in these course areas. His team identifies student and instructor needs, tracks competitor moves and monitors market trends to develop products best suited for today’s learners.
Jamie leads a product marketing team for National Geographic Learning K-12. Her team helps ensure customers are aware of our solutions and understand how we meet their needs to make a difference in the lives of students and teachers. She has been working in education for 20 years, starting as an elementary school teacher and moving through campus and district administration before entering EdTech.
5 Benefits of Career and Technical Education
“For so long, CTE was an afterthought, even seen as a pathway that students were put on when it was determined that college was ‘not for them.’ I’m so grateful that over the last decade there has been a push to increase awareness of the value of CTE for all students,” says Jamie. Career and technical education is an increasingly popular choice for learners and there are many benefits for students and employers.
1. CTE and Student Choice
College admissions are declining in part due to the increasing cost of a 4-year degree. Students are looking for other options and career and technical education is one of those paths. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 8.3 million high school students participated in CTE pathways in 2020-2021, up from 7.5 million the previous year.
Jamie says, “No student should be pushed towards one pathway or another. Rather, students should be exposed to multiple opportunities, which could include a CTE certification/profession, college coursework, a degree or a combination.”
“So much of student success is determined by passion and interest. And so much of K-12 education is dictated by what student must do including courses that students must take,” continues Jamie. “We know that one of the most critical aspects of student engagement is being able to answer the question, ‘why do I need to know this?’ Career and technical education is an opportunity for students to discover their interests and passions, choose what to study and oftentimes, as a result, find their future.”
High school students who complete at least two course credits in a career pathway have about a 95% graduation rate, according to federal data. That’s about 10% higher than the national average. One study found that students who completed a CTE pathway scored significantly higher on the ACT composite math, science, English, reading and writing assessments than those who did not participate in one.
The U.S. Department of Education also found that high school students enrolled in CTE are college and career ready – 94% graduate high school and most enroll directly in college. And accessing CTE in high school can allow students who pursue higher education to save money by completing some college classes before high school graduation.
2. Flexibility of Career and Technical Education
At Cengage Group, our career and technical education courses and programs are not just used in high schools. You can find CTE in a variety of institutions, including two- and four-year colleges, career/technical schools and through continuing education and professional development. Our products support in-person, online and hybrid courses making CTE an accessible choice for learners of all ages. In fact, 92% of high school students and 69% of college and adult students are engaged in CTE, learning academic and technical skills in the classroom and on the job.
“No matter where people are in their educational journey or career, our content can help them develop the skills they need,” says Jason. “Many students are balancing families, careers and other responsibilities with school. The flexible and learn-anywhere approach of ed2go, MindTap and our other offerings is critical to many students’ success.” CTE students earn industry certifications and licenses, postsecondary certificates, associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees and higher.
CTE prepares workers for hands on careers in many fields and digital education can prepare them for field work in a safe environment. “We focus on teaching the concept, checking for understanding, then having the student apply it,” says Jason. “We have simulations in most of these course areas where the student is doing the work in a virtual environment.
For example, Dental Assisting and Surgical Tech students set up trays with the proper equipment. HVAC students set up systems and diagnose issues. Insurance Billing and Coding learners work through cases, reviewing the procedures and assigning the proper codes.”
3. Closing the CTE Skills Gap
The United States is currently experiencing a skills-gap, meaning there are more open jobs then there are people who have the skills to do those jobs. But career and technical education can help reduce labor shortages for skilled jobs.
“The shortage of skilled workers is widely known. Every course area we work in is seeing severe shortages including nursing, healthcare, electrical, automotive, HVAC, welding, machining and more,” says Jason. “Employers are desperate to fill rolls. Our products often fit shorter and faster courses. We cover the needed materials in a comprehensive yet efficient manner, allowing new workers to fill these roles quickly.”
“Employers and schools are working together in new models to recruit, train and hire new people. In the same way, we’re working with these institutions to offer quality learning at an affordable cost, thus breaking down barriers for new students who may not be able to otherwise pursue education,” says Jason.
Jamie adds, “Whether one decides to go to college or to directly enter the workforce, the knowledge gained through CTE courses provide real-world skills with direct application. Those who enter the workforce after high school have skills that will allow them to go straight into a professional position or allow them to obtain an apprenticeship to begin their career.”
4. Job Security in a High-Paying Field
“The greatest benefit is that these are jobs that are not going away. In fact, demand is going to continue to grow. The number of healthcare workers needed continues to increase while the pool of talent shrinks. As baby boomers retire, roles are opening up while the number of people needing healthcare services is growing,” says Jason.
“The need for electricians and HVAC and plumbers continues to grow, whether to support new builds or in maintenance. As manufacturing returns to the US, we’re seeing growth in machining and welding. With the shortage of workers in these areas, we’re seeing increased wages and benefits.”
According to the Association for Career & Technical Education (ACTE), CTE associate degrees can pay $10,000 more than associate degrees in other fields and can even pay more than bachelor’s degrees while limiting student debt.
5. A Path to Employment
Career and technical education prepares the workforce across a wide range of industries and occupations and is critical to preparing learners for well-paying jobs. Many of these jobs have required certification exams and CTE programs can provide tools for successful completion.
“Many high school students know early on the traditional four-year university experience is not the right route for them. However, without CTE in high school they graduate and most look for employment without the skills required for many of the roles that are available to them,” says Jason. “By pursuing an education in CTE while in high school, students are more prepared to enter the workforce directly post-graduation. The opportunities available to them are much greater.”
CTE students are often connected with mentors or can complete internships in their chosen fields, putting them on a successful path to employment when they complete their studies. Jamie shares a wonderful story about how her husband, John, is helping prepare the next generation of CTE students for employment:
“My husband has worked for Caterpillar for 25 years after starting as an intern during college. John was the first person in his family to graduate from college, and education has always been a passion of his. Over the years, he’s been on a local school board and a local college board to help develop their certification programs.”
“Through his work at Caterpillar, John led a partnership with the manufacturing academy at a high school. Through mentoring, service and internship opportunities, students were offered real-world experience. Five students who served as interns joined Caterpillar as full-time employees upon their graduation! I am so proud of the work John has done to expand CTE opportunities in our community over the years, and I am now so grateful to be part of an organization that has such a legacy of commitment to CTE and all that it offers to students and our future.”
Cengage Group Provides High-Quality Career and Technical Education
Jamie, who recently joined Cengage Group, is impressed with the breadth and depth of our career and technical education programs. She says, “the more I have learned about the experiences we offer for students, the prouder I am to be part of such an amazing organization.”
Jason adds, “we pride ourselves on quality learning. We look closely at the pedagogy of our content to ensure it is helping the student achieve the desired outcomes of the course. We put an emphasis on practical, hands-on learning, where possible. Every product goes through a thorough diversity, equity and inclusion review to ensure all our learners can see themselves in a successful career in a given area.”
As Marty Lange, SVP, General Manager, Secondary Education, National Geographic Learning - Cengage, recently wrote on LinkedIn, “by making CTE an equally valid step between high school and career, we can make sure that students of all types feel ready to take on the world.”
If you’re interested in learning more about career and technical education courses offered by Cengage Group, please visit our website to learn more about what we do.