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ASSOCIATION FOR CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION

Question: What If My Child Isn't Interested In Going to a Four-year College? Answer: Consider CTE!

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May 24, 2013

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Question: What If My Child Isn't Interested In Going to a Four-year College? Answer: Consider CTE!

By: Ashley

Jay Mathews, education columnist for the Washington Post, recently wrote an article dissecting a question he was asked by a friend regarding her child, which was "What should I do if my child isn't going to college?", i.e., four-year university.  Indeed, as Mathews points out, all students need to pursue some form of postsecondary education in order to have the best chances at career success over a lifetime. What other options exist for students besides "college" or four-year university and how do students and families know if they are valid, worthy options? These are core questions Mathews explores in his article, "What if my Child isn't Interested in Going to Four-Year College?"

While Mathews highlights the importance of preparing all students for some form of postsecondary training AND a career, he mentions that the general consensus amongst educators is that all students should take the same courses up until junior year. However, many career and technical education (CTE) offerings are offered to students as young as middle school and ninth grade, with an emphasis on career exploration. Additionally, several programs of study and CTE curriculum, such as Project Lead the Way, have courses that begin in ninth grade for students seeking to pursue an engineering career.  While some states have adopted graduation requirements that make it difficult for students to have flexibility in elective choices, such as CTE, other states are including some CTE courses as academic credits. ACTE Board of Directors recently issued a position statement on CTE and graduation requirements.

Mathews also explores what signifies a strong "trades" program, quoting Beth Downey, coordinator for Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) CTE, to illustrate the importance of linkage between the program and industry. "Beth Downey, coordinator for CTE in Fairfax County schools, said one of the guarantees of effective vocational training are the industry certifications issued to students who have completed courses monitored by experts," Mathews states in his article. Indeed, business and industry partnerships that ensure the curriculum and skills begin taught in programs meet the needs of employers are a staple in high-quality CTE programs. Rigorous, relevant academics, hands-on learning experiences and exposure to the important "employability skills" business are seeking as they hire are also important program elements.

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