Building Your Path

3 Problems Facing CTE and How Pathfinding Can Solve Them

The most recent data from the National DoE paints an interesting picture of the effectiveness and participation in career and technical education (CTE) across the country. 

This data tells us that:

  • nearly all public school districts offer CTE to high school students;
  • students who take at least two courses in the same cluster earn more than those who don’t;
  • and students can earn college credit while still in high school. 

So why do only 37% of high school students participate in more than two CTE courses in the same cluster?

CTE centers are doing the work to ensure students know they are available, but they’re facing the challenges of getting students to stay cluster-focused. 

Below, we go over why this may be happening and how it could be solved.

1. Awareness of CTE centers

Most CTE centers across the country hold open houses for students and go into classrooms in the high schools and middle schools to introduce students to the idea of CTE. These opportunities expose students to the concept and value of CTE. 

It’s because of these great efforts that so many students know what CTE exists and engage in at least one class. General awareness, though, isn’t enough. 

2. Identifying the right program for every student

General exposure isn’t enough to drive a concentrated effort. Students need to be engaged and guided to the best program for them. 

YouTruth’s national survey of high school students found that only 46% said that their school helped them identify their career interests and only 49% helped them understand the steps to take in order to pursue the career I want. 

When looking at the data, it’s not surprising that more students don’t pursue CTE— a majority of them aren’t helped in identifying their career goals or told how CTE can help. 

Some states put emphasis on personal learning plans (PLP), but their adoption and execution can vary widely. Most PLPs don’t include details on which CTE programs might relate to a career and why. 

To combat this lack of information, every student who is entering high school need to be shown what careers they’d most be interested in and what CTE programs available to them match their goals. 

Interestingly, the state of NH partnered with Awato to do just that.

3. Demonstrating Value

All students would benefit from taking career technical education courses. But, as we suggested above, they likely don’t know which programs they should focus on. 

Beyond identifying an area of study, students need to have a clear idea of what they’ll get from CTE. Many students may not know that CTE can be a great first step to a career, even if they are planning to go onto four-year colleges, which 59% of students are planning on. 

A student interested in marketing may not see the clear connection between a multi-media CTE program and their career goals. This same student could have access to in-demand marketing skills that they did not know they needed, like understanding video editing, all before leaving high school for a four-year college. 

What is standing in between these students and completing multiple courses in a cluster is the connection of how that experience will help them along their career pathway.

Pathfinding technology can fill these gaps

In a previous blog post, we define what pathfinding is and how it improves the traditional pathway system.

Pathfinding technology can help address these critical challenges for CTE schools and their sending school partners.

It addresses this problem by providing a streamlined solution to help students understand themselves, what available programs are the best for them, and why they would be valuable for them.

How is pathfinding technology able to do all of this? 

  1. It fills a critical area of need for sending schools, so they are often more eager to participate and share CTE options with their students. 
  2. The technology is built on using local content and mapping local content to all possible career outcomes. This enables the technology to show every student what local CTE programs will fit for them. 
  3. Pathfinding technology enables students to compare different paths and understand how steps provide value along a career path. This enables students to see why they should participate in a certain cluster of CTE.

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