For so long, Career and Technical Education (CTE) has labored under the stigma of being a “lesser” path to a successful career… We loved the fