College and Career Ready Definition: “Students are considered college and career ready when they have the knowledge, skills, and academic preparation needed to enroll and succeed in introductory college credit-bearing courses within an associate or baccalaureate degree program without the need for remediation. These same attributes and levels of achievement are needed for entry into and success in postsecondary workforce education or directly into a job that offers gainful employment and career advancement.” Florida Department of Education. (n.d.). Florida College System: College and career readiness. Tallahassee, FL: Author.
It seems that career and technical education has been left out of the College and Career Readiness conversations throughout the country. How can that be since career and technical education is literately all about “Career Readiness”? And what about college readiness? Can’t a college pathway begin with a career first? Of course. I have actually heard someone tell me that career and technical education schools are competition for colleges and universities. College administrators feel that career education programs entice students away from a 4-year colleges. If potential students complete career education programs to enter into high-paying technical jobs, then why would they attend a 4- or 6-year college degree programs? I do not think they thought this through. Where did all the non-traditional students come from? I guess non traditional students did nothing after high school until they went into college bachelor’s and master’s programs.
Perhaps we need some clarification. To change the narrative, at least to a small degree, career and technical education program teachers and administrators should include lifelong learning competency skills as part of the CTE program curriculum. Lifelong learning competency skills means that the expectation for learning should never end. When a student finishes their program, mentor them to make a plan for future learning. Inform students that unemployment goes up and lifetime earnings fall after working 10-20 years. When skills get outdated, it gets harder to stay in the labor force. They may need additional focused training or a new degree.
Perhaps they want to get a promotion. College graduates who learned more generalized knowledge, analytical thinking, problem-solving, and organization skills will have more valuable skills in the longer term and adapt better over time. Therefore, career skills and college knowledge are necessary for success. When and how a person decides to pursue their pathway is up to them. They can choose CTE programs first, career first, or college first. Whatever meets their needs, but they should know a plan for lifelong learning.