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What is a CTE Pathway? And is it right for your student?

This article was last modified on March 12th, 2020.

Career and technical education (CTE) is “the practice of teaching specific career skills to students in middle school, high school and post-secondary institutions.” This federally funded program – found in every state and most school districts – is focused on skills-based education so students have the real-world knowledge needed to enter the workforce. CTE includes some theory, but the bulk is made up of practice, hands-on experience and application tests. CTE careers require workers to have experience in their field before getting the job.

The California Department of Education (CDE) has a large focus on CTE programs. The ultimate goal is “to have a strong, capable workforce that continues to build upon itself.”

You will find CTE tracks offered as early as sixth grade. Students that age can already understand the fundamentals of a career. This puts them on the right path early on to enter a high-demand career field upon graduating high school; or, students can even use these courses as preparation for community college or university. CTE tracks don’t limit students to single careers, giving CTE two advantages that can’t be found in many other education fields: highly-specific and highly-versatile.

On the national level, CTE is made up of 16 career pathways that each state uses as a foundation for its own programs, tweaking those pathways to fit the needs of their workforce.

In California, CTE is made up of 15 career pathways:

  1. Agriculture & Natural Resources
  2. Arts, Media & Entertainment
  3. Building & Construction Trades
  4. Business & Finance
  5. Education, Child Development & Family Services
  6. Energy, Environment & Utilities
  7. Engineering & Architecture
  8. Fashion & Interior Design
  9. Health Science & Medical Technology
  10. Hospitality, Tourism & Recreation
  11. Information & Communication Technologies
  12. Manufacturing & Product Design
  13. Marketing, Sales & Services
  14. Public Services
  15. Transportation

Each pathway in California has curriculum standards that ensure students in every school across the state all learn the same information. Additionally, all CTE programs must meet California’s Standards for Career Ready Practice, which “describes the fundamental knowledge and skills that a career-ready student needs in order to prepare for the transition to post-secondary education, career training or the workforce.”

Students interested in CTE programs can also join a career and technical student organization (CTSO). These extracurricular groups – like the National FFA Organization, Educators Rising and Technology Student Association – further students’ knowledge and skills through after school activities, events, and competitions at the school, state and national levels.

Not sold on career and technical education yet? Consider these parting facts: about 95% of CTE students graduate high school, which is 10% higher than the national average and 78% of CTE graduates enroll in a community college or university full-time. Furthermore, 81% of high school dropouts say “real-world skills education would have kept them in school.” Talk to your student about CTE opportunities today and get them started on the path to success with our very own CTE program!

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