Happy CTE Month!

Career Readiness Begins With the Business Need

Wait. You don’t know what CTE is? CTE is Career and Technical Education and it is the future of workforce preparation. CTE is the P-16 (that would be Pre-K through College) preparation targeting workforce skills. CTE can include college readiness in the truly academic sense; or, it most frequently refers to courses teaching workforce skills in a specific industry or occupation. CTE courses are available in any occupational field from culinary arts (yum, cake!) to auto repair.

Today’s CTE programs are not the vocational technology programs of years past. Instead, today’s smart CTE programs target needed occupations in needed industries. These same smart CTE programs start talking about careers to kids before high school. Workforce Solutions has a (free) curriculum that helps teachers, counselors, and parents educate elementary school-aged children about jobs that will be in demand when they are working age (check out When I Grow Up).

However, this blog is not intended as an education on the structure of CTE programs. Instead, it is a plea to CTE program developers to engage the business community when first planning their courses. I’m talking about bringing business to the table before a curriculum is developed, before a building is gutted and restructured, before books and equipment are purchased, and definitely before students are brought into the classroom. The biggest error we make in developing successful CTE programs is building the curriculum and basing instruction on standards that we determine prior to finding out the needs of the applicable industry and its employers.

Are you a school district developing an HVAC program? Then talk to the local employers who have the HVAC jobs. Don’t know who these are? Contact Workforce Solutions Employer Services for the latest Labor Market Information on “who’s hiring,” and they will be able to help you target great future partners. Ask these businesses who they need and what types of skills their jobs require. Ask if they’d be willing to provide personnel or resources to assist in training their potential future workforce. Ask them to help you provide them with the ideal worker. Remember, if done successfully, it will truly be about them and not really about you. And when you think about it, in the end, you’ll help both the employer and the student become a successful future worker.

The goal of CTE programs is college and career readiness, and to place people in jobs with growth potential that are in demand. Check out the Workforce Solutions High Skill High Growth list for ideas. Look at the Achieve Texas guides targeting curricular development for specific CTE career clusters in Texas. But most importantly . . . before you make any quick course programming decisions, before you spend money, before you line the students up to begin their career journey, develop a partnership with your local industries. If you do this, you will not only provide a quality education for our students, but one that leads them to great jobs.

Danny Zendejas is the Education Liason for Workforce Solutions in the Houston metropolitan area. He has over ten years of experience in working in the public sector and over five years experience in workforce development.