The case is this: in order for students to succeed, we need to prepare them for the ever-changing world of work, which means not only college readiness, but career readiness—students with access to postsecondary education and skills attainment possibilities that will prepare them to achieve in the 21st century.
We ask the question, “Why Career and Technical Education?” with honesty. Why, among the many competing education demands, student needs, and graduation requirements, does a program that has its foundations in the 1917 Smith-Hughes Act hold relevancy still? Between emphases on early learning to college preparation, where does Career and Technical Education (CTE) fit in and merit consideration? Why should students who barely have an opportunity to explore the arts, health and fitness, or social studies, be directed to courses in aerospace manufacturing, horticulture, financial math, sports medicine, or integrated science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)?
The answer to the above questions, we believe, is that CTE offers a unique opportunity to engage students in an enormous variety of subjects, incorporating academic, creative and technical skills, with the specific goal, nowhere else represented in education, of preparing students for all of life that comes after high school.
CTE needs to be an integral part of every student’s education so that all students graduate from high school globally competitive for work, prepared for postsecondary education, and ready for life as positive, contributing members of society in the 21st century. With CTE, students succeed.
To learn more, check out the "Why Career and Technical Education?" section of the
Statewide Strategic Plan for Career and Technical Education (Final) (PDF), beginning on page 8.
On the remainder of this page we provide information on how CTE can strengthen your education and help you prepare for your future:
Career exploration and life skills planning form the foundation of Career and Technical Education programs across the state. If you are in the 7th, 8th or 9th grade you will benefit from learning about the world of work and planning for your education accordingly. The most efficient way to get organized is to develop a High School and Beyond Plan.
The CTE program and its career counseling staff and tools can help you create a very strong and balanced plan. Career and academic guidance resources vary from school to school and district to district, so we encourage all 7th, 8th and 9th graders to seek advice from:
- Your school advisor or your school career or guidance counselor
- Your school career center or your district CTE office
- Navigation 101 and other career exploration programs
CTE classes are offered in many different fields, from construction, welding, firefighting, police work and cooking to environmental science, anatomy and physiology, nursing, veterinary science, computer software, graphic arts, mechanical engineering, architectural drafting, and business and marketing. These classes integrate academics with technical skill development to help prepare students for higher-level courses in college or prepare you for a paid internship. Some middle schools offer limited CTE classes and most high schools offer a wide range of CTE classes.
Navigation 101 is a life skills and planning program for students in grades 6 through 12 to help you develop your High School and Beyond Plan. It operates on the premise that every student deserves help and attention, not just those who are at high risk or are high achieving.
Nearly one third of the middle and high schools in Washington participate in Navigation 101 and more are participating each year thanks to financial support from the state Legislature. In Navigation 101 schools, each student is assigned to a teacher or administrator who follows you through the three or four years that you are enrolled in that school. Each advisor serves as advocate for no more than 25 students, and they meet with each student every two weeks. Navigation 101 schools are developing new tools and resources all the time that will enhance all participating schools.
Schools not yet on board with Navigation 101 sometimes have only one guidance counselor for hundreds of students. However, even students in schools that are not participating in Navigation 101 can benefit from exploring the Navigation 101 Web site and other career exploration sites such as:
Skill centers are high schools that serve more than one school district and offer industry-defined Career and Technical Education classes in fields ranging from firefighting and police work to audiovisual communications and healthcare. Not all school districts have easy access to a skill center but more centers are being developed.
Many CTE courses — including those taught at skill centers — offer credit that meets the academic credits required for graduation. Some CTE courses earn dual credit, meaning students earn college credit as well as high school credit, tuition free. CTE
Advanced Placement courses such as environmental science and computer design are available in some schools. (Students who pass their AP exam following a CTE class also earn dual credit.)
Other high school graduation requirements that can be met through CTE include the culminating (senior project) and testing alternatives. Each school’s offerings are different so ask your school career counselor or district CTE office for details.
Learn more about dual credit options in the April 2009 Career and College Connections and more about CTE and graduation requirements on our Graduation Requirements page.
Tech Prep classes are open to students in grades 9 through 12 and offer tuition-free college credit as well as high school credit. All Tech Prep classes are CTE classes and all have established relationships with local community and technical colleges, meaning students taking a level one or two CTE Tech Prep class in high school can enter the level three or four class in the same discipline at the local two-year college after they graduate from high school. Some Tech Prep students finish their entire first year of college while still in high school, and save a lot of tuition money in the process.
Not all dual credit CTE classes are in the Tech Prep family. For example, CTE Advanced Placement classes offer dual credit but are not Tech Prep classes.
Running Start for the Trades (RSTT) is expanding opportunities for 11th and 12th grade students to enter state and federal apprenticeship programs. Students take courses that prepare them for full-time apprenticeships following graduation, or for a two-year college program that leads directly to an apprenticeship. For more information, read the December 2010 report to the Legislature or visit the Apprenticeship and Training Council website.
CTE students in many cases can pursue what is called a “work-based learning” opportunity or an internship involving a job outside of school. “Work-based learning” experiences are always paid and also earn high school credit. Internships are typically paid but do not earn academic credit. Individual schools and CTE teachers work with local employers to arrange these opportunities for their students, so your local CTE or career office is the best source of information for what your own school offers.
Career and Technical Education student organizations help you grow and learn how to compete. These organizations are specifically designed to increase the confidence and leadership potential of members. Depending on your school’s Career and Technical Education courses, you might have some or all of Washington’s student leadership organizations available to you. Visit our Student Leadership Organizations page for more information.
A broad choice of jobs — some of them very well-paid — are available to those who further their education and training after high school. You don’t have to get a bachelor’s degree in order to find a career that you are passionate about and allow you to financially support a family.
Washington post-high school offerings include:
- Apprenticeships leading to certification and jobs
- Internships (paid and unpaid)
- Community and Technical Colleges (two-year degrees)
- Four-year colleges and universities (bachelor’s degrees)