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Don’t think of summer ending …think of school beginning!

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

It’s hard to believe but it’s that time of the year again – the beginning of a new school year. Your Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers have spent part of the summer updating their knowledge and skills to ensure that your classroom experiences are better than ever. Welcome back!

In recent years Career and Technical Education has faced some challenges. Between No Child Left Behind legislation, increased graduation requirements in math and science, accountability in academic subjects and budget cuts, CTE has had difficulty maintaining a full range of options in some schools. But a recent article – “Stop Stigmatizing Vocational Education” (published online by RealClearPolicy, a catch-all source for policy news and commentary) – suggests that Career and Technical Education needs to become a greater focus in our education system. New technologies (e.g., hydraulic fracturing), global economic trends (e.g., rising wages in Asia), and domestic policy changes are bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.

What does this mean for today’s CTE students? Even as our nation redefines the knowledge and skill requirements of these new energy and manufacturing jobs, you can be assured that the CTE experiences you have today are designed to help you be college and career ready. That’s because not only does CTE help you develop technical knowledge and skills, CTE also offers opportunities to develop the social capital, employability skills, and the positive work ethic that will make you a quality worker, no matter the specific job.

Here are five ways to maximize your CTE experience this year:

1.  Develop a meaningful College and Career Plan. Talk to your counselor about what types of high school courses are available to help you learn the hands-on skills required in careers of interest to you. Get advice about what postsecondary options are most likely to promote your success, given both your personal and career goals. For most students this plan must also include specific information about how you will pay for the costs associated with your postsecondary training.

2.  Commit to a CTE Career Pathway. A Pathway is like an educational map that will guide you to the high school and postsecondary options that best support your career goals.

3.  Participate in a Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO). Discover the CTSO most related and active for your CTE Area of Study. Every CTSO is designed to advance student leadership, citizenship, and professionalism. Through regional, state and national conferences, members have opportunities to be involved in service projects, showcase their technical skills, and network with one another.

4.  Take advantage of the Skill Certificate Program. Skill Certificates verify the technical skills that you have attained by taking a CTE course and demonstrating your competencies through an assessment. There are Skill Certificate tests associated with every CTE Area of Study.

5.  Take part in Work-Based Learning. Internships, Service Learning, Job Shadows, Field Studies and Career Fairs are just some of the ways to be involved in learning that extends your classroom experiences to the world beyond.

Career and Technical Education is the most meaningful part of high school for many, many students. For some it provides a much-needed glimpse into the future where they can successfully compete for interesting, well-paying jobs. For others it might simply be the first taste of an area of study that they will want to pursue in more depth in high school and beyond. Whatever CTE means to you, may this school year bring you every opportunity to succeed today and in the future.

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