Is your child missing an important opportunity in high school?

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By Susan Pohorski

Like many other professions educators have their own acronyms and insider language that can be confusing to the individuals they are trying to serve. 

Have you heard a teacher or counselor mention CTE? This refers to Career and Technical Education. “What is that?” you ask. 

Evolution of terms
In the past these programs were referred to as vocational education. The Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, first authorized in 1984 and reauthorized in 1998 was intended to improve technical education in order to provide workers needed for the U.S. economy. 

In 2006, the law was reauthorized again and renamed the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act. This launched the use of the term “career and technical education” instead of “vocational education.” 

What CTE does
According to the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), CTE programs:

  • Integrate with academics in a rigorous and relevant curriculum
  • Feature high school and postsecondary partnerships
  • Enable clear pathways to certifications and degrees
  • Prepare students to be college and career ready by providing core academic skills, employability skills and technical, job-specific skills. 

So what?
Students who participate in CTE programs are said to be more engaged, perform better and graduate at higher rates. If your child is disengaged in his or her education, finds school irrelevant or boring, or is threatening to drop out—this could be the answer. These work-based courses provide employable skills and workplace behaviors to help students find success and careers after high school. They also encourage life-long learning. Many of the CTE courses students take seamlessly connect to the next level of course at post-secondary options. 

Hear what these students have to say about CTE:


Of the 268,000+ high school students in Wisconsin, 89,101 are enrolled in CTE programs. CTE is the umbrella term for many courses. For example:

  • Waunakee High School offers Digital Electronics and Engineering Design and Development.
  • Riverside High School in Milwaukee has these programs: Health Services, Early Childhood, Engineering and Biomedical.
  • Green Bay high schools offer Agriscience, Blueprint Reading, Electronics, Robotics and Automation and Welding.
  • Wausau School District has five different CTE programs. 

Many other high schools today are offering courses in Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Information Technology, Engineering as well as Woodworking, Automotive, Metal Working and Family and Consumer Science. 

In addition, many of the CTE courses students take connect to the next level of course at post-secondary options. 

Nick Pinchuk, chairman and chief executive officer of Snap-on Incorporated, says “Just like in the space race, we need to make skilled workforce training a national priority. And, we need to make skilled careers a national calling. Technical education must possess that kind of priority focus.” 

What has been your child's experience with Career and Technical Education? 


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