Career and Technical Education: Putting America to Work

Two boys looking at a robotic prototype

Since the start of the Great Recession, there has been critical attention on jobs and employment. With the economic rebound now in full swing, the challenge becomes how to increase access to good jobs that pay well and offer every American the opportunity to succeed in a rewarding career. However, today there are tens of thousands of jobs waiting unfilled because of a shortage of well educated, prepared, and ready-to-work talent.

This well-documented “skills gap,” the difference between available jobs and the qualified professionals needed to fill them, is rapidly becoming the next looming crisis in preserving and expanding America’s economic prosperity and competitiveness.

What some don’t yet understand, however, is that the 21st century version of workforce preparation is already producing this next generation of talented and skilled employees. Today’s career and technical education (CTE) has evolved beyond outdated perceptions;  it is high-quality teaching of technical, academic, and employability skills that 21st century  careers require.  But in order for this proven strategy to effectively address the skills gap affecting our nation’s employers, we must recalibrate the perception of how CTE educates students to be college‐ and career‐ready.

The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) is the nation’s largest association committed to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for successful careers. ACTE’s mission is to provide advocacy, public awareness and access to resources, professional development, and leadership opportunities for the career and technical educational community. Recently we’ve made it a priority to create resources that tell the story of contemporary CTE and its impact on the lives of everyday Americans, their communities, and the industries they work in. To date, we’ve produced 10 Sector Sheets – a set of easy-to-use reference sheets that describe a range of high-growth, high-demand industries, from advanced manufacturing to health care. Each of these documents contains relevant industry data, job outlook information, and details on CTE’s role in preparing a qualified workforce. These Sector Sheets serve as the ideal resource for anyone involved in the development of tomorrow’s workforce, including career and guidance counselors, educators, students and their families.

To build on this effort, ACTE has undertaken the production of “Microdocs” – a series of short or “micro” documentary‐style videos focused on new and emerging sectors that take a contemporary look at a variety of CTE fields. Each Microdoc tells a personal, compelling story about an individual who pursues an engaging career in a specific sector through their CTE program. These videos are chronicling how CTE prepares students for the high-skill, high-wage, and high-demand careers of the 21st century and the personal stories of how their unique pathways lead to a wider range of opportunities. The first several Microdocs are available for viewing.

Moving forward, ACTE is committed to the creation of additional Microdocs. This effort will tell more stories of the many faces of our next generation of workers and careers, which will propel American economic prosperity and close the skills gap. This summer we have launched our first-ever crowdfunding campaign, which puts you in the driver’s seat to help tell this story. Using the popular online platform Indiegogo, ACTE is asking for your support to create future Microdocs on additional topics, from cybersecurity to aeronautical engineering. In addition, we welcome your ideas, suggestions, referrals to other compelling stories of CTE putting America to work. Please post them below. Or view our Indiegogo page for information on the ACTE Micro-documentaries project.

We’re on a mission and you can be part of the solution. Help us educate others about the benefits of CTE. Share these links to our sector sheets and our Microdocs and help change the perception of CTE in America!



About the Author
Michael Connet

Michael Connet

Michael Connet is the Senior Director of Programs & Communications for the Association for Career and Technical Education. In this role, Michael is responsible for promoting the impact of CTE on America’s learners and supporting the development and growth of the 211,000 professionals engaged in preparing students. As Senior Director he oversees the recruitment and support for the membership of the Association, including managing communications, events, professional development and publications.

Prior to joining ACTE, Michael coordinated educational technology programs at the community college level, managed public television’s education outreach initiatives and led the educational foundations for 2 Fortune-50 telecommunications/technology companies.