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Level Up Career and Technical Education to Prepare the Future Workforce

Level Up Career and Technical Education to Prepare the Future Workforce

Oct 12, 2023, 15:54 PM by Jay Johnson
Amy Heflin, Sr. Manager of Curriculum Development at FlexPoint provides three ways school and district leaders can enhance their Career and Technical Education offerings.

By: Amy Heflin, Senior Manager of Curriculum Development, FlexPoint Education Cloud

CTE is the Future Banner

According to the U.S. Department of Education, students who focused on Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses while in high school had higher median annual earnings eight years after their expected graduation date than students who didn’t. A reason for this is that CTE courses gave them the opportunity to learn valuable workplace skills like communication, time management, and problem-solving. 

I first experienced the power of CTE back in the late 80s as a high school student. My first CTE course was Typing, my second was Intro to Computers, and I continued to take courses such as Business Management & Law, Accounting 1 & 2, and Shorthand. At the time, I didn't realize the impact of these courses, but during my senior year, due to my efforts in these courses, I earned the Gold Seal Endorsement on my diploma and money for college.

This is why, as the Senior Manager of Curriculum Development at FlexPoint Education Cloud, my goal is to develop a variety of CTE courses that help students discover their passions. Through courses like Digital Information Technology, Cybersecurity Essentials, Microeconomics, and more, we can help students discover jobs they may have never considered and develop their technical and soft skills. 

So, how can school and district leaders help ever-evolving student populations graduate high school and go immediately into high-demand, high-wage jobs or continue with postsecondary education? By developing a long-term strategy for CTE that allows your program to grow and adapt over time. 

To help, I’ve put together three ways you can enhance CTE offerings to ensure your decisions are driven by what employers want to see paired with what students are excited about for years to come. 

3 Ways to Enhance Career and Technical Education Offerings:

  1. Provide Students with Opportunities to Gain Employability Skills and Industry Certifications
  2. Partner with Career and Technical Student Organizations
  3. Refine and Expand Your Career and Technical Education Course Catalog

1. Provide Students with Opportunities to Gain Employability Skills and Industry Certifications

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, undergraduates at public and private nonprofit four-year institutions are declining (-0.5% and 0.2% respectively). Additionally, 30 million jobs in the United States do not require a bachelor’s degree and pay an annual salary of $55,000 or more. 

With fewer students interested in completing a four-year degree and high-demand, high-wage job opportunities being more readily available, it’s important that educators provide a way for students to not only learn the technical skills needed in jobs but also teach students the value of employability skills. 

A great place to start is the U.S. Department of Education’s Employability Skills Framework, which includes three overarching skill categories for employability - applied knowledge, effective relationships, and workplace skills. The best way to ensure your students are grasping these skills is through different assignments, quizzes, and more.

For example, for interpersonal skills, have students work in groups or teams to complete assignments, and after they finish the assignments, have them reflect on how well they worked together. In many of our CTE courses, we have a resume builder section where students develop their resume and receive advice on making adjustments to catch a recruiter’s eye. 

In addition to employability skills, CTE courses can prepare students for industry certifications. They’re valuable to employers because they verify a job candidate’s technical skillset - giving your students a leg up when applying for jobs! An example of this would be students obtaining the Python or Java certification upon completing a Computer Science Principles program of study and then getting a job in programming.

2. Partner with Career and Technical Student Organizations

Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) are an integral component of curriculum and instruction, building upon career and employability skills and concepts through the application and engagement of students in hands-on demonstrations and real-life and/or work experiences.

These CTSOs include:

  • Business Professionals of America
  • DECA (formerly Distributive Education Clubs of America)
  • FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America)
  • FCCLA (Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America)
  • FFA (Future Farmers of America)
  • HOSA - Future Health Professionals (formerly Health Occupations Students of America)
  • SkillsUSA
  • TSA (Technology Student Association)

Students within these organizations have the opportunity to gain real-world job experiences, including working with their peers, completing tasks, creating resumes, networking, and more. For example, FFA has competitions that include horse evaluations and veterinary science and DECA has competitions that evaluate students in business management, finance, marketing, and tourism through written and interactive components. Oftentimes, industry professionals serve as the judges in these competitions.

3. Refine and Expand Your Career and Technical Education Course Catalog

While the U.S. Department of Education estimates that 98% of districts offer CTE programs, the number of courses and programs of study offered varies due to budgets and resources, including teacher availability. 

Just like the employment landscape changes, so do your students’ interests, which is why it’s critical to refine your CTE offerings each year. The top three questions to ask yourself every year include:

  1. Over the next five years, what are the top three to five occupations for your county/state? 
  2. What employability skills are employers most looking for in the next three years?
  3. How has your student population changed over the past year?

Once you answer these three foundational questions, you can start looking at the CTE courses you currently offer. For example, if you’re a rural school or district and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is estimating an increase in agriculture jobs over the next five years - do you have a program of study related to agriculture? If not, it may be time to start investing in that program of study.

If you do this exercise and run into challenges like teacher availability or lack of time to develop a course, I recommend partnering with an online learning provider to help. At FlexPoint, we have eight programs of study and more than 25 CTE courses, including Health Science Foundations, Principles of Entrepreneurship, Artificial Intelligence in the World, and more.

That’s not all! To help school and district leaders like you take your CTE program to the next level, our team developed a free guide. From tips for selecting the best career pathways that evolve with the employment landscape to sample survey questions to gauge your students’ interests in future career opportunities, we’ve got you covered. Visit to download the free version of the CTE guide.

Plus, check out our CTE programs of study and course offerings by clicking here