CTE Pathways is not cheap. The investment from the federal government will top $1.3 billion for this year. Equipment, supplies, and training add up to a large price tag. But if this is the case, why are many legislators and school leaders so supportive of CTE programming?
The answer is clear: when done correctly, CTE Pathways is an investment with a great rate of return. Students are both more employable and better trained because of CTE Pathways. Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of the value of career and technical programs, and there continues to be a negative stigma associated with non-college pathways. Therefore, schools need to communicate the value of this type of education to parents, students, and members of the community. School leaders seeking proven strategies for success will find these seven tips to be impactful when communicating CTE value.
1. Refine the talking points of what makes CTE Pathways valuable.
Each district has various pathways and different access to equipment and programming, but they also have success stories showing how their students used CTE Pathway courses to fulfill workforce demand in their communities. These “talking points” might vary from place to place, but they typically focus on the high-wage opportunities for students, the ability to fulfill workforce needs, and the technical know-how that students develop. Students can make money if they graduate out of CTE Pathways, and everyone should know that.
2. Focus on career planning to create value for students.
Students and parents both benefit from education in career planning. It all starts with making sure that when students enroll in classes, they know how their decisions will impact their future—and their parents should know too. Their classes should align with a career path and be part of a plan in which the student knows the cost of the training and the median salary of the position.
3. Share value with parents and the community.
This could be a CTE night, showcase, parent event, or community event. Regardless, highlighting the work that students do is much more effective in person than through video. Photos and press releases do work but experiencing it firsthand is ideal.
4. Empower teachers and students to engage with businesses directly.
Students are the best advocates for CTE classes, and through work-based learning experiences, they can share their passion with members of the business community. Work-based learning takes time to facilitate and organize, so having a software solution to help makes it possible for any school.
Also, teachers can communicate the value of their programs through externships, which are opportunities for teachers to work for a business in the summer. Their time can be paid through the Perkins grant. This is a great way to engage with businesses and bring relevance into the classroom.
5. Tell the story of the graduating cohorts.
Tracking post-secondary placement is required through the Perkins grant, but telling the story of a previous student who used CTE training to reach a career is the ultimate value-add. If such a student can attend the showcase night to give testimony or even record a video for social media, it will speak to parents, current students, and everyone in the community. Stakeholders will hear about the value of CTE Pathways straight from the source.
These points of engagement are also important because some students don’t follow a direct line to a career field, but the soft skills and technical skills that they learn in CTE classrooms can be used in various post-secondary options, from college to the workforce. Even if few students in a specific pathway enter that field, it will still teach them many valuable skills for their future.
6. Target communication.
Newsletters work for some people, but social media is necessary to reach other groups. TikTok and Instagram can be the best way to send a message to students, even though most school leaders won’t feel comfortable in that space. The point is that sharing the greatness of CTE Pathways needs multiple approaches. If that seems overwhelming and resources are limited, ask teachers to help. They can be the best “influencers” on different platforms, depending on their age and skill set.
7. Continue to engage lawmakers.
Even though there is federal and state funding for CTE Pathways, we must continue to advocate for these programs to our elected officials. These funding sources are not guaranteed, and lawmakers need to see added value to the money that they are allocating for CTE.
These seven tips focus on communicating the value of CTE programs, both quantitative and qualitative. This way, we can share the data and stories that show the success of CTE Pathways.
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!