February is Career-Technical Education Month across the United States. It’s a chance to recognize the millions of American students studying and preparing for a good career as well as the instructors and professionals who teach those students.
Career-technical education (CTE) is somewhat different from traditional education. At Great Oaks, for instance, high school juniors and seniors typically spend half of their day in math, science, English, and social studies classes. But during the other half of the day when their peers at other high schools are taking elective courses and sampling a variety of subjects, the Great Oaks students are spending their time concentrating on a specific career field and earning professional credentials along with high school—and often college—credit. Many of those students already know what they want to do with their future, and CTE gives them a head start along that path.
The research shows that CTE has benefits. A 2017 study shows that CTE leads to reduced dropout rates and higher rates of on-time graduation. In fact, nationwide the average high school graduation rate was 85%, but for those taking CTE courses the national graduation rate was 95%.
In Ohio, 94% of those concentrating on CTE classes go on to postsecondary education, the workforce, the military, or an apprenticeship.
For those who go directly into the workforce, they’ll find 30 million good jobs—jobs with a median income of at least $55,000—that don’t require a four-year college degree.
Those who go on to college often have a head start, too. About one of every four CTE students graduates with three or more college credits.
CTE school districts like Great Oaks leverage resources so K-12 school districts can offer their students educational opportunities using labs, equipment, facilities, and instructors that would be expensive for individual districts to provide. Great Oaks, for instance, serves 36 school districts across southwest Ohio, and students in each of those districts can choose from over 30 career options.
So, while Career-Technical Education Month celebrations may never catch on, this is a good time to note the value that these essential students and educators provide to our families and communities.
Harry Snyder is the president/CEO of Great Oaks Career Campuses.