Schools increasingly using CTE to address local needs

Schools increasingly using CTE to address local needs

(Maine) Fire officials in Maine are working to develop high school-level firefighting programs to train and recruit young people for short staffed stations.

In Massachusetts, schools are partnering with local farms and community colleges to create career pathways in sustainable agriculture and food systems.

And construction on a new school completely focused on preparing students for comprehensive health care professions will begin in Texas in the coming year, as a need for primary care doctors has emerged in the state.

If schools in the U.S. have had a long tradition of reflecting the communities they serve, there’s a growing trend among some to also respond to local economic needs.

Employers in many fields have expressed concern over a lacking labor force as older workers begin to retire, prompting some districts to prioritize career technical education coursework that can help fill professional vacuums within their regions.

“A number of states are looking at their program approval process and using labor market data to drive their coursework decisions,” Kate Kreamer, deputy executive director of Advance CTE, said in an interview. “We’re seeing a trend at the program level where districts are creating course sequences or pathways, for example, that are meeting specific needs in their communities.”

The development of college and career ready standards in many states is giving new prominence to  career technical training. Michigan legislators, for instance, is  now incentivize funding for CTE programs that address regional industry needs, while a large-scale review of course offerings in Tennessee recently lead to the development of new courses backed by industry demand.

More and more, the types of programs offered by schools reflect some of the most in-demand fields within the state. Schools in California are embracing pathways in green technology; diesel technology programs have continued expanding in South Carolina; and students in Ohio are beginning to gain skills that may help them enter work in the aerospace and defense sector.

According to Phi Delta Kappa International’s 48th annual public poll, 25 percent of parents said that the main role of public schools was to prepare students for the workforce. Fewer than half–45 percent–of the 1,200 adults who responded to the national poll viewed academic preparation as the main goal of public education, suggesting a cultural shift in how families and communities view the purpose of education.

In Oxford Hills, Maine fire officials told The Advertiser Democrat that the entire community would reap the benefits of a junior firefighter program. Students could find employment immediately after graduating and earn up to six credits at local community colleges, while nearby cities would have more firefighters readily available in case of emergency–something the area is currently lacking.

In the regional school district in Buckland, Massachusetts–a rural, predominately agricultural community with a total population of fewer than 2,000–education leaders are developing an educational pathway that will allow students to earn dual-enrollment credits and participate in farming internships as they learn about sustainable agriculture and food systems.

And in Austin, Texas, construction will begin next year on a pre-K through 12th grade comprehensive health professions public charter school that education officials said will help address the shortage of primary care doctors in 130 counties within the state.

“We’ll be starting them very young to develop the skills to use science and data, and also to develop the empathy needed in health professions,” Larkin Tackett, executive director of IDEA Public Schools’ Austin chapter, said in a statement. “It’s critical to foster an interest in health professions from a young age and encourage students’ career explorations in these areas.”