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The vision for Career Technical Education (CTE) “honors the rich history of vocational education but also charts a progressive course for the future that seeks to break down the silos between academic and technical education, and between secondary and postsecondary education” through career themed clusters (The State of Career Technical Education: An Analysis of State CTE Standards, pg 4). CTE programs today focus on relevant career and technical education that is blended with rigorous academics in order to prepare students for a wide range of high skilled and high demand jobs.

The Evolution of CTE

The evolution from traditional vocational education models started developing into what is now known as CTE in the 1980’s. Vocational education singularly prepared students for entry into the world of work, and CTE classes at that time started merging vocational learning with academic coursework. However, it was not until the 2006 reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Educational Act that college preparation became part of the underlying direction of CTE.

CTE programs can help districts meet goals of their Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) as required by the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). Districts are responsible for identifying programs and approaches that correspond with eight key priorities of districts, or ten priorities for county offices of education. CTE programs are well suited to meet many of the eight state priorities such as student engagement, student achievement, school climate, implementation of common core, and other student outcomes.


CTE curriculum is organized by Career Clusters which provide students with a pathway of instruction that usually connects with broad career themes or interest areas. The 16 identified Career Clusters are the foundation to a wide variety of more specific career pathways. Students start in general Career Cluster courses, such as Hospitality and Tourism, where they learn a wide range of transferable skills. Those students have the option to continue their pursuit of a Career Cluster subject by progressing towards more career-specific pathways and higher levels of focus, such as Hotel Management courses. The student’s decision process is aided by career, interest, and aptitude assessments in order to help students better understand their interests.

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CTE infographic
                                              Association for Career & Technical Education


CTE instructors are a valuable asset to its success due to the career-based experience required of teachers before earning a credential. CTE teachers must hold a Designated Subjects CTE Teacher Credential in one or more of the Career Cluster areas in order to become a certified CTE teacher. CTE credentials are different than traditional academic teachers in that they must have three or more years of work experience in the related field in which they would like to teach. Learn more about CTE teacher credentialing by visiting the UC San Diego Extension website.

Dual or concurrent enrollment programs have become an industry standard for many CTE programs. Such programs allow high school students to take college courses while still attending their high school, or by attending at a college campus. These programs, coupled with CTE programing, are advantageous in easing the transition into higher education, shortening the time students are in formal education, and ultimately save students money on college tuition. The National Research Center for Career and Technical Education (NRCCTE) has shown such programs increase postsecondary enrollment, raise college-level grade point averages, and show greater levels of persistence in their postsecondary efforts.

Learn more about Career Technical Education:

From Vocational Education to Career-Technical Education: A Capsule History and Summary of Research, by David Stern, University of California, Berkeley

Career Technical Education Framework for California Public Schools: Grades Seven Through Twelve

The California Department’s CTE Model Curriculum Standards page provides a history of adoption of model curriculum for CTE pathways, and provides PDF resources for a deeper look into each of the Career Cluster themes and research.

Leading CTE partnership organizations:

National Research Center for Career and Technical Education

The National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc)

California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs

Common Core State Standards & Career Technical Education: Bridging the Divide between College and Career Readiness


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