This post is written by by Tim Lawrence, Executive Director, SkillsUSA, a supporter of Putting Learner Success First: A Shared Vision for the Future of CTE.
The past year was one of growth and change for Career Technical Education (CTE). With interest in the media and on Capitol Hill, CTE was in the spotlight as a strategy for addressing our education and workforce challenges. Helping more learners navigate pathways to careers and continued education is a national priority that’s shared by educators, employers and Congress.
I was proud to watch history unfold when Advance CTE and six national organizations released a collective vision that proposed a transformation of CTE. Putting Learner Success First: A Shared Vision for the Future of CTE is a clear call to action. It asks leaders, policymakers and practitioners to commit to a high-quality CTE system where learners prepare for success.
In Orlando last October, I attended the Future of CTE Summit. The event brought together leaders in K-12 and postsecondary education with those in workforce development. I was extremely honored to be a part of this important summit and provide input to the process. Together, we reviewed the CTE landscape and thought strategically about how CTE could expand its contributions to education. The vision that resulted from this gathering offers key guiding principles and action steps including high standards, empowering learners, flexible learning options led by knowledgeable experts, and systems that put students first.
One thing CTE leaders do well is collaborate and build off each success. Advance CTE is leading the charge, and SkillsUSA is proud to support these efforts. This vision is truly a shared vision across many organizations including SkillsUSA.
As it has for nearly 100 years, Advance CTE represents state leaders of CTE who support visionary state leadership and best practices, and who promote academic and technical excellence that ensures a career-ready workforce. This in turn helps position the United States to flourish in a global economy.
Like other Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs), SkillsUSA considers itself is a vital solution to the growing skills gap. Our partnership of students, instructors and industry ensures America has the skilled workforce it needs to stay competitive. We serve more than 300,000 member students and instructors annually in middle schools, high schools and colleges. Our diverse talent pipeline covers 130 trade, technical and skilled service occupations, the majority STEM-related. SkillsUSA programs are integrated into CTE through a framework of personal, workplace and technical skills grounded in academics.
We are proud to work with Advance CTE. Their work supports our mission and continues to seek better ways to advance learning and engage students. CTE is getting attention and gaining ground for one reason: because it works. CTE is a proven workforce and education strategy. CTE concentrators are more likely to graduate high school, enroll in postsecondary education, be employed and earn higher wages.
Employers are hungry for more prepared students and future employees, so what is holding us back? CTE still faces a stereotype across our country as being a place for low-achievers or non-college-bound students. The systems in place keep CTE separate from other education, and not just in a silo — but often in a separate building. We have to keep pushing to educate the public about CTE to ensure that students know about it before they select high-school classes, and to review how programs are planned and delivered to ensure students can follow a career path and be college- and career-ready.
We are all accountable for our success and failure within CTE. We must swiftly eliminate programs that are no longer relevant in today’s economy and invest in what works. To support all learners on their career journeys requires nothing short of major transformation. The hard work has begun by Advance CTE and its leadership. They are changing the face of CTE one student at a time. We look forward to embracing and promoting the vision of Putting Learner Success First. Working together with Advance CTE, we will enhance our education and workforce systems and enable more of our learners to live successful and productive lives and grow in careers that support our schools, communities and our nation’s economic prosperity.