Recognizing the Power of Career & Technical Education: A Call for Advocacy

“CTE represents a critical investment in our future. It offers students opportunities for career awareness and preparation by providing them with the academic and technical knowledge and work-related skills necessary to be successful in postsecondary education, training, and employment.”Advocacy

This statement was made by Arne Duncan, former Chicago Public Schools CEO and current US Secretary of Education, and it could not more clearly define my own vision of career and technical education (CTE). I recently had the opportunity to speak about my vision of CTE at EDNET 2014, a networking event for the education industry.

My co-presenters included Cheryl Oldham, vice president of education policy at the US Chamber of Commerce; Dr. David Conley, founder, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Strategy Officer of EPIC (Educational Policy Improvement Center); and Aarti Dhupelia, Chief Officer for College and Career Success at Chicago Public Schools. Together, we spoke about how CTE can play a critical role in the national push for college and career readiness, as well as workforce and economic development. Some of the statistics we shared included:

  • 69 percent of students think that CTE programs would be most helpful for getting a job.
  • Employers express more satisfaction with new hires who complete a CTE or technical program.
  • More than 90 percent of employers say they are very satisfied with the overall productivity, work quality, job-specific skills and teamwork of new hires from CTE programs.

Recognition of CTE program potential has prompted governors, mayors, and districts to improve and increase CTE options for students. For example, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo launched the “Advance Buffalo Program,” which recruits and trains interested workers. In the last 14 months, the program has recruited 2,000 people for job-preparation programs. Of those, 700 have already been placed in positions.

Additionally, the Industry Workforce Needs Council (which I chair) has numerous case studies of successful partnerships between educational programs and companies such as Siemens, Trane, UPS, AAR, Hypertherm and Toyota, to name a few. For example, Siemens created the Apprenticeship 2000 program, a 4-year technical partnership in Charlotte, NC to develop skilled workers for the manufacturing workforce. Today the program encompasses six companies, the local community college and 27 high schools, along with the North Carolina Department of Labor.

Research also shows that several states have benefitted from investments into CTE programs, such as Connecticut, Washington and Tennessee. For example, Tennessee attributes $13 million in annual tax revenues to CTE program graduates.

How can we ensure that the CTE movement continues to grow, making the US more globally competitive and offering new opportunities for businesses nationwide? I challenge industry leaders to:

  • Create awareness about CTE to parents, students, industry and job-seekers.
  • Identify and publicize local programs and curricula.
  • Provide time and expertise to CTE programs.
  • Participate in committees to help design curriculum frameworks and enhance the quality of graduating student available in your community.
  • Advocate for CTE by:
    • Urging members Congress to invest in CTE by restoring Perkins Basic State Grants to higher levels.
    • Ask Senators to join the newly created bipartisan Senate Career and Technical Education Caucus.
    • Request President Obama to create a Presidential Scholar award to recognize high-achieving high school CTE students

To lend your support to the mission of maintaining these critical skill development programs for our future employees, contact the IWNC at




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