April 5, 2010
Career and Technical Education–An Answer to a Problem
As educational groups gather across the country, session after session is focused on educational reform. The driving force behind the movement for educational reform is the fact that the United States is falling behind in preparing the workforce of the future with what is being called 21st century skills.
The Partnership For 21st Century Skills, a Tucson based organization[i] that has emerged as a leading advocate for infusing 21st century skills into education, stresses the importance of creating an aligned curriculum between public education and higher education that prepare students to compete in todays and tomorrows global economy. Three reasons are given for why we need to act quickly in addressing this need.
- The economy has shifted form a manufacturing based economy to a service/information based economy. The jobs available in the past were jobs requiring routine skills, the jobs of the future will require non-routine skills. Between 1995 and 2005, the U.S. lost 3 million manufacturing sector jobs and created 17 million service/information sector jobs.[ii] The service/information based sector will dominate the U.S. economy in coming decades. To be successful in the 21st century, students will need enhanced skills in order to make a livable wage.
- The jobs of the future will require a different set of skills than those in prior decades. Beyond the three Rs, students will need specific job related skills coupled with the ability to communicate, collaborate, use critical thinking and problem solving skills, and to be creative and innovative. The current curriculum often falls short of preparing students adequately in these areas.
- We must close the gap that is increasing between our students and those they will compete with in the global economy. Our students today must be prepared in reading, mathematics, science, and writing and be able to apply those skills in the world they will compete in. The demographic changes that will take place in Utah over the next twenty years will add to the challenge of meeting these requirements.
In order to address these three challenges, we need to do a better job in teaching and measuring these 21st century skills. The current curriculum sequence works for some students and it does not work for others. A serious review of the current curriculum sequence is underway in most states. More and more recognition is being given to the necessity of an applied curriculum in all subjects including math, science and English. Career and Technical Education (Vocational Education) has always had an applied component. However, Career and Technical Education today is not the vocational education curriculum of yesterday. The CTE curriculum of today requires solid preparation in basic skills in order to master the technical components in the technical requirements of todays professions. As a result, Career and Technical Education will play an important role in meeting the challenges of the 21st century.
The National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education have recently adopted a new vision for Career and Technical Education, consisting of five principles that taken together form the vision for CTE for the future. The association stresses that these principles are interdependent and should not be considered in isolation.[iii] These principles chart a progressive and demanding future for CTE in addressing the needs of the economy.
- CTE is critical to ensuring that the United States leads in global competitiveness.
- CTE prepares students to succeed in further education and careers.
- CTE is a results-driven system that demonstrates a positive return on investment.
- CTE is delivered through comprehensive programs of study aligned to The National Career Clusters framework.
- CTE actively partners with employers to design and provide hih-quality, dynamic programs.
The nation and the state of Utah are at a critical point in preparing for the future. As competition for a place in the global economy increases, and as states compete for resources that will help lift them out of the current recession, preparing the workforce is critical. In Utah, in addition to these forces common to many states, we face a changing demographic, which will stretch our ability to increase the level of preparation of the future workforce. However, if we are not successful in increasing that level of preparation, the economic consequences will have a negative impact on the current and future citizens of Utah.
An enhanced Career and Technical Education component will help ensure an education and workforce system that prepares students to be innovative, and to have solid communication, computation, and human relation skills. These are the academic skills coupled with solid technical skills that will provide a prepared workforce that is needed to ensure a solid economic basis for the next twenty years.
[i] Partnership For 21st Century Skills, 177 North Church Avenue, Suite 305, Tucson, AX 85701. www.21stcenturyskills.org
[ii] Source U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
[iii] Reflect, Transform, and Lead, A New Vision for Career Technical Education, The National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium, 2010.Posted by: gwixom