Career-Technical Education is Good for Indiana’s Economy, Workforce & Careers

By IPLI Mentor Shawn Wright-Browner

At the recent Indiana Association of School Principals Fall Professionals Conference, Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann touched on the expansion of Career-Technical Education (CTE) programs here in Indiana. The State That Works: Enhance Career, Technical and Vocational Opportunities Policy Goal is to “enhance career, technical and vocational career pathways for high school students by engaging local employers and educators in designing demand-driven curriculum and providing applied learning opportunities.”

Much attention has been given to Indiana’s CTE courses and programs over the last two years. The creation of the Indiana Career Council and Indiana Works Councils provides new avenues for conversations and collaboration among education and workforce partners at the regional and state levels regarding the best ways of improving the college and career readiness of Hoosiers.

While clear targets are needed to effect meaningful change, it is important to understand the current state of Career-Technical Education in order to identify and expand upon existing strengths and to examine and strategize solutions where gaps and challenges remain.

There are three broad areas that could stimulate conversations:

  • CTE Enrollment
  • CTE Student Readiness – a factor of:
    • Academic Preparation – Graduation Rates and State Assessment Scores
    • Technical Skills Preparation – College and Career Pathways completion and performance on Exams and Skills Assessments
    • College and Career Readiness – Industry-Recognized Certifications and College Credits that CTE students earn
  • CTE Alignment to Indiana’s Economy (Report produced by Fleck Education Services, 9/2014)

Career-Technical Education offers a “trifecta”:

  1. Credit toward a high school diploma.
  2. Credit toward a college degree (dual credit).
  3. Certification in a chosen field.

Students who complete a CTE Program have the opportunity to graduate, start their college tenure and increase their lifetime earning potential. What does that mean? A student who completes the Nursing Assisting Program and passes the certification assessment can work in a certified position while in college.

CTE is a great “Plan A” for many of our students as we fill the needs of our Indiana economy. CTE provides career exploration opportunities that will result in opening doors to all career pathways. Young people do not enroll in career programs because pathways are incentivized. Students enroll in career programs based on abilities and interests, and CTE student outcomes and performance trends are quite remarkable.

High school graduation rates for CTE students who are concentrators (those who have earned at least six credits in a CTE pathway) averaged 94.7% in 2013, the highest graduation rate ever recorded for CTE students in the state. That was 6% higher than Indiana’s 88.6% overall graduation rate for all high school students, according to a report produced by Fleck Education Services (2014).

Examining the alignment of CTE programs with the economic demands of the state can provide opportunities for constructive conversations, as long as there is consensus around what criteria and data are used to make those judgments. State and regional leaders must also consider how potential changes to programs could affect student motivation, enrollment and engagement—factors that appear to be strongly correlated to the positive student performance.

Digging deeper into the reasons why Indiana students who complete a sequence of CTE courses outperform their peers is vital. However, it seems logical that students succeed at higher rates when they are engaged in active versus passive learning, in areas they find interesting and enjoyable and when they are completing rigorous college courses and work-based learning experiences that connect them with the “real world.” Perhaps this is the way all education should work (Report produced by Fleck Education Services, 9/2014).

For additional information on CTE Programs, go to www.iacted.org or http://www.doe.in.gov/ccr. If you would like to contact some exemplary CTE programs, check out the following Indiana Career Centers: