In a time when tech is evolving faster than your students can say “I’m bored,” everyone can use a targeted set of 21st century skills. Young people need to know how to work a computer just as much as they need to know their multiplication tables. And they can get this knowledge through CTE! The benefits of career and technical education are vast. But when is the right time to impart CTE knowledge to students?
We like to say it's never too soon!
In fact, the earlier, the better. As an educator, you can start widening students’ horizons right from their first years of school. When kids learn about a wide range of opportunities and skills as youngsters, they’ll be more prepared to make big career-related decisions as young adults.
Career and technical education provides many benefits! It allows students to:
- Develop skills that make them employable
- Gain first-hand experience
- Increase motivation and college aspirations
- Explore all types of careers
What is Career and Technical Education?
Career and Technical Education (CTE) is a broad term that usually refers to tech-based and career-oriented skills. Career and Technical Education encompasses programs aiming to equip students with practical knowledge and skills.
These skills enable students to explore and prepare themselves for a wide range of career opportunities. Depending on their eligibility, students can opt for certificate courses, postsecondary certificates, and degrees.
Career and Technical Education vs Vocational Education
Before we jump into bringing CTE to your classroom, let’s distinguish between Career and Technical Education and Vocational Education. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but they differ quite a bit. Here are some key distinctions between the two:
In Career and Technical Education, students:
- Study theory and science behind an occupation
- Rely on books, manuals, and practicals
- Receive career-oriented training
In Vocational Education, students:
- Get training for immediate employment with a hands-on approach
- Learn practical skills for a specific trade
Career and Technical Education goes a few steps beyond Vocational Education. In fact, CTE has evolved from Vocational Education. Through the years, the scope of the vocational courses widened and led to today’s 16-cluster-strong CTE:
- Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources
- Architecture & Construction
- Arts, Audio/Video Technology & Communications
- Business Management & Administration
- Education & Training
- Government & Public Administration
- Health Science
- Hospitality & Tourism
- Human Services
- Information Technology
- Law, Public Safety, Corrections & Security
- Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics
- Transportation, Distribution & Logistics
The 16 clusters provide pathways to gaining skills in 79 different fields, making it a great option for almost anyone.
Benefits of Career and Technical Education: The History
The benefits of career and technical education are clear, and the US government quickly capitalized on the space as it emerged, starting with the Carl D. Perkins Act.
Let’s dive into the evolution of career and technical education below:
- In 1917, the Smith-Hughes Act was passed. It was the first piece of legislation that allocated federal funds for vocational education. Subsequent acts were passed as the scope of vocational education continued widening.
- In 1990, it became the ‘Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Act (Perkins II)
- The latest update to the Perkins Act occurred in 2018 with the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century (Perkins V) Act. Under this act, all 50 states will receive federal support worth $1.2 billion for career and technical education.
Benefits of Career and Technical Education in High School
The purpose of CTE is to impart applicable skills to students and instill a ‘career-oriented’ approach in them. It is quite common to see a recent high school graduate overwhelmed with career choices. Not all of them have hands-on experience of jobs or a technical edge.
This is where CTE comes to the rescue and overcomes the limitations of plain academics. A report by ACTE found that 61% of CTE students looking to pursue a science career felt that their CTE courses equipped them with workforce skills.
CTE benefits students.
It also benefits employers. In 2014, Accenture found that over 75% of manufacturers in the US face a moderate-to-severe skills shortage. This scarcity cost the companies about 11% of their revenue. CTE can help narrow this gap by building a competitive workforce.
Currently, the unemployment rate in the US is at 3.6%. It is more urgent than ever to equip students with the right skills to set them up for future career success. CTE can help!
Benefits of Career and Technical Education: Experience
Unlike plain academics, CTE courses are more focused on getting students ready for jobs. With CTE, students can gain work experience first-hand through:
- Industry certificates
- Job shadowing
Rather than relying on theory alone, CTE encourages students to go beyond textbooks. Many college and university programs have integrated internships and job shadowing to encourage practical application of the skills.
Benefits of Career and Technical Education: Beyond Academics
CTE lays emphasis on practical applicability. It is about the “how” of an occupation. For instance, students can learn about food processing in an agriculture class. But an agricultural CTE will focus on skills necessary to become a food technician.
The benefits of practical skills are huge!
For instance, a study showed that CTE students “developed problem-solving, project-completion, research, math, college application, work-related, communication, time-management and critical-thinking skills during high school,” whereas their non-CTE peers did not.
Benefits of Career and Technical Education: Increased Motivation
Career and technical education aims to reach out to more students and promote future academic involvement..
