The evolution of vocational education to career and technical education (CTE) is now complete in the United States. However, the rebranding of CTE by schools and school districts is just beginning.
CTE focuses on the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for careers. The Association of Career and Technical Education, "is committed to enhancing the job performance and satisfaction of its members; to increasing public awareness and appreciation for career and technical education (CTE); and to assuring growth in local, state and federal funding for these programs by communicating and working with legislators and government leaders." (Wikipedia, December 4, 2018)
Federal and state structures are aligned to support and accelerate the path forward for CTE Directors, Superintendents, and CTE educators; however, the planning, execution and measurement evidences room for improvement at the school and school district levels.
3 Tenets of Successful Businesses
Have a great product. CTE students represent the premier product for the right problem in the right market at the right time. CTE students represent a current skill set needed by companies thirsting for technical skills in an ever changing and evolving marketplace. CTE students are wired for continuing education to remain current in their chosen field and profession.
Build the right team. CTE departments are a composite of capable and passionate traditional and non-traditional educators. This variance in make up demands more standardization in horizontal skills to ensure the success of the vertical programs. Investing in social media communications training, utilizing social business skills is one such investment required to ensure a common, successful, and repeatable approach to outreach with the community, businesses and students.
Service the right market, at the right time. Reiterating the claim in #1 above, stitching the right product facilitated by the right team to the right market is where the rubber meets the road. Today's digital economy demands technically capable employees and CTE is ideally positioned to meet this ever growing, current need. Done correctly, CTE is preparing students and adult learners for the market in which they will work moving forward.
Brand Marketing. CTE leaders need to elevate their message to raise interest and awareness both within the student body, and externally with parents, the community, and businesses, to create understanding of the value of the next generation, technically-savvy workforce. This increase in brand marketing will also elevate the CTE brand as a part of the district umbrella, not overshadow it.
Acquisition Marketing. CTE leaders need to focus on capturing students’ interest to try CTE courses and opt into a program of instruction that leads to downstream employment and valuable credentials. Externally, CTE leaders need develop corporate relationships to secure guest lecturers to increase the classroom relevance, effect internships that lead to employment, and influence investment in programs by corporations and community organizations from CTE program disciplines.
Loyalty/Retention Marketing. CTE leaders need to spend the time and energy required to garner and evaluate student feedback on CTE courses and programs both during secondary school and after graduation. Surveys utilized with current students should also be adapted to students for a period after graduation and with employers to continually improve and evolve programs. Open and transparent communication about CTE programs must then be shared and incorporated openly and transparently with all audiences to build trust and make improvements.
CTE Business Strategy
CTE success involves helping the student exploration of career options, supporting basic academic and life skills, and enabling achievement of high academic standards, leadership, preparation for industry-defined work, pre-apprenticeship programs, and advanced and continuing education. Along with specific class disciplines, students will learn the skills, ethics and expectations of working in today's competitive global economy.
Below are the core elements of any baseline strategy:
People (the audiences you serve): Students, parents, teachers, administrators, community, corporations, employers.
Process (execution and communication activities): Disciplines including operations, public relations, management communication, and marketing/advertising.
Tools/Technology/Training (enabling inputs): Hardware, software, training to enable the CTE function.
Experience (what makes you unique and different): Delivering a differentiated set of practical contact with and observation of CTE facts and events.
CTE programs provide today’s students with a differentiator. Not only will they be better prepared for college and career pathways, but CTE programs will provide experiences and exposures that result in improved critical thinking, hard skills, and judgment. CTE underlines the importance of maintaining skill set currency and ignites the importance of perpetual education in today’s competitive work environment.
The success of CTE and achievement of employment growth by today's students will largely depend upon the degree of public/private collaboration and communication in communities and cities across the United States. This is true of academia and student transition at secondary and post secondary levels, with the adult CTE population, and as it relates to military transition for Veterans and their dependents (wives, husbands, children).
Growth of our economy and competitiveness of our nation is and should be a focus of CTE. We have done this before, and we will do it again to guarantee the success of our future generations.