It’s Time To Develop A Stronger Workforce: CTE Program Development
What kind of education should younger generations of workers receive? Will job skills education be viewed as an “outside pursuit,” a hobby, or an essential skill needed for career success?
The question is at the center of a growing national debate on how career and technical education (CTE) will change and evolve in the future. The case can be made that CTE should be viewed as a career track, rather than an additional education beyond the basics that students should receive in school. With a recent FICO Changepoint report predicting a 40 percent increase in the demand for IT employees in the next five years, companies are looking to CTE to provide future-ready employees.
CTE provides students with math, science, engineering, and computer programming skills that employers are increasingly demanding as they seek to find the best talent available. CTE programs have the potential to be customized to meet the unique needs of specific employers; the amount of in-demand skills vary by industry, but the industry trend is clear: Companies expect their employees to be able to juggle a variety of different tasks in diverse areas and skills areas.
Education should start early. Rather than simply adding “computer science” to a course description or altering existing programs, the state of California should prioritize priority of CTE learning from preschool through high school. In these studies, students who received a primary education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects outperformed students who did not, suggesting that CTE-exposed children have more success in elementary school and beyond.
In California, there are already many CTE programs, yet they are often recognized as higher levels of complexity than is what employers are looking for. Instead of simply increasing “crash course” CTE instruction to provide equal opportunity and ease the educational process, educators and employers should collaborate with each other to better understand the needs of employers.
Building Bridges between K-12 and Industry
Employers tend to view CTE programming at a basic level as just adding “crash course” programming to a course description or modifying existing program structure. If we want to ensure our young people have the skills needed to succeed in today’s workplace, we must work together to provide a high-level program level that mirrors more actual CTE programming that employers want, like the high-end learning style of a career ready college preparatory program.
These should include more structured experiences with employers that let students build tools and learn directly from industry experts in the field. Similarly, the trainings and skills programs should build upon the existing strengths of the current program structure. Making the CTE curriculum more of a focus on actual programming by encouraging more hands-on experience would allow students to be more apt to apply the courses to industry.
Quality Tech Skills Training
Since many educational programs are fairly complex to navigate, students are often more vulnerable to heavy-handed and unskilled teaching. To ensure students are able to apply skills across the board, we should strive to craft a program structure that empowers students to learn regardless of their background or even their formal education. Instead of formulating curriculum to fit what students are already capable of learning, we should incorporate broad skill sets and capabilities into the program that are more aligned with employers’ desires.
The schools and students involved in these programs will, of course, have to receive the right training and guidance so that the program is easy to complete and students can retain the skills that they have acquired. This is especially important as we continue to ensure that these new programs become industry ready. CTE programming should be dynamic in scope to reflect the needs of today’s workforce. Programs should make use of automation tools and employ state-of-the-art technology for students to build actual learning capabilities.
The work force is evolving and evolving rapidly. Research is showing that current workforce skills are not effective in preparing students for today’s tech-driven economy. We must do a better job of preparing our students for a workforce that is changing rapidly.
CTE will be instrumental in securing our young people’s career success in the future. Programs with a focus on building a foundation of preparedness and serving as a launching pad for success should be built around the needs of the industry. We must offer our young people a pathway for a career ready environment—and the CTE curriculum can deliver this.