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CTE Can Help Address Human Capital Issues

By Mary Shumway
State Director of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
Utah State Office of Education

A national report, Developing Human Capital: Meeting the Growing Global Need for a Skilled and Educated Workforce, recently released by McGraw-Hill’s Adult Education and Workforce Initiatives, underscores the value of Career and Technical Education (CTE) in today’s market. The report notes that – as the area where business and education most overlap, CTE is in a prime position to maximize the efforts of educational institutions and business/industry as they work cooperatively.

The authors suggest “The U.S. and other developed nations need to devote more resources to career and technical education – not just for young people still in school, but even more critically for adults who face barriers to employment due to lack of formal education, English language or other skills.”

You are encouraged to read the full report (which includes a conversation between Association of Career and Technical Education Director Janet Bray, and National Association of Workforce Boards CEO Ron Painter), but here are a few highlights:

Workplace Needs:
Economic, social and technological changes demand corresponding change in the relationship between employers and employees, and between business and education.

  • Technical credentials have the potential to outpace the wages of bachelor’s degree holders.
  • Low-skilled jobs are disappearing. Some other jobs have the same traditional titles, but require new skill sets.
  • The demand for high-skilled, well-trained workers is strong and growing stronger. 71 percent of “growth” jobs through the year 2016 will require postsecondary credentials.
  • “Soft skills,” including the ability to work effectively with others, continue to be important “21st century” skills.

Workforce Realities

  • Approximately one million U. S. high school students a year drop out before obtaining a diploma.
  • Eighty-eight million U. S. adults have at least one major educational barrier to employment (e.g., do not speak English well).
  • As the population ages and baby boomers retire, the percentage of working-age adults with a high school education is destined to decline.

The Remedy

We must define a remedy for the disconnect between education and business. Here are some strategies we propose to assure that CTE programs in Utah better meet the needs of business/industry, and the needs of the students we serve. We must:

  • Continue to work with business and industry partners to ensure alignment of our programs with their needs;
  • Communicate the value of CTE to policy makers to ensure adequate resources;
  • Assure that students and their parents understand the value of participating in CTE Pathways to achieve the associated marketable skills that will help them achieve success in the 21st century workplace.
  • Promote experiences to ensure that students perceive the relevance of their educationto their future lives. Assure students have the information they need regarding:

Graduating from high school and being prepared for career and college will give young people a huge advantage as they progress in life. Partnering with business and industry, CTE can reduce barriers so that students continue to receive the training, academic knowledge, and skills they need in order to be productive, highly-trained employees.

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