Developing a richer workforce through inclusive communication

On a Saturday morning last winter, I chatted with Sandra Adams, an instructional consultant and frequent Techniques contributor. We talked about my young children and her family, and we talked about what a great time she had at ACTE’s CareerTech VISION 2021. The purpose of our call was to discuss her article, for this April 2022 issue, about the power of possibility. Together we crafted a story for you about connection and collaboration. About how, to better serve all students, educators should seek to “learn from others.”

Adams wrote, “Career and technical educators have the power to help students see new possibilities for themselves.” But we can’t each individually do it alone. And when I say we, I include myself and my colleagues at ACTE. Career and technical education (CTE) students “need us to acknowledge — and disrupt — the very real challenges they face to success.” We must engage in this work together.

ACTE empowers educators to deliver high-quality CTE programs that ensure all students are positioned for career success.

High-quality CTE programs can propel all students toward career success. This happens when educators prioritize the development of academic and employability skills, such as communication, reading comprehension, and emotional intelligence. Educators must also ensure their programs are relevant, both to engage students and to fulfill workforce demands. To meet these goals, we must consider how the language we use conveys meaning.

In Techniques in February 2022, Anuli I. Phillips wrote about the barriers Black female students face in CTE. Historical perceptions that “Black people were incapable of learning academic subjects and thus should be outfitted with practical skills” have resulted in long-lasting misconceptions “about what role CTE plays in the success of Black students.”

Monique Somma, in a companion article to Phillips’, wrote to provide more guidance on the big question we’re all asking: How do we solve this? “The most valuable approach to connect and engage underrepresented students in CTE is through recognition and respect for their psychosocial identities,” she said. It all comes back to language.

How we talk to students and how we talk about students matters.

To that end, ACTE staff developed an inclusive language resource to guide our own work. And we hope it may guide yours as well. Because when we choose language that celebrates our differences, we can build a richer, stronger workforce in CTE.

Inclusive Language Guide_ Techniques ACTE

Lia Milgram is managing editor of Techniques.