What do your school colleagues who are not CTE teachers or administrators think about CTE? Do they believe CTE adds value to a student’s readiness for life beyond school? Do they think most CTE students go on to jobs rather than college? Do they think CTE is for some but not all students? Do they view CTE as in step with the rapidly changing workforce and new technology?
I was thinking about these questions and others when reading the results of a recent poll conducted by the online business news aggregator SmartBrief. This question was asked of readers: “How well do you think career and technical education is matching students with jobs that pay well and are plentiful?”
Now, this is a poor survey question, but I will get back to that later. What intrigued me were the answers. They raised an alert in my mind about the need for us to be working harder to ensure that our colleagues understand what CTE does. And, at the same time, we in the CTE community must be continually reflecting on what we do and be ready to embrace any changes necessary to give students more options for a bright future.
Back to the survey. Assuming the question was interpreted by most readers as an opinion on the ability of CTE programs to help students get good jobs, the response was quite negative. Thirty-six percent responded, “Not very well” and 5 percent “Not at all well” for a combined negative reply of 42 percent. Only one third of those replying gave positive responses of “Well” or “Very Well.” Twenty-five percent gave a neutral response. This was not a scientific poll and included a random group of educators who were primarily administrators. However, these answers should give CTE educators a wake-up call that our colleagues still do not have very high opinions of the value of CTE within education. How would your colleagues respond to this question?
The survey itself does have some limitations and should not be considered valid research. The responses were random, and there is no information on the sample size or characteristics. There is an assumption that the respondents know CTE in its current practice and are not remembering experiences from decades earlier. It also assumes that these educators are familiar with which careers are in demand and pay well – a huge assumption. The survey question could be interpreted to mean that the goal of CTE is to prepare students to go directly to work and not to college. The reality, of course, is that the majority of CTE completers do go on to further education.
When we think about this survey, we should not hide behind its limitations and say to ourselves, “These educators just do not know the real CTE.” Instead, we should use the survey responses as a stimulus for us to ensure that current CTE programs are of high quality and aligned with well-paying career opportunities. We should also continue to work to ensure that all of our peers and students and parents in the community understand the value of today’s CTE instruction.