Learning That Works: Rethinking Education & CTE Options

By Cass County Career and Technical Education Center Director Dr. Denise Jonas

In Governor Doug Burgum’s North Dakota State of the State Address, he outlined his vision for economic success through his Main Street Initiative and its three foundation pillars:

1) a skilled workforce;
2) smart, efficient infrastructure; and
3) vibrant communities.

Governor Burgum has challenged us all to reinvent government, including K–12 education. He stated, “By reinventing education, we will create a skilled workforce that matches the high-paying jobs of today and tomorrow.” The request to reinvent education should really come as no surprise, as interwoven throughout his campaign was dialogue and comments promoting innovation, educational options, idea generation, technology infusion, entrepreneurship and partnerships.

As Director of the Cass County Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center, this was music to my ears. CTE, formerly known as vocational education, was founded on the principle of preparing students for the workforce, and today, continues to engage in this discussion to identify the technical and employability skills our students need for jobs, college, and emerging careers. From marketing to information technology, health science to engineering, construction to manufacturing, 79 high school Career Pathways are available for Fargo students to get started in becoming today’s leaders and skilled workers.

One challenge for CTE is perception. CTE is not always embraced as a pathway for ALL high school students. Yes, CTE prepares students for skilled work, but it also aligns with college degrees and advanced training. CTE should not be viewed as a “have” or “have not” pathway for career preparation.

A second challenge for CTE is the actual time available in a student’s schedule to complete required coursework, with less time for elective choices. Unfortunately, this challenge can lead to a divide in CTE participation, as students are driven to make academic choices based on requirements and perception versus career course exploration.

In reality, CTE’s core beliefs supports Governor Burgum’s vision. CTE programs and curriculums align with current trends in skilled workforce needs and innovative thinking for the future, thus making it one of the most viable K-12 educational vehicles to prepare students for their future and not the past. CTE is foundational to economic success and can make a difference.

Here are some CTE facts:

  • CTE seeks business and industry perspectives through advisory committees and partnerships to align content, technical skills, industry certifications, and work placements.
  • North Dakota students completing two or more CTE high school credits in a career pathway graduate at a higher rate of 94.8% versus their peers at 87.2%.
  • 84% of CTE students study to further their education or employment.
  • Technology is integral to the curriculums, not only for delivery, but for use in solving problems and developing technical skills.
  • CTE’s business focus develops an employability mindset, innovation, and the know-how to run a successful business.
  • CTE works collaboratively between secondary and post-secondary programs to create transition, dual credit, and prior knowledge credit.
  • CTE students can earn industry certifications based on program options.
  • Project-based learning motivates and engages student learners.

As we rethink CTE as a means to support Governor Burgum’s Main Street Initiative, let’s consider the following: 

  • Let’s view CTE as an essential foundation for all students to apply academics, experience workplace scenarios, and explore career interests for the future and not just as an elective.
  • Let’s rethink education by recognizing rigorous CTE courses as credible options and alternative credits for high school core graduation requirements.
  • Let’s reduce the divide between academia and CTE by valuing the importance of both and creating options for students to prepare for their chosen pathways versus the one-size fits all education model.

The time is right and the time is NOW to support North Dakota’s economic success by promoting career and technical educational in high school for all students and to grow our future workforce.

References:
ACTE – CTE Works https://www.acteonline.org/uploadedFiles/What_is_CTE/Fact_Sheets/CTE_Works_Research_2016.pdf
KXNet Video http://www.myndnow.com/news/bismarck-news/governor-burgum-delivers-state-of-the-state-address/635581882
Inforum http://www.inforum.com/news/government/4191634-we-can-always-do-better-burgum-says-first-state-state-address
ND Dept. of CTE http://www.nd.gov/cte/about/docs/CTE_Facts.pdf
Learning that Works https://careertech.org/fact-sheets
Career Technical Education – What is CTE
Career Technical Education & Student Achievement
Career Technical Education Talking Points – Innovation & Entrepreneurship