Career and Technical Education


Group of career & tech ed students

A Win for Students, Business, and the Education Community

For many years, we have talked about the college-to-career path. But at the same time, a movement was growing in this country to prepare high school and community college students for successful careers in high-demand fields immediately following graduation: Career and Technical Education (CTE).

The recent national focus on the student loan debt crisis and a debate about the value of a college degree coupled with the pandemic has had an impact on undergraduate college enrollments. While there was a slight uptick—2.1%—in the fall of 2023, a significant decrease brought on by the pandemic may have turned into a trend, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse.1

Career and Technical Ed Enrollment

Interestingly, community college enrollment increased 4.4% this year, accounting for nearly 60% of the undergraduate increase. Of that growth, 40% came from dual-enrolled high school students—continuing last fall’s surging growth trends in community college concurrent enrollment.2

Many of those students may have been participating in CTE programs. CTE provides students with academic and technical skills for in-demand jobs and provides employers with a trained workforce. These programs are offered at CTE-focused high schools, magnet schools, technical centers, and community colleges. They prepare students for careers in industries such as agriculture, food, and natural resources; health science; hospitality and tourism; information technology; science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); and transportation and logistics.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 92% of high school students and 69% of college and adult students are engaged in CTE, learning skills in the classroom and on the job.3 These students graduate with more earning power than their peers who earned associate degrees in other fields.. They will lower our country’s projected deficit of 6.5 million skilled workers, in fields like infrastructure, healthcare, and manufacturing.4 Some of these students may later pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees; others build long-term careers in the fields they learned in CTE.

CTE Programs Open Exciting Career Paths

At high schools and community colleges—both rural and urban—around the country, students are participating in CTE programs that are opening doors to career paths they might never have imagined. For example, at Washington, D.C.’s Jackson-Reed High School, students are exploring everything from computer science principles and cybersecurity to finance and hospitality. The 49,000-student district offers 30 industry certifications and 24 different career pathways.5 Meanwhile, students at Union Grove High School outside of Racine, Wisconsin, are studying agriculture science, animal science, companion animals, horticulture, agriculture business, and agriculture leadership in hands-on classes.6

While you may or may not offer a CTE curriculum, CTE offers numerous opportunities for education companies to get involved. Science-based CTE programs need lab equipment. Technology programs need all types of tech. Many CTE programs use AR/VR technology to provide students with hands-on learning opportunities in the health sciences and other programs. There’s likely an opportunity for everyone to play a role.

Join the We Are Teachers Guide to CTE

The We Are Teachers team recently attended the Association for Career & Technical Education’s (ACTE) CareerTech Vision 2023 conference. The conference showcased hundreds of examples of innovative programs that help put students on exciting career paths and fill the U.S. jobs pipeline. ACTE is the largest national education association dedicated to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for careers. This winter, We Are Teachers is publishing a Career and Technical Education Curriculum Guide for educators. This guide will be filled with advice to help educators and schools with their CTE programs. If you’d like to become a partner and share information about how you support CTE, reach out to us today!