Posted by: Tom Ross | May 8, 2012

How to Wow with CTE

As a member of the CTE community, I’m sure you have found yourself at a gathering where you are describing to someone how you teach or do research in or coordinate a CTE program. Your audience may not have heard of CTE but they totally get what you’re saying—that putting kids on a career path makes sense and that teaching them real life skills combined with academics seems relevant. But you wish you had more—maybe just a couple of amazing facts or sound bites about how CTE is changing students’ lives for the better, especially in light of these tough economic times.

I knew others–like ACTE–had created “Fact Sheets” about CTE; my task was to cull information that would work from these, facts that are as current as research allows and backed up by reliable sources.

Here’s what I found:

Money talks:

  •  According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 43% of young workers with Licenses and Certificates earn more than those with an associate degree, 27% of young workers with Licenses and Certificates earn more than those with a bachelor’s degree, and 31% of young workers with associate degrees earn more than those with a bachelor’s degree. (Center on Education and the Workforce, Valuing Certificates, Presentation, 2009; see below)·

Students don’t walk:

  • CTE works for higher graduation rates. The average high school graduation rate for students concentrating in CTE programs is 90.18 percent compared to a national graduation rate of 74.9 percent. (U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, Report to Congress on State Performance, Program year 2007-2008.
  • Seventy percent of students concentrating in CTE areas stayed in post-secondary education or transferred to a four-year degree program. That compared to an overall average state target of 58 percent. (U.S. Dept of Education)
  • Eighty-one percent of dropouts said that more “real-world learning” may have influenced them to stay in school. (Bridgeland et al, “The Silent Epidemic,” 2005.)
  • The more students participate in Career Technical Student Organization activities, the higher their academic motivation, academic engagement, grades, career self-efficacy and college aspirations—factors often linked to high school graduation. (Alfeld, C., et al., Looking Inside the Black Box: The Value Added by Career and Technical Student Organizations to Students’ High School Experience, National Research Center for CTE, 2007)

CTE increases student achievement:

  • Students who complete a rigorous academic core coupled with a career concentration have test scores that equal or exceed “college prep” students. These dual-concentrators are more likely to pursue postsecondary education, have a higher grade point average in college and are less likely to drop out in the first year. (Southern Regional Education Board, “Facts About High School Career/Technical Studies”)
  • CTE students were significantly more likely than their non-CTE counterparts to report that they had developed problem-solving, project completion, research, math, college application, work-related, communication, time management and critical thinking skills during high school. (Lekes, N., et al., Career and Technical Education Pathway Programs, Academic Performance, and the Transition to College and Career, National Research Center for CTE, 2007)

CTE students get the jobs:

  • Experts project 47 million job openings in the decade ending 2018. About one-third of those jobs will require an associate’s degree or certificate, and nearly all will require real-world skills that can be mastered through CTE. (Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce via Harvard’s Pathways to Prosperity report, p. 29)

Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce: Help Wanted

  • High school students who graduate with a Career and Technical Education concentration are 2.5 times more likely to be employed while pursuing post-secondary education. (Utah State Office of Education)
  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 18 of the 20 fastest growing occupations within the next decade will require Career and Technical Education.(ACTE)
  • Ninety-five percent of all CTE adult students get jobs in the field in which they were educated. (Ohio ACTE)

The more I think about it, the more I believe percentages and money amounts are not the answer. Our lives are filled with those, especially in an election year. Our audience may tend to glaze over.

I think these people may have the right idea:


CTE students:

  • are more engaged in their education
  • graduate from high school at higher rates
  • score higher on academic achievement tests
  • gain critical employability skills
  • focus on high-wage, high-skill and high-demand careers
  • earn more money in the labor market
  • are the backbone of the future U.S. workforce!

And if you want to hit them with a three-pronged punch, Michigan’s Teacher of the Year 2011, Paul Galbenski, summed it up this way:

CTE equips students with:

  • core academic skills and the ability to apply those skills to concrete situations in order to function in the workplace and in routine daily activities
  • em­ployability skills (such as critical thinking and responsibility) that are essential in any career area
  • job-specific, technical skills related to a specific career pathway

Finally, there is also something even more illuminating (to me): CTE students seem happier and seem to be having more fun and enjoying school more because they are doing something they’re interested in or good at and that they want to do and learn.

CTE …”will help your child uncover their strengths, interests, and true desires. Students that love what they do and see meaning in the work they are asked to do love to come to school. Couple that passion with great career building programs and your child will be on the way to a bright future.” (Green Mountain Technology and Career Center)

If you have an idea of how you would make the case for CTE in a few words and with succinct facts, let us know!


  1. This is a fabulous post and comes at a time when we need to quantify the value of CTE to everyone. We need you to do one on the value of Career Development and Work-based Learning for the contribution to student success.

  2. This is a great article. It is based on updated data summarizing what CTE is all about showing tangible results in student sucess rates and making positive contributions to the communities we serve and to society in general.

  3. […] How to Wow with CTE ( […]

  4. Advocacy 101: Making the Case for CTE, an online, on demand webinar from CTE:

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