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How Career Technical Education Has Changed for the Better

For more than a hundred years, vocational education has been a pivotal part of education in the United States. However, thanks to the advent of computer technology coupled with advances in engineering, the relevance of vocational education has been superseded by new, urgent demands for specialized tech skills. Toward that end, career technical education (CTE) has taken on a whole new importance as the U.S. strives to supply new generations of tech industry workers in the global marketplace.

In today’s high schools, CTE classes offer far more career opportunities than the vocational classes of the past. Now, students are graduating with degrees in avionics, biomedical engineering, and a wealth of other specialized skills that far transcend yesterday’s vocational training.

History of Vocational Training and CTE

In 1917, Congress passed the Smith-Hughes Act to guarantee federal funding for vocational education in the U.S. But even before that, vocational and trade schools were already flourishing in America.

In the late 1700s, vocational training was primarily given in the form of private apprenticeships. In 1879, the first manual training school—the forerunner of a tech industry training school—was founded in St. Louis, Missouri. Up until then, vocational training primarily focused on skills such as agricultural skills, and manual skills like woodworking, or industries such as auto mechanics; but the St. Louis Manual Training School of Washington University provided a broader focus on engineering and technology, making it the nation’s first modern-day CTE school.

During the 1920s and 1930s, CTE training flourished as the nation ushered in a new era of technological innovation—an era that was temporarily stilled by World War II. After the war, Americans rushed to purchase the latest inventions—all products of advanced engineering and new technologies produced by new generations of CTE students.

How CTE Has Transformed Vocational Training

In years past, high school vocational training conjured up images of manual labor type jobs, or careers in a small segment of industries such as agriculture or auto mechanics. However, today’s high school CTE courses offer an entirely different career path—one leading to better-paying, highly desirable careers in skilled trades involving science, engineering, and technology. CTE students can get industry certification in a dazzling array of enticing careers ranging from marine biology and environmental science to aviation flight and operation.

CTE Program Benefits

Some CTE programs also offer externship opportunities so that students can get hands-on training in their preferred industries. These externships include partnerships with businesses that provide students with pre-apprenticeships or internships and, eventually, jobs after graduation. For many students, this is tantamount to a job placement program, as businesses increasingly turn to CTE students in order to recruit new career candidates.

For many students, CTE classes provide a motivation that they can’t find in a traditional curriculum. According to the Association for Career and Technical Education, 93 percent of the students who concentrate on CTE courses graduate from high school—a number that’s 13 percent higher than the overall graduation rate.

CTE is definitely not your parent’s vocational shop class; and CTE students can now choose from a wide variety of satisfying, fulfilling careers. Thanks to CTE classes, high school students are discovering exciting new industry opportunities, and getting skilled technical training that will empower them to compete in today’s highly competitive job market. Rather than limiting students to a small set of skilled trades, today’s CTE programs are widening the horizon and opening up a whole new world of opportunities for millions of students.

If your student is interested in pursuing a CTE-related job or would simply like to explore career choices while in high school, consider a school that combines traditional academics with career courses such as a Destinations Career Academy. When enrolled in a Destinations Career Academy, students can attend core high school academic courses while also taking a range of career-focused electives, which vary by school. At some schools, students can prepare for certification exams and the test for the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate. Participating Destinations Academies also offer students the opportunity to earn college credits while in high school. Opportunities vary by school, so visit the website for more details!

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