CTE Opens Opportunities

Sravani Sunkara, editor-in-chief

College application season is in full swing, which means seniors are probably in crisis mode about the future, which hovers with uncertainty. Many students get so caught up in the frenzy of college applications that they may not be aware of the many other viable paths to a successful future, including Career and Technical Education training.

CTE encompasses a wide range of activities intended to provide students with skills needed in the labor force while preparing them for post-secondary degrees in their respective technical fields. For students who are not college-bound, this path facilitates quicker entrance into the workforce through career-oriented, hands-on learning.

The growing idea that all high school graduates should be encouraged to pursue a college degree has led to a sharp decline in CTE participants over the years. In fact, between 1990 and 2009, participation in these fields dropped 14%. However, in recent years, because of the scholarships and encouragement by employers, we have seen a gradual increase.

To many high school seniors, a traditional four-year college or university degree is seen as the only path to guaranteed success in the future. Sure, a degree gets your foot in the door, but more often than not, it does not guarantee a job, much less success.

I find that there is often a stigma surrounding CTE training because many people see college as the only way to a secure future. However, contrary to a popular misconception, a recent study by Daniel Kreisman and Kevin Stange, which relies on data from the NLSY97, a nationally representative sample of 12- to 17- year-olds that tracks individuals over time, CTE participation is associated with higher wages than demographically similar peers. Despite the many doors open to them, students tend to resort to tunnel vision thinking, which causes them to feel forced to choose a path they may not entirely be invested in.

College is a huge investment, and for those who feel it is not the right educational environment for them, it may not be the best investment. In the long term, CTE certification shows similar qualifications as a traditional 4-year college degree.

“A lot of companies are just looking for commitment, and a degree shows it, but a vo-tech [CTE] program also shows this level of commitment,” World History teacher Danyael Graham said.

Many high schools, especially in Loudoun, have a wide spectrum of options regarding CTE. For example, the Monroe Technology Center offers extensive programs of study in a variety of fields.

“I don’t think some kids realize that at Monroe, you can graduate with enough credits for an associate’s degree,” Spanish teacher Heather Goodwin said. The options within CTE are extensive, and more students should take advantage of these before they graduate high school. Often, these programs make them more viable in the workplace.

“This is where jobs are, and I think we need to refocus and start matching our curriculum with what is available in our community,” Principal Timothy Flynn said.

I do not think students should be discouraged from pursuing a college degree, but I do feel that schools should encourage Career and Technical Education more. More exposure to this field will hopefully increase awareness in high schools, which is a great place to start building a foundation for many CTE programs.