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The Importance of Career and Technical Education for Expanding Opportunities

By Mary Gardner Clagett and Van Nguyen

This blog celebrates CTE Month 2014.

In the month of February, we are given the opportunity to celebrate the nation’s Presidents, Black History Month, and even St. Valentine’s Day—but did you know that we are also celebrating National Career and Technical Education (CTE) month? Nationally, CTE programs are ever changing to meet the country’s education and skill needs. These programs are creating an educational environment that combines core academics with real-world application. CTE currently touches the lives of 14 million students in 1,300 public high schools and 1,700 two-year colleges nationwide. At its core, the mission is to prepare students for success in college and careers by helping them develop the skills, technical knowledge, academic rigor, and real-world experience for high-skill, high-demand, and highly successful careers.

Last month, President Obama delivered his sixth State of the Union address and repeatedly emphasized the importance of access to higher quality education at an early age. He is committed to redesigning high schools and partnering them with colleges and employers that offer the real-world education and hands-on training that will lead to good jobs and careers. CTE emphasizes that not everyone needs a four-year degree to be successful but rather they do need a combination of postsecondary education and industry-recognized credentials that lead to family-sustaining jobs and careers.

Currently, Jobs for the Future is helping five states align their CTE programs of study with their broader career pathways development efforts through a partnership project—Advancing Career and Technical Education in Career Pathways—with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education. The goal of this project is to significantly expand opportunities for secondary and postsecondary CTE students as well as adults to successfully complete the most efficient pathways to the postsecondary, industry-recognized credentials they need for good jobs in high-demand industries and occupations.

Our economy is linked to the strength and skills of our current and future workforce. We must work to ensure that students of all ages are prepared not only for college but for successful careers. As U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said earlier this month: “President Obama's North Star goal in education is for every student to graduate from high school and obtain some form of postsecondary training or degree. High-quality CTE is absolutely critical to meeting this challenge.”

Read our other CTE Month blog here.