Secretary Arne Duncan and Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education Brenda Dann-Messier recently met with student members from Career and Technical Student Organizations to discuss the department's Blueprint for Transforming Career and Technical Education (CTE).
"We're really here to hear your stories and to listen," Duncan told the students. "Honestly, you guys are doing some really interesting things. CTE is something that we really think has been an underutilized tool that helps young people build positive futures, stay in school and get good jobs.
Much of the discussion centered on the blueprint's idea of CTE programs competing for federal money under the Carl D. Perkins Act. The opinion was generally positive, but some students voiced concern on states' ability to judge quality CTE programs. For example, one student wondered whether a CTE program might be punished for being in low demand in a state, but in high demand in other parts of the country.
A personal story that was shared by a student officer in Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) highlighted the impact of CTE programs for students. He moved to Pakistan when he was six and eight years later, came back to the United States to face many challenges with language barriers, navigating the educational system and with different school environments. One of the organizations that helped him was FBLA, "I made new friends, and it helped me figure out that what I really want to do is pursue a career in public service --and help people. [FBLA has] been a great experience for the last four years and helped shape the person I am today."
Another important topic in the conversation was reshaping the public image of CTE. One student explained her disappointment of being turned away from her dream school because her previous CTE courses were not thought to be as rigorous as AP courses, which her school does not offer. Dann-Messier explained how the notion of CTE's training for low-paying fields is far from the truth. Many of the careers that CTE prepares students for are highly technical and in demanding occupations.
The voices of student members of Career and Technical Student Organizations are integral to transforming the CTE field. Innovation is going to come from the practical ideas of highly trained young people like the ones heard at this Student Voices Session.
The discussion is part of the ongoing Student Voices Series where students regularly engage with the Secretary of Education and Senior Staff to receive recommendations on current programs and future policies.