Impersonal, strictly academic classes are taking the back seat when met with the challenge of America’s future. These traditional classes alone are no longer sufficient to meeting student or workforce needs. To develop skills and understanding necessary for attainment in post-secondary education, career, or social life students should be exposed and given the opportunity to participate and engage in career technical education programs (Hull 20-22). Career technical education programs force students out of their educational comfort zones and increases their employ- ability skills. It integrates core academic material in a manner that pushes students to not only learn the basics of their core classes, but also to develop 21st-century skills such as working efficiently in a team, communicating effectively, and applying critical thinking to their area of study. These proficiencies are key factors that America is in desperate need for (Office of Vocational and Adult Education). The increase of career technical focused education will aid in filling the gap between the workforce and its prerequisite for highly capable entry level workers, increase the interest in high school, therefore improving graduation rates and preparing students rigorously for college (Zinth, Dounay, and States Education Commission of the).
There are students all over the United States who are learning both contextually and applicably and enjoying it. They enter a career technical education program and find a sense of purpose. This purpose comes from the diversity incorporated into these programs. Career technical education provides a strong basis for academic based and work based skills and allows students to be exposed to many educational and career choices by providing sixteen national career clusters and seventy-nine programs of pathways. Curriculums developed are meant to integrate academic topics such as math and science, but they go further than “studying and test taking.” The courses of study show students why knowledge of math and science, or other core subjects, are required and then encourage the students to directly apply this knowledge in a hand on manner (Hull 8). It is the best of both worlds and students connect when they can put resources into practice and not just on paper.
There are approximately 4 million students enrolled in CTE programs in the US and there are 1,300 high school CTE programs (Partnership for 21st). The system has grown because governors, legislators, and agency boards are realizing that college and career readiness is essential for America’s economy. The workforce is desperate for employees that are ready when they enter their career, but facts show that many individuals coming out of high school do not have the abilities to be successful for long periods of time beyond their high school setting. Forty-two percent of employers declared that they do not believe that new employees out of high school are efficient and prepared for work (Partnership for 21st). In the United States of America and the world, the economy is in high demand for individuals who have acquired and developed and wide range of occupational and technical training and abilities. There is a fight to fill available positions because there is a mismatch of talent between worker qualifications and the specific training and combinations of skills that those who are hiring are in need of (Partnership for 21st).
In today’s society, young workers overall are highly educated in the technology field, but they lack the talent criterion or attentiveness in careers that are based on creating, repairing, designing, and applying a great amount of 21st-centruy technologies (Partnership for 21st). Head officials state that they are in a drought when it comes to having an employee team that is completely equipped with knowledge and abilities beyond the basics of arithmetic, reading, and writing (Partnership for 21st). The shortage of skills is increasingly cutting deep across industry sectors and the reality is that the technical skills and information of retiring baby boomers will have to be supplemented (Partnership for 21st). Economic competitiveness, recovery, and growth are being jeopardized by the shortage of skills in our science, technology, engineering, and mathematic fields. There are enough workers, but there are not enough who are equipped and skilled workers to meet the demands of the 21st century (Partnership for 21st). Acknowledging the need of career technical education programs cannot be ignored.
In Oklahoma, the Southern Oklahoma Technology Center is now housing the Oklahoma CTE Biotechnology Center to support the state’s key economic force, which is the bioscience sector. High school students in this program have the opportunity to develop understanding of DNA and RNA technology and also experience agricultural and environmental science technology. Students take on research projects and participate in internship programs to advance their current knowledge and to introduce more information on the foundational level of biotechnology and AP environmental science and biology (Partnership for 21st). There are many other career technical programs that are being initiated and need to continue to be introduced into our secondary educational system. Direct career related programs such as animation, construction, and culinary arts prepare students with the knowledge to graduate with a degree that not only says they are capable of basic high school academics, but also with skills that will contribute to their specific career area (Meeder, Hans, Suddreth, and Inc. Achieve). Many career technical programs offer students the opportunity to become certified in high school in distinct career focused programs; for example, students are able to obtain certifications that deal with child education, health, and welding.
Another problem that is evident is students wh11o do not have access to CTE programs feel inadequate and inferior, therefore they tend to progress little or not at all and eventually drop out. A study in 2007 showed that 16 percent of persons in age range from 16 to 24 were high school dropouts and nearly half of drop outs stated that their reasoning for leaving their high schools was because the classes were uninteresting. After students’ progress from freshman year they become extremely apathetic and less engaged in the following three years of high school. According to the ACT, only twenty-five percent of high school seniors are actually prepared for college. One study displayed that America was one of the only Organization for Economic and Development countries with an older generation that has a higher level of high school or equivalent success than the younger generation (Partnership for 21st). This lack of competence in the United States’ school systems are detrimental to our society and put the U.S at a drawback.
Career Technical programs are made to meet the needs of all students and this has created the misconception that these programs are lowering their academic standards, but this is not the case (Hull 22). The coursework is never watered down, but the teaching style is altered to the student. Career technical programs recognize that each student learns in a different manner and acknowledges that not every student may be advanced in the logical intelligence form. It helps to build up students in every form of intelligence, including, linguistic, special, interpersonal, and even musical intelligence. Teachers use social, cultural, physical, and psychological forms to encourage the connection and retention of course material. Relationships between real-world applications and abstract ideas are discovered and concepts are internalized. This approach reaches all students and helps them to excel in their strictly academic classes and society. This kind of approach to curriculum allows for empowerment in a student’s learning environment (Hull 8).
