career and technical education
Unlike old-fashioned vocational education, high school-level career and technical education doesn’t really prepare people for jobs directly after high school. While the stated end goal of K-12 education in America is for students to be “college and career ready,” the reality is the existence of career-ready high school graduates is a myth. The expectation that high school produces career-ready adults in a 21st century economy is unrealistic and counterproductive.
“[W]hen we look at CTE from a STEM perspective,” Gardner explained, “the things we want to see are better integration of STEM and CTE together. So many of the CTE pathways have STEM in them, but there's this very big separation between CTE and STEM in our schools.”
U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, and Todd Young, R-Indiana, have made it their mission to help students get career and technical education skills. Earlier this year they introduced the “21st Century Strengthening On Programs that Cultivate Learning Approaches for Successful Students Act," which would give federal funding for equipment for career and technical education programs and give teachers more training on how to use the equipment.
Economists have provided abundant evidence that holding a certificate or associate degree in general studies (also called liberal arts or the humanities) has little to no economic value, yet these programs are growing at community colleges at a faster rate than vocational or occupational programs with higher market value. Why is this so?
"We do have a shortage," Miller said. "When we advertise, we're not getting CTE (career and technical education) certified teachers in the application pool." Across Michigan, school administrators say they are facing similar challenges. With CTE enrollment growing statewide, several said they are struggling with a shortage of applicants for open positions, while others worry about finding the right people if they expand programs.
Enthusiasm for career and technical education has been building in recent years as educators and lawmakers moved away from the once-popular notion that every student should try for a college degree. Many districts have added career academies to their high schools, hoping to tap into students' interests.
Mike Rowe testifies before Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education on how CTE can help close the skills gap, empower students to succeed and the need to reform the current law.