The Growing Importance of Certifications in CTE Programs

The following is an excerpt from our white paper about the importance of industry certifications in CTE programs. Fill in the form at the bottom of the page to download the entire white paper.

For more than a decade now, the overarching goal of the K-12 public education system has been college and career readiness. This has led to the adoption of new educational standards as well as increased focus on the high school graduation rate, the jobs thought to be in highest demand in the 21st century and instructing students in the skills they will need to obtain those jobs.

Contrary to the prevalent thinking of the past decades, college is not the only means to these goals. Although 70 percent of students who graduate high school move on to college, only half of those students leave with a degree. There is a disconnect between what students need and what the system is designed to provide them.

Recognizing that, President Obama has called for a new focus on credentials and certifications other than a college degree. Accordingly, Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs are broadening their approach with new offerings to better reflect the current job market. Concurrently, industry certifications designed to move students into careers more quickly are increasing in popularity.


The Economic Challenges Addressed by CTE

Forty years ago, the United States led the world in high school graduation rates. Today, with only 68 percent of American students graduating, the country ranks 22nd. Each dropout costs the U.S. approximately $260,000 in lost revenues. The number of students who drop out every year—1.2 million—costs the country a total of $312 billion annually.

Compare that with the estimated job market. The Center for Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University have projected 14 million job openings will be created by 2018. Two-thirds of those will require post-secondary education—half a college degree and the other half some form of post-secondary certification.

The problem is not that the American economy is not creating jobs, but instead, the traditional “college for all” focus cannot produce enough students to fill them; which is why CTE and industry certifications meet a growing need.


The problem is not that the American economy is not creating jobs, but instead, the traditional 'college for all' focus cannot produce enough students to fill them.



The Role of CTE and Certifications in the Age of STEM

In an effort to better prepare students for the 21st-century job market, there has been an increased focus from education leaders on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects. Businesses routinely call for graduates with skills in these areas as the nation’s economic base moves from manufacturing to technology. According to the Brookings Institute, in 2011, 20 percent of all U.S. jobs required a high level of knowledge in one or more STEM fields; yet, only half of those jobs require a bachelor’s degree—the rest can be filled by other post-secondary work and certifications. All of these jobs offer pay above the nation’s median salary.

One of the challenges in CTE has been the false perception it provides low-level vocational skills for students for jobs which will never require post-secondary studies, leading students and parents to believe CTE courses are the last stop before a student drops out of high school altogether. In modern Career and Technical Education, this could not be further from the truth.

CTE is the natural marriage of STEM skills. Not only do most of the skills and career clusters of CTE programs flow into STEM jobs, but also modern CTE classes are rigorous and project-based—reflective of the needs of today’s employers. CTE is the path to STEM success; certifications are the key to entry.


Industry Certifications in Today's CTE Classroom

This free whitepaper discusses how industry certifications can address the challenges faced by many CTE programs.