The fact that entering individuals are not to the level expected from employers is obvious, but skeptics believe that more investment into career technical programs may not be the answer to the problem. There are individuals with the opinion and concern that more money should be spent on traditional academic programs because the vision of non-traditional or vocational programs as a step back into the past. Core academic programs do incorporate much more material at a quicker pace, but if students cannot grasp the concepts they depend highly on test taking skills, memorization, or even cheating. Students who are not able to retain the information due to the environment in which the material is taught will walk out of the classroom with possibly only skills to know how to take a test. Furthermore, students are left with the impression that they are unable to meet up to society’s standards and will be unsuccessful and misperception can be detrimental to a student’s future and America’s. The barriers in front of career technical education can further delay the productive change that is needed. Advocators are working to change perspectives on student success, nontraditional schooling, and career pathways. By declaring clear objectives, including all individuals in each community, and recognizing change is a process; educational systems can begin to transform their schools and supply their students with the appropriate materials and curriculums to ensure successful and promising futures for the bodies that attend their classes and walk their hallway (Hull 184-189).
There is always going to be that opposing side that stands cautious to different ways of executing education, but the continuation to keep an open mind for each and every student that passes through the doors of a school must stay in place. Each and every individual needs to be recognized because they will have an effect on society as a whole. Every student who does not enter the workforce or who does not go to college leaves America at a disadvantage. Each student counts in career technical education programs and this is clearly visible. Career technical education programs do more than change a student’s way of thinking; they enhance their life. Students, who may have trouble in a general calculus class, but apply those math principles to crop yield or business theories and they are geniuses. Students who may be timid in English, but they stand out in an interview process and can successfully run a meeting based on parliamentary procedure rules. These students developed these skills from their career technical programs they enrolled in. On the opposite end, a large number of students who were not enrolled in a CTE program may have been able to ace a chemistry test, but do not recognize basic skills such as the ability to read a ruler.
The standards of career technical educational programs are high. Academics incorporated are put in place to follow the curriculum of the school, but also prepare individuals for postsecondary education or even employment right out of high school (Hull 22-23). CTE programs enhance students in the communications category by enforcing effective oral and written communications and recognize the importance of being trained in communications. In these programs, students develop decision making skills that help them become more decisive and discover possible career and personal plans. Emerging technology is a main focus that allows students to progress with society by exposing them to diverse technology sources available today. Also, students walk away with developed skills in problem-solving, analytical and logical reasoning, and applicable leadership concepts and experiences (Folkers).
These programs are proving to be more than just another class, but a life changing experience. These programs have the potential to encourage students to be more than they ever thought capable by building their esteem, advancing their academic understanding, and helping them progress to a potential career field for many years to come (Hull 25). Approaching academics from a one-dimensional view in high schools leads to a barrier to training and education in college for a great amount of students. Career and technical education serves as the missing link between high school and postsecondary education; resolving the many concerns of a student’s future. Integrating career technical programs into our school systems give students a grand opportunity and rejecting this concept positions education and the workforce in an opportunity lost format. They provide students with an alternative schooling method who would have otherwise been discouraged and also retain high school students throughout their entire high school career. Career technical programs enable students to learn broad and specific skills, not just a one track pathway. The organization of the programs into sixteen career clusters allows for students to access many career opportunities and support. This also serves as an advantage to the workforce in almost all areas, due to the specific and non-specific skills that each individual is capable of learning. Individuals out of high school enter college and careers prepared to meet the demands of this changing workforce and economy. There will be a continuation of low income and low skilled populations if career education is not expanded and improvised in school systems across America. The opposition of nontraditional schooling is losing its ground due to the evidence that has been acquired from CTE programs (Carnevale, Anthony P., and Institute Urban).
Carnevale, Anthony P., and Institute Urban. “Postsecondary Education And Training As We Know It Is Not Enough: Why We Need To Leaven Postsecondary Strategy With More Attention To Employment Policy, Social Policy, And Career And Technical Education In High School.” Urban Institute (2010): ERIC. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.
Hull, Daniel M.. Who are you calling stupid?: the revolution that’s changing education. Waco, Tex.: CORD Communications, 1995. 8-189. Print.
Folkers, Dean R. “Setting a New Standard With A Common Career Technical Core.” Techniques: Connecting Education & Careers 86.7 (2011): 26-29.Academic Search Complete. Web. 22 Nov. 2013.
Office of Vocational and Adult Education, (ED). “Investing In America’s Future: A Blueprint For Transforming Career And Technical Education.” Office Of Vocational And Adult Education, US Department Of Education (2012): ERIC. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.
Partnership for 21st Century, Skills. “Up To The Challenge: The Role Of Career And Technical Education And 21St Century Skills In College And Career Readiness.” Partnership For 21St Century Skills (2010): ERIC. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.
Zinth, Jennifer Dounay, and States Education Commission of the. “Career/Technical Education: Not Your Father’s Vocational Education. The Progress Of Education Reform. Volume 14, Number 1.” Education Commission Of The States (2013): ERIC. Web. 20 Nov. 2013