5 Tips for Building a Sustainable CTE Program

Unlike any other educational program, CTE engages students in hands-on, real-world learning to prepare them with concrete knowledge and skills to succeed in their chosen careers. As a valuable resource for the next generation of the workforce, CTE programs must adapt to ever-changing workforce needs while being sustainable and effective programs for generations to come.

Although CTE learning looks very different from the traditional classroom model, getting a program off the ground or re-evaluating the effectiveness of an existing program doesn’t have to feel daunting. As with any project, the key is to go in with a plan. This blog will discuss five tips for building a sustainable CTE program and strategies to set your program and students on course for success.

Articulate Your Purpose

Whether starting a new program or re-evaluating the effectiveness of an existing program, articulating the purpose and value of the CTE program is critical to its longevity. In regard to sustainable CTE programs, it’s essential to identify from the start the purpose of implementing a CTE program and what goals the program aims to achieve. Regardless of the goals, ensuring that they are clearly defined from the beginning and used as the basis for all subsequent decisions is essential to the program’s sustainability.

Once the program's purpose and goals have been defined, the program can then share the value of the program with students and the community. By defining the purpose and goals of a program, students gain insight into if the program interests them or how the program could benefit their future.

Choose Relevant Courses

One of the key benefits of CTE is that it focuses on building skills in the classroom that are directly and immediately applicable in the real world. Offering the right courses to teach these skills is a huge piece of any successful program. Stay in tune with the most in-demand skills across industries and stay up to date on which skills and careers students are interested in. By implementing diverse courses with a broad scope of skills for students to learn, CTE programs are better able to prepare the next generation of the workforce.

Professional Development

Educators are the backbone of a CTE program as they provide students with experiences and opportunities to expand their knowledge and skillset. While educators spend a majority of their time developing their students, professional development for educators is just as important. Implementing ongoing professional development (PD) and training opportunities keeps educators up to date on CTE program objectives, industry knowledge, and strategies to effectively teach today’s students. Professional development can also prevent burnout in teachers as they are provided experiences and strategies to innovate and sharpen their teaching methods.

Build Partnerships within the Community

The hands-on, clear connections to real-world careers are one of the biggest draws of CTE for students. Connecting and building partnerships with local community and businesses offers immense value to today’s CTE programs by serving as a direct line to experts and the industry world. From these partnerships can come a multitude of opportunities for students, including field trips, internships, job shadowing, or part-time employment. Building partnerships within the local community can also offer opportunities to bring experts into the classroom. Building relationships with industries in your district’s community is the best way to create these opportunities. Reach out to different companies and express your interest in creating partnerships between their professionals and your students. Start small by proposing brief site visits or in-class speakers and work up to more robust ongoing opportunities to maximize the resources in your local community.

Program Evaluation

Implementing a CTE program isn’t a one-time undertaking. It’s a long-term commitment to a model that will inevitably grow and evolve as the career world changes. Achieving a successful and sustainable CTE program is all about iteration and scalability. From the beginning, think about how you will gather feedback from involved parties— staff, students, parents, and industry partners. Collecting feedback and data on the effectiveness of a program offers immense value to today’s CTE programs by giving updates on the state of the program and how it’s impacting students.

Consider the available data from student test scores, online programs, and formative classroom assessments. Reflect on how you can put the data to use to determine if your CTE program is meeting its objectives. Based on this information, CTE programs are able to make more informed decisions, including changes in course offerings, assessments, projects and other program components on a yearly basis.

CTE offers today’s students unmatched opportunities for personal and career success. The challenge, however, is monitoring and re-evaluating today’s CTE programs to keep up with changing industry needs and ensuring impactful learning experiences for students. As educators and administrators aim to build more sustainable CTE programs, the key to success lies within planning for and monitoring the CTE program and the students it serves. For more resources to enhance your CTE program and its sustainability stay tuned to our social media channels and subscribe to our blog for more resources and updates.

About the Author

 JoshuaWitherspoon_WEBAfter serving as a Texas FFA state officer in 2018, Josh Witherspoon joined the iCEV team as a part-time employee for 3 years before taking on the role of content development specialist in 2022. Witherspoon holds a bachelor's degree in agricultural communications from Texas Tech University, in which his experience and proficiency in writing, marketing and CTE allow him to effectively communicate the successes of CTE educators and students and the value iCEV has to offer.