By Gary Wixom
Assistant Commissioner for Career and Technical Education
Utah System of Higher Education
February was Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month. All across the country people were celebrating the important contribution that CTE is making to individuals, to communities, to the economy, and to the nation’s labor force as the United States struggles to get its economy moving. The unemployment rate is dropping, but the economy is not growing as fast as it should and one of the reasons is that jobs are still going unfilled because we don’t have enough workers with the skills that are necessary to fill those jobs.
Students graduating from high school today are facing challenges that others who have come before have not faced. Just a few years ago, a high school diploma and a little determination meant a high school graduate could enter many industries and earn a livable wage and launch a career. Today, the chances of that happening are getting slimmer each year.
In the State of the Union address, President Obama indicated that 2014 needed to be year of action, and that our challenge was to help the country to maintain its edge in the global economy. He said, “Here in America, our success should depend not on accident of birth, but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams.” The President emphasized that career and technical education training that prepared people for work was the key and that we needed more programs that linked high school programs to college programs where students could learn the skills that employers need.
Part of the answer to the needs of the labor market is to have quality CTE programs. Arne Duncan, the secretary of education recently said, “The president and I believe that high-quality CTE programs are a vital strategy for helping our diverse students complete their secondary and postsecondary studies. In fact, by implementing dual enrollment and early college models, a growing number of CTE Pathways are helping students to fast-track their college degrees.”
More and more CTE Pathways are being developed across the state of Utah. These CTE Pathways when fully developed connect the high school sequence of courses to a postsecondary certificate or degree. Students who are engaged in these CTE Pathways are having great success, and finding careers that are fulfilling and provide good wages. Check out the CTE Pathways that are available in your high school and schedule a meeting with your school counselor. He or she will provide you with information about how the pathway you are interested in pursuing will connect to postsecondary training, education, and to a career.