Post-secondary options are plentiful for high school students, more so than ever before. But many school leaders might not fully realize what all these options are and the financial impact they might have on students. What they do know is how they currently allocate their resources for staff, budgets, and curricula. To distribute these resources equitably, leaders need better information about the many options that students have, including career and technical education (CTE) pathways.
Bridging the resource gap between CTE and college resources is possible when leaders support all students on all paths. This begins with every student in the high school creating a plan for their future and administrators then using data from these plans to allocate resources. The natural outcome of this is students following CTE pathways and gaining equal footing with their college-going peers.
How Does a Student Know Their Path?
Most students and many adults will say that they don’t know what they want to do when they grow up. While this is often said tongue-in-cheek, many students do need to explore multiple careers and pathways as high school students. Most parents agree with this and believe that young people should have a chance to explore their options, but for students to develop a plan or multiple ones, they need the right tools.
Career exploration software is essential for students to create these plans. Students can use it to research areas of interest and post-secondary options, saving this information as they go.
This isn’t a one-and-done activity, and students should return to it at least monthly to revise it. As they take courses that they enjoy or ones that they don’t, they should be able to adjust their plan along the way. Their path should be rooted in their strengths, passions, and skills. It is more than just finding a job that pays well; students can use the interest inventories and career exploration tool in Choices360 to find multiple options that fit their personality style and passions for the future.
Students’ Plans Should Inform Resource-Allocation Decisions
One major advantage of career planning software is that school leaders have access to vital data for decision-making. Counselors and administrators can see where students’ interests lie and can form master schedules around these career plans. Schools cannot offer every class for every career interest, but offering multiple CTE pathways will meet the needs of many students.
Another effect of looking at this data is that old paradigms might need to be let go. School leaders should be asking, “Is college really needed for all kids?” Allocating resources to college-bound students or to CTE students is not a zero-sum game. Equity in resources helps everyone—parents, students, and counselors—feel like both are equal options.
Promoting All Options as Pathways to Success
This is where the rubber really meets the road: equal emphasis on college and on CTE pathways. What does this look like when it comes to the allocation of resources? Here are a few reflective questions that leaders can ask themselves as they reflect on their career-planning data:
- Are students taking as many tours of technical colleges as four-year colleges? Do you offer as many opportunities as possible for each?
- Do you celebrate and promote “signing day” for technical schools in the same way that you do for four-year colleges?
- Can teachers and counselors explain the value of a credential or technical certificate in the same way as a bachelor’s degree?
- Are resources provided for AP tests, IB tests, or concurrent credits in the same way that they are provided for credential exams?
- Are the technology tools used in the college-bound classrooms equal to those used in the CTE classrooms?
- Does enrollment in the college-bound courses and the CTE pathway courses reflect the demographic make-up of the school?
These reflective questions help with leaders mentally bridging the resource gap between CTE and college. Realistically, many schools will need to recalibrate their resource allocation. This can be a challenging task, but it is imperative to meet the needs of all students, who can have great careers through CTE pathways.
College remains a good option for many students, but it all comes down to what they want out of life, which can be guided by their career plan. By bridging the resource gap between CTE and college resources, schools can help all students make great decisions about their future.
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!