Career and Tech Ed is Vital to Closing Skills Gap
February is Career Technical Education (CTE) Month, designed to raise awareness for and celebrate CTE at the local, state, and national levels. This year’s theme, “Opportunities for Career Success,” highlights CTE’s role in arming students with the skills necessary to have a long and successful career in a high-demand industry, and fill the skills gap experienced by businesses across the nation.
While more than half of employers report a talent shortage, CTE programs have the ability to address this crisis by preparing a pipeline of workers that have the academic, technical, and employability skills necessary to succeed in the workplace. This is especially true for industries that are increasingly demanding more technically trained employees and experiencing high growth, such as healthcare, information technology, and skilled trades.
High-quality CTE programs are developed in collaboration with state, regional, and local stakeholders, with the business community a critical partner in this system. Throughout my 20 years in CTE, I’ve seen a shift in how employers view their role in supporting CTE programs and the overall system. While employers still support CTE in the traditional ways, such as donating resources and equipment, they are also becoming increasingly engaged in designing curriculum as part of an advisory committee, providing work-based learning opportunities through internships and apprenticeships, and even training educators in the advancements happening in the workplace.
This ensures that once a student reaches their workplace, they have the skills necessary to be a successful and contributing employee. In a recent survey, more than 80 percent of State CTE Directors said employer engagement has increased in intensity over the past decade, and all but three states anticipate that this intensity will continue to increase over the next five years.
This is happening in communities across the nation. Here are some great examples:
- The HVAC program of study at Upper Valley Career Center in Piqua, Ohio has tremendous partners in Emerson Climate Technologies and Reick Mechanical Services. Both businesses help develop curriculum, provide internships for students and externships for teachers, and donate equipment that is often expensive and in high-demand. A number of UVCC students have gone on to work at Emerson Climate Technologies after completing their studies.
- The Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences and Eli’s Cheesecake Company are a premier example of a business-education partnership. Not only does the CEO sit on the advisory board, but the company also provides networking opportunities, summer internships, and scholarships to graduating seniors who will pursue postsecondary studies.
How the business community can get involved:
- At the local level, chambers of commerce can play a key role as an intermediary between the employer community and schools, facilitating partnerships, work-based learning opportunities and other forms of engagement.
- At the state level, business and industry leaders are key advocates in helping to make the case for CTE to policymakers, and can inform sectors where new programs are needed as well program standards and the approved list of industry-credentials.
- Nationally, some businesses are making significant investments in CTE. Earlier this year, JPMorgan Chase & Co. made a $75 million investment to address the youth unemployment crisis and prepare a more skilled workforce, with a dedicated $35 million going towards strengthening CTE systems at the state level.
When it comes down to it, CTE works for students, for the business community, and for the entire country. When business partners with CTE, the outcome is a high-quality system that sets both employers and students up for success.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kimberly Green is the Executive Director of Advance CTE: State Leaders Connecting Learning to Work, which represents the state leaders responsible for secondary, postsecondary and adult Career Technical Education. www.careertech.org
 Advance CTE (Dec. 2014). The State of Career Technical Education: Employer Engagement in CTE: http://careertech.org/sites/default/files/State-of-CTE_Employer-Engagement_FINAL.pdf