CTE has been proven to increase the likelihood that students will aspire to attend college. One study pointed out that students who took part in CTE activities were reported to have higher academic motivation and engagement, better grades, career self-efficacy, and college aspirations. Several other studies have proved that CTE can lower the dropout rate.
Benefits of Career and Technical Education in Elementary School
This is all great, but what does it have to do with elementary school?
A lot! In elementary school, kids are active and more receptive to learning. They're curious and inquisitive, which makes it easy to teach them. In other words, they’re at the perfect age for introductions to a wide variety of careers.
Educators can give students a head start by acquainting them with as many careers as possible before they’ve even heard of the SAT.
Benefits of Technical and Career Education in Elementary School
By engaging in hands-on activities and broadening their ideas, students get to learn about new careers and professions and get tons of benefits, like:
- Getting introduced to new vocations: When you introduce young students to diverse vocations through activities, they are likely to find something they love.
- Participating in hands-on activities: Unlike regular classes, CTE activities lay more emphasis on hands-on activities which are perfect for engaging kids and teaching about careers. Planting seeds and watering saplings can be a great opportunity to introduce agriculture and associated vocations.
- Learning how things work: Another interesting way to get students introduced to various careers and occupations is through explaining how systems work. For example, an educator can introduce financial systems and then cover jobs like accounting, retail, and banking.
- Practicing goal-setting: Helping students find their interests at an early age will help them explore careers they’re interested in. Educators can help students make a connection between their elementary lessons and associated occupations. In the future, this will help them find out the right career pathways and set goals for themselves.
How to introduce CTE in Elementary School
As an educator, you can organize various engaging activities for students and help them find what interests them. The key here is to get the students acquainted with as many careers as possible, rather than narrowing the scope down.
Below are some ways to integrate early career and technical education with elementary school lessons.
Educators can invite people from various walks of life to interact with the students. Interactive experiences are engaging. Students are bound to listen to the stories the guests have to tell and ask questions.
People from diverse industries can talk to students and indulge in exciting activities. Students will be inspired by these personalities and also learn about their profession. For example, kids can learn about firefighters and know how it works.
Not possible at your school? Try a virtual guest! At Kai XR, we offer programs and schools a library of over 100 virtual reality experiences. Many of these experiences feature professionals discussing their career trajectory in fields from aerospace engineering to freelance illustration.
Arrange Virtual Field Trips
Young students love exploring new places. Schools and educators can arrange educational field trips to the zoo, botanical gardens, greenhouses, factories, or other such places where students can learn about different careers.
Not a possibility at your school? No problem!
You can break geographical boundaries and take students on hyper-realistic field trips with VR! We offer exciting field trips to locations around the world where students can learn about what skills they may need for a future career.
Want to learn more? Check out these amazing 360º virtual field trips.
Career and Technical Education for Students With Disabilities
Virtual reality is also great for bringing career and technical education to students of all abilities.
- Higher rates of employment
- Higher pages
- Better post-secondary outcomes
By leveraging technology, educators can ensure that all students reap the benefits of career and technical education. For example, VR classrooms can help educators reach all students anytime and anywhere.
Virtual Reality classrooms can deliver an immersive experience and make learning more inclusive. In fact, educators can also take their students on engaging virtual field trips!
Benefits of Career and Technical Education in STEM
CTE also provides real-world, hands-on learning, for students to become better equipped with STEM workforce skills.
According to the CTE guide published by ACTE, STEM careers are more in demand than ever. For example, environmental engineering jobs are projected to surge by 18% in 2022.
CTE courses can help fill this gap by providing practical insights. 61% of students interested in a STEM career who undertook CTE programs felt that they were better equipped with skills.
Educators, when equipped with the right technology, can cultivate a scientific attitude in their students. To make science, technology and math look interesting, educators can use VR classrooms and take students on virtual field trips. After all, a 360 Virtual Reality Trip to a Nasa Space Walking Training can pique more interest in space research than a lecture ever could.
Get the Benefits of Career and Technical Education with VR
Time and again, CTE programs have:
- Lowered the dropout rates
- Made alternate careers accessible
- Equipped students with practical skills
- Boosted chances of employment
- Presented a career-oriented approach
As the job market has become severely competitive, CTE programs are also evolving to deliver better education. More and more schools have started integrating CTE into academics. Both federal and state institutions help schools implement CTE in their curriculum. By equipping educators with the right tools and encouraging student participation, Career and Technical Education can help more and more students prepare for future careers.
The great news is that new technology can help CTE blend seamlessly into your classroom.
With our Kai XR library, you can take your class beyond four walls and immerse them in lessons around the world.
Featured photo by Amina Filkins