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Career and Technical Education (CTE)

Why Is Career & Technical Education So Important?

October 17th, 2019 | 8 min. read

Chris Zook

Chris Zook

Chris Zook is a contributing author to the AES blog. He enjoys everything about online marketing, data science, user experience, and corgis.

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Career and technical education (CTE) is one of the most important parts of the modern American education system.

While it may seem like CTE has only been praised recently, CTE has a proven history of preparing students for high-demand careers that help them live their lives to the fullest.

Even when it was called “vocational education” or “vo-tech,” CTE still played a pivotal role in students’ lives.

So what is it that makes CTE so crucial to education as a whole?

There are seven main reasons, many of which come from our existing list of CTE statistics. (Other sources of statistics and information are noted for your reference.)

  1. 95% of CTE students graduate high school
  2. CTE has incredible career demand
  3. CTE students achieve better grades
  4. CTE has surprisingly satisfied students
  5. CTE offers students powerful direction in life
  6. CTE can cost almost nothing for schools
  7. CTE benefits the United States as a whole

You may notice that most of these reasons have to do with students, as opposed to teachers or administrators.

That’s because CTE is so focused on student outcomes. After all, if students can’t take their education and act on it, what was the point?

To drive that home, let’s start with the most impressive fact about why CTE is so important.

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1. 95% of CTE Students Graduate High School


It’s a fact that 95% of all CTE students graduate high school.

These are the students who chose to take a different education path and divert from traditional in-class learning.

That choice led them to earning CTE credits, and in almost every single case, that led to a more engaging learning experience.

We can ascertain that fact because 95% of those students graduate high school. The national average is only 85%.

In this way, CTE prevents students from “falling through the cracks” of the education system. Those who may not do well in traditional classrooms can revolutionize their educational experience by just trying CTE courses.

CTE graduates don’t always start their careers right out of high school, either.

In fact, 91% of all high school graduates who earned two or three CTE credits then went on to post-secondary education.

So CTE does more than teach students. It helps them launch into careers. It helps them pursue further education.

It helps them do just about everything — including jumpstarting a career.

2. CTE Has Incredible Career Demand


Between 2012 and 2022, the United States will have 50,557,900 job openings that can be filled by CTE graduates.

Of those 50 million jobs, 15,627,500 will be new, meaning they either didn’t exist in the past or they were created to address rising demand in different areas.

That’s an incredibly strong career outlook, especially for students who don’t need a two- or four-year degree to earn those careers.

In fact, CTE graduates who pursue careers after high school have similar income opportunities as any other educated group of their peers.

In other words, you don’t have to be a software developer to make a good living.

Students can graduate with a health science certification and make it in the world just fine!

Still, this fact is only focused on what students can do after their education.

Does CTE help students when they’re still in school?

3. CTE Students Achieve Better Grades


70% of CTE students say that their program helped them earn better grades.

This is an incredible statistic for one major reason — CTE students have long been misnamed as “the dumb kids” by their peers and ill-informed education pundits.

This conclusively proves that CTE students are not dumb.

If anything, this statistic proves that today’s education system is seriously flawed.

For reference, there are 12.3 million students enrolled in at least one CTE course across the United States.

That means 8.6 million of them — or 70% — say CTE helped them earn better grades.

With 76 million students enrolled in American schools, that means 11.3% of all students say CTE helped them academically.

All things considered, that’s an enormous percentage.

That means the traditional education experience doesn’t work in some way for 11.3% of every student who goes through the system.

With CTE, those students have the chance to showcase their true talent and interest, empowering them to achieve more than they ever could sitting at a desk for eight hours every day.

This could also be why so many students not only pursue CTE programs — they enjoy it.

4. CTE Has Surprisingly Satisfied Students

cte has satisfied students

One of the biggest benefits to CTE is that it can help students appreciate and even enjoy their education.

In fact, 80% of all CTE students say they’re satisfied with their education and the career prospects that come with it.

If this sounds high, it is!

