“It is considered a second choice, second-class,” said Patricia Hsieh, president of San Diego Miramar College, in a 2017 Insigher Higher Ed article. President Hseih was referring to students choosing to take career or vocational education courses at the community college level.
This view on career and technical education (CTE) is not only felt at the college level but also in secondary CTE centers across the country.
The US DoE 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 is CTE playing second banana to traditional education pathways? Stigma.
Career and Technical Education Stigma
CTE has student awareness and perceived value problems, but stigma also plays a role in keeping students from ever exploring this beneficial educational option.
A 2014 study conducted by the American Federation of Teachers found that, alongside proper equipment and sufficient funding, career and technical education stigma was a significant challenge for educators to properly deliver their programs.
In the same study, an educator is quoted as saying, “Most people still say that CTE is for people who are not going to college.”
Career and technical education stigma is perceived by students and educators alike. First-generation college students are often directed toward traditional routes of education, and away from CTE, because of the perceived value in that type of education, not because it is the right fit for them.
Long gone are the days of the 80’s and 90’s when career training was “only for the bad kids” or for those “who can’t handle real education”.
Breaking down Career and Technical Education Stigma
CTE is only for problem students
The outdated stereotype of a student being forced into a vocational school as a last resort is long over.
CTE is becoming more of a first choice for students. Once they’ve enrolled, they see that CTE helps them identify their career interests and applies traditional classroom education to real-world problems.
Students that concentrate in a CTE cluster are more like to graduate from high school by their expected graduation year than those that did not concentrate in CTE.
CTE connects students to what they are learning. This type of curriculum gives relevance, meaning, and value to students that would otherwise go through the motions to graduation or not graduate at all.
CTE students are not college material
High school students who concentrate in CTE are just as likely to earn a post-secondary credential than those who do not.
This stigma is built on the fallacy that the only logical step after graduating from high school is to go directly to college.
While these students do just as well as non-concentrator students, the idea that going to college after high school is not a one-size-fits-all solution.
Going to college, because it is the expected thing to do, can end with students taking on student-loan debt and not finishing with a credential.
As noted above, first-generation college students experience pressure to go to college after high school because they have been conditioned to see going to college as the only post-secondary option that will get them a job.
According to a 2018 study by the US DoE, these first-generation students end up leaving their post-secondary education without receiving a credential more than their second-generation college student peers.
Today credentialing can come in many forms. Students do not need to go to a four-year college if they do not feel that it is the right fit for them. Students can participate in apprenticeships or boot camps to get the credential they need to be successful in their field.
Google is disrupting the idea of needing a 4-year degree with its launch of Google Career Certificates. These certifications are being offered at $50/month and can be completed in 6 months. Once a student completes their certification they are then connected directly to employers looking for employees with their skills.
CTE students can’t find good-paying jobs
This stigma is built not the foundation of the previous section. The idea is that these students do not go to college, so they must not be making a high wage.
As we have previously covered, CTE concentrators are more likely to graduate from high school and just as likely to earn a post-secondary credential compared to those who did not concentrate in CTE in high school.
Misconception can also be found when we look at employment and earnings for these two groups.
CTE concentrators see less unemployment and higher full-time employment compared to non-concentrators.
CTE concentrators are more likely to earn more the $45,000/ year and less likely to earn less than $20,000/year compared to non-concentrators.
CTE is wrapped in a stigma that is built on old and false ideas. CTE is proven to be beneficial to the students that participate; they graduate from high school in higher numbers, have the same post-secondary education success as their peers; and perform better in the job market.
How do high school educators properly get this information in front of the students that would see the most benefit?
Removing these Stigmas through Pathfinding
Proving these fallacies false not only removes the stigma of CTE, but it proves that this alternative form of education empowers students and helps them succeed in their secondary and post-secondary pursuits.
Once a student is made aware of CTE opportunities available to them, they can then see how these opportunities fit into their career path.
Awato takes this a step further with pathfinding technology.
Pathfinding uses local content mapping and AI to enable students to compare different paths and understand how each step in their education provides value along a career path.
Students that are unsure about CTE can manipulate their pathway to see how their time to complete a certain credential, the cost to get that credential, and their earning potential are affected from start to finish.