Arizona’s students are falling behind their global peers in academic performance, high school graduation rates and postsecondary degree attainment. Career and technical education are a viable and proven pathway to success for many students, and our education system must better prepare all students for every academic and career opportunity that comes their way.

Career and technical education, or CTE for short – can be important to Arizona students and their futures. CTE programs, which at one time were known as vocational education courses, are created with industry input and guidance to ensure the curriculum matches the needs of business.  While learning their craft through hands-on projects, students learn real-life work skills and become familiar with these careers, enabling them to get a head start on their chosen professions while they are still in high school.

Employers will need skilled, trained and educated workers for the 21st century economy, and CTE and applied learning programs are key to preparing young people for the jobs of the future.  However, CTE does more than just train students for jobs; it provides an invaluable education that contributes to student and community success in both rural and metro Arizona.

“Studies predict that by 2012, 2/3 of all new jobs will require some level of college education or advanced vocational training – a steady stream of reports about the demands of current and future employers reinforces the need for a highly skilled, educated workforce,” said J. Doug Pruitt, President and CEO of Sundt Construction. “The ability to deliver the types of workers we need requires a strong, high quality education system – from birth through career –providing all students with meaningful, hands on learning opportunities which fully prepare them for postsecondary education, career and life.”

The advantages of CTE are many: participants learn more than one skill, score higher on average on the state’s AIMS test in critical subjects such as math, science and reading and are more likely to advance to and earn a two- or four-year postsecondary degree.  In the past year, more than two-thirds of those who completed CTE courses went on to community college, or were placed in jobs or entered the military. CTE students can work in their chosen fields after high school, earn a stable salary and gain experience while they are working toward an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in college.

Across Arizona, there are 1,670 CTE program courses offered in 72 occupational programs.  More than 104,000 students benefit from CTE programs statewide, thanks to federal and statewide grants, without which it would be difficult for school districts to fund CTE on their own.  With so many disciplines available for students to choose – from engineering to biotechnology to bioscience to automotive technology – the curricula are challenging and important, filling not only industry needs, but also providing opportunities for students to grow academically in core education subjects.