In 2016, YouthTruth surveyed more than 165,000 students between the 2010-11 and 2014-15 school years

Only 45% of these students felt “positively” about college and career readiness.

That means nearly twice as many CTE students feel ready to take on a career or college education.

As a result, it’s clear that the traditional education system is missing something, somewhere, that helps students get ready for the real world.

Most importantly, these statistics also prove one of CTE’s longest-lived mantras.

CTE is education for the real world.  

Still, this satisfaction is not an isolated emotion. It’s part of a larger sense of positivity that students feel, including the feeling of a direction in life. 

5. CTE Offers Students Strong Direction in Life

cte offers students strong direction in life

In a staggering contrast to most high school graduates and even college students, 82% of CTE students say that CTE helped them “know where they were headed.”

As many young people can tell you, figuring out a direction in life is a challenge.

Sometimes, that’s because schools don’t execute career readiness curriculum in the way they should.

Other times, it may be because students see so many possibilities that they’re not sure where to go.

Even more, it could be because students don’t know how to turn their passion into sustainable livelihood!

Regardless of the reason, we’ve already noted that 55% of all high school graduates don’t feel prepared for careers or post-secondary education.

But nearly all CTE students say they have a strong sense of direction in their lives.

These students could have a number of reasons for why they feel directed in life.

It could be that they learned a specific set of skills pertaining to a single career path.

They may have discovered that they have a passion for hands-on work that appeals to them more than theory or classwork.

Most importantly, they might have discovered that they’re good at something!

Igniting that passion — and proving that it’s worthwhile — can play a massive role in a student’s understanding of who they are and where they want to go in life.

As a result, you can never underestimate the power of CTE. At its core, it allows students to try something new compared to the education style they’ve seen in years prior.

Up until now, we’ve discussed exclusively why CTE is important to students.

But it’s also important to note that CTE is an essential part of schools — especially when you consider how little it costs!

6. CTE Can Cost Schools Almost Nothing

cte can cost schools almost nothing

Carl D. Perkins funding is a federal pool of cash that empowers states and schools to spend on CTE facilities, programs, and more.

Perkins V is the most recent version of the bill, which went into effect on July 1, 2019 to make five substantial changes to how Perkins funding works.

(You can download a list of those changes here.)

Consequently, Perkins funding is more than capable of covering up to 100% of CTE program costs.

While every state, school district, and school only gets a certain amount of money every time Perkins funding is disbursed.

But that funding is often adequate to cover most costs so that teachers and administrators don’t have to dip into taxpayer-funded budgets to pay for resources.

In addition, many states choose to hold a certain amount of Perkins funding in reserve, which can then be disbursed at different times for different projects.

Overall, Perkins gives CTE directors and teachers the freedom to teach their students in the best ways possible without worrying about the cost.

That makes CTE a low-cost, high-yield investment that any school would be crazy to ignore!

If you need proof, just look at how much CTE benefits the entire country.

7. CTE Benefits the Country

cte benefits the country

CTE is one of the most mind-blowingly positive investments that schools can make in their students.

For every $1 of government funding (like Perkins) that’s spent on CTE, the entire country can earn as much as $12.20 in benefits in return!

Business teachers and finance enthusiasts will recognize that this kind of payoff is so rare that it's almost mythical. It’s challenging enough to have an investment show a 50% increase in returns.

But CTE? That’s a 1200% return!

There’s almost nothing else on the planet that shows that kind of positive results from such a small investment.

It just goes to show how much CTE benefits everyone — even beyond those who enroll in CTE courses.

CTE costs almost nothing for schools.

CTE can mean everything to students.

It also plays an enormous role in growing the national economy.

To say it lightly, CTE is important!

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CTE has become so important that it's no longer possible to ignore. Still, many students, parents, teachers, and even administrators may not realize just how much CTE offers! 

So spread the word! Share the wealth! Help your friends, colleagues, and community understand why CTE is such a crucial part of education. 

To get started, download your free copy of this blog post as a PDF. 

That way, you can print it, email it, and share it! 

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