What the growth of CTE means for Wisconsin’s worker shortage

By Erin Eagan

career and tech ed student 

October is Manufacturing Month, a time when we celebrate an industry that employs more than 470,000 people in Wisconsin and drives the state’s economy. It’s also a time to promote manufacturing as a potential career, as it continues to be an industry struggling to fill jobs as baby boomers retire in droves and new positions are added.

As a way to prepare a new generation of talent in manufacturing, as well as other industries in short supply, Wisconsin continues to put an emphasis on Career and Technical Education (CTE). Wisconsin is working hard to expand and strengthen CTE opportunities. Last June, the House passed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act to reauthorize funding for CTE programs.

Also, with his signature on the 2017-19 biennial budget, Gov. Scott Walker solidified a priority to continue to invest in the state’s workers. The budget includes increased funding for workforce training programs, including grants in the Wisconsin Fast Forward program, by $11.5 million. It also focuses on technical skills in schools by creating a technical education equipment grant program, as well as dedicating an additional $1 million to career and technical education grants to help students earn a technical education certificate. In addition, $1 million was invested to help the Department of Corrections expand skills education opportunities for offenders who are preparing to enter the workforce.

As investment in Career and Technical Education continues to increase, so does its popularity. Currently, more than 88,000 Wisconsin high school students, roughly two-thirds of the state’s high school population, are taking CTE courses. Even more impressive is the success rate for these CTE students, with a graduation rate of 96 percent — proving that students, when engaged and actively participating in their learning, tend to succeed at very high rates, which is good for any industry in search of skilled workers.

These numbers bode well for the state’s employers looking for skilled workers at a time when so many industries are in the midst of a massive worker shortage.