Facing CTE’s Most Common Challenges

When exploring the many options that public schools across the country offer, you will find that career and technical education (CTE) programs are unique and diverse in their guidelines and programming. However, there are common challenges among all programs.

The first and possibly the most significant problem is the lack of trained teachers who are ready to step into the classroom. Teachers at all levels are moving to different positions. While this issue isn’t specific to CTE classrooms, it is more complicated in this area because of the technical expertise required to teach CTE courses.

That said, with the right action plan, CTE’s most common challenges are not insurmountable. There are three overarching issues that these programs tend to struggle with: perception, working with industry, and technology.

Getting the word out about CTE programming options to parents and students alike is an ongoing difficulty. These programs are legitimate routes to high-wage careers, but they are not always viewed that way. Educating students, parents, and even teachers about career options is a critical step. All options should be included, not just those focusing on a college degree.

For students, the root of the perception issue of CTE classes is that they don’t know what they don’t know. They might enjoy an introductory-level course as a freshman but will not connect that with the path that they need to take to enter that career field. A course-planning tool can help systemically direct students to options for the next course in the pathway, so there isn’t confusion about prerequisites, co-requisites, or which course comes next.

Parents should be educated about their student’s options. While students understandably tend to have a short-term view of the world, parents have lived career experience, which helps when supporting their student’s post-secondary planning. Unfortunately, many also bring their biases into that support. CTE today is much different than the shop classes of thirty years ago. CTE classrooms have the latest industry-approved equipment for students to learn from.

Another bias that some parents have is believing that modern-day jobs feature subpar working environments at subpar wages. But the manufacturing floors of today are clean, well-lit, well-ventilated, and extremely safe—and many of them are high wage. Schools have successfully used student-led conferences as a strategy for engaging parents in post-secondary plans. Students who have researched careers and know about future demand and wage potential can share this information with parents, who then tend to have their eyes opened about the jobs of the future.

Teachers should not underestimate their influence in career counseling either. Just as parents bring biases into these conversations, teachers also have a limited perspective on the world of work. To combat this, schools need to use a robust and engaging tool that helps teachers guide students through consistent revision of their post-secondary plan.

Engaging with business and industry is an ongoing challenge for CTE programs across the nation. Partners who are collaborative, consistent, and willing to lend support in ways that students need are ideal but rare. Engagement and input from businesses is a required part of Perkins grant funding, but sometimes, it can be a task only focused on grant compliance, not on mutually beneficial partnerships. Even as districts try to invite more collaboration with business partners, the challenges increase with communication, management, and lack of time and personnel to keep it all afloat. Schools with a one-stop system to help organize and coordinate work-based learning have more success than business contacts siloed in different schools, in different pathways, or with different teachers.

Another challenge that many programs face is an imbalance in the technology resources for CTE courses compared to those for college-bound courses. Boards and administrators often prioritize AP and IB courses when resources are scarce. While providing updated equipment and supplies does require more money, it helps teachers meet their students’ needs. When key stakeholders—teachers, students, and parents—remove their biases about CTE, they can help advocate for the funding of updated equipment in classrooms.

Solutions are available for combating all these challenges with Choices360. Its tools can help coordinate an alignment of student exposure to great careers and course planning for post-secondary success and ensure that students are connected with business and industry.

While there is no silver bullet for CTE’s most common challenges, there are many best practices to increase its impact in the classroom.

Here at XAP, we believe that exploration lays the foundation for planning. That’s why we help school and district counseling leaders implement equitable programs and strategies to ensure that students graduate high school not only with a diploma but also with a plan.

To see how we can help you better support your students and drive state, district, and school initiatives with greater ease, transparency, and data, feel free to contact our specialists today!

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