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CTE courses preparing students for life after high school

In an ever-evolving job market, equipping students with the skills and knowledge needed for successful careers is a top priority. Career Technical Education (CTE) programs in North Carolina public schools have emerged as a vital pathway, bridging the gap between education and the workforce. This article explores the important role CTE plays in preparing students for future careers, backed by data and statistics specific to North Carolina.

Career Technical Education refers to programs that integrate academic knowledge with technical and employability skills, preparing students for a wide range of high-demand careers. By combining rigorous coursework with hands-on training, CTE equips students with practical skills, real-world experiences, and industry certifications, ensuring they are ready to excel in their chosen professions.

Schools in Macon County have made integrating CTE classes into the course catalog a top priority in recent years, working to offer students courses in things such as auto mechanics, culinary, agriculture, and IT. The mission of Career and Technical Education (CTE) is to empower all students to be successful citizens, workers and leaders in a global economy. CTE gives purpose to learning by emphasizing real-world skills and practical knowledge.

For decades, society pushed college as being the next step for students after high school, however time has demonstrated that the college track is not for everyone. CTE courses assist students who may not desire to pursue a four-year degree, but rather develop a skilled trade. 

According to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, students enrolled in CTE programs consistently demonstrate higher high school graduation rates compared to their non-CTE peers. In addition, CTE students often outperform their counterparts in postsecondary education, entering college or the workforce with a competitive advantage.

A survey conducted by the North Carolina Community College System found that approximately 90% of CTE graduates secure employment within one year of completing their program. The skills gained through CTE, such as technical expertise, problem-solving, and teamwork, align closely with the needs of industries across the state, ensuring students are job-ready.

CTE programs in North Carolina foster strong partnerships with local businesses, industry experts, and community organizations. These collaborations provide students with valuable opportunities for internships, apprenticeships, and work-based learning experiences. According to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, over 90% of CTE students participate in work-based learning, enabling them to develop essential skills and establish connections in their desired fields. Macon County’s Business Advisory Council is comprised of local business owners invested in the education of students. Macon County Schools’ Career and Technical Education Director Colleen Strickland has been trying to rally support for her “Panther Harvest” idea for expanded CTE programs. For nearly two years, the BAC has worked with Macon County Schools to develop ideas for implementing additional CTE courses as well as how to best grow the district’s existing program. Through the BAC — the idea of the “Panther Harvest” was born as a way to elevate the district’s CTE program and to provide a state-of-the-art space for students. 

Career Technical Education is a transformative force in North Carolina’s public schools, providing students with the necessary skills, knowledge, and experiences to succeed in the workforce. With high graduation rates, successful postsecondary transitions, workforce preparedness, industry partnerships, and academic engagement, CTE programs effectively bridge the gap between education and careers.

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