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Skill Attainment Requires Careful Career Planning

By Gary Wixom
Assistant Commissioner for Career and Technical Education
Utah System of Higher Education

During the recent State of the Union Address, President Obama said that we must attract more jobs to our shores, that we needed to equip our citizens with additional skills so they can do those jobs, and we need to insure that hard work actually leads to a decent living. The President has identified some important goals with significant challenges attached. Moving the economy forward, particularly decreasing the unemployment rate has remained difficult for far too long.

Career and Technical Education (CTE) provides the answer to one of those challenges, making sure that there are skilled workers trained and ready to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow. By the year 2020, Utah is working to achieve the goal that 66 percent of adults will hold a postsecondary degree or a certificate. As we move toward that goal, it is interesting that many of the highest occupations in demand are in the areas of Career and Technical Education. Nursing and health occupations lead the list, and then operations management, sales, manufacturing, accountants, and construction managers. To be successful in these areas you need specific “skills” and those skills are obtained through Career and Technical Education training.

Successful skill attainment in these CTE areas requires careful career planning early in the educational sequence. Utah has great secondary programs that provide skills and will start students on a career path leading to employment or additional training. Connecting secondary and postsecondary programs together provide an efficient way for students to gain the skills necessary for occupations that provide a livable wage.

Did you know?

  • CTE programs help students achieve graduation at a higher rate than other students. The average high school graduation rate for students concentrating in CTE programs is 90.18 percent compared to a national graduation rate of 74.9 percent.i
  • CTE is an answer for the current a future shortage in skilled workers. Experts project 47 million job openings in the decade ending 2018. About one-third of those jobs will require an associate degree or certificate, and nearly all will require real-world skills that can be mastered through CTE.ii
  • CTE helps students be successful in attaining postsecondary certificates and degrees. Seventy percent of students concentrating in CTE areas stayed in postsecondary education or transferred to a four-year degree program. That compared to an overall average state target of 58 percent.iii

February was national CTE month and across the country states and organizations highlighted CTE programs. As the nation continues to recover from the great recession, and jobs expand and the economy grows again, it is a great time for CTE to take its place in helping the nation reach the goals that have been set.

Do your career planning early and let a CTE pathway lead you to success in your educational pursuits. The future is bright for those who prepare and obtain the skills that will be in demand for the economy of tomorrow.

I U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, Report to Congress on State Performance, Program year 2007-2008. Washington, D.C.

ii Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce via Harvard’s Pathways to Prosperity report, p. 29, http://cew.georgetown.edu/jobs2018/

iii U.S. Department of Education, http://www2.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/2010report/fy2010-apr.pdf

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