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Pathways to Careers...but not in Education: The CTE Shortage in California

Across the nation, there is a significant decrease in the number of teachers entering into and completing teacher preparation programs. This trend is particularly troubling in states like California facing high rates of retirement in their current teaching force. 

According to the California Teachers’ Association, approximately one third of the teaching force will retire over the next decade. An annual report by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) reports a 26% decrease in new teaching credentials issued over the past five years.  Thousands of jobs will soon open and not enough new recruits are or will be available to fill these vacancies unless deliberate steps are taken at the local, state, and federal levels to ensure an adequate teacher pipeline. 

Total New Teaching Credentials Issued in California

Specialized areas in the education field—career and technical education and special education for example—are experiencing even more dramatic decreases in teacher supply. This shortage is becoming a particularly heated issue given the influx of funding for career pathways across CA in recent years (e.g., the CA Department of Education made funding available to schools through its California Career Pathways Trust to create pathways bridging into college focused on work-based learning). Jobs for the Future is providing technical assistance to Rounds 1 and 2 grantees of CA pathways funding, as well as Linked Learning Hubs of Excellence sites, and we are seeing firsthand the increase in students enrolling in pathways courses who are paired with “unqualified” teachers.

Teacher Preparation Program Enrollment

There is currently both a decrease in CTE preparation programs for teachers as well as a general shortage of experienced teachers who have CTE and standard secondary credentials needed to teach pathway courses. To address credentialing issues, the CCTC restructured the process in 2008 by: 

  • Eliminating some of the restrictions 
  • Streamlining the credentials offered in the designated and vocational areas to align with 15 industry sectors. 

While these actions certainly helped to create a more user-friendly credentialing process, they do not address the overall need for a pool of qualified CTE teachers. Therefore, regions are experimenting with creative ways to address the issue and some strategies are showing promise: 

  • Utilizing team teaching to pair academic and CTE teachers in the same classroom
  • Issuing emergency credentials for CTE or academic teachers when they demonstrate the knowledge and experience needed to attain permanent credentials
  • Implementing teacher residency programs with a focus on training STEM-qualified teachers. 
  • Accepting work experience in a specific industry to allow individuals to become CTE teachers in their field without having to earn an education degree or pass traditional teacher certification exams. 

This is an acceptable short-term band-aid approach; however, the state will need broader systemic solutions that address the root causes rather than the symptoms of the capacity gap. Systems are needed to strengthen recruitment, training, credentialing, onboarding, and supporting new teachers. And, teachers must be encouraged and supported to find creative ways to integrate academic and technical learning to best prepare students for college and careers.

For example, as California implements strategies to increase the supply of CTE teachers, significant benefit could be achieved by aligning the credentialing requirements in high school with those of CA colleges so teachers can teach the courses for dual credit, a proven mechanism for raising students’ success in college. 

Elevating the voice of practitioners and involving them in the search for the best solutions is another important step since it is clear that we must understand the barriers, perceived or otherwise, impeding districts’ ability to fill these gaps in the teacher pipeline. 

  • How are various barriers affecting student learning and outcomes? 
  • How can we engage students in practical learning if we place barriers to instructors knowing how to blend academic and career-based learning?
  • How do we interest the next generation in teaching relevant curriculum in our schools?
  • How do we recruit, deploy, and support the best teachers for the growing pathway programs in CA?

Read more next month in the second segment of this two-part blog series on the CTE teacher shortage in California. 


Source: Teacher Supply in California, 2012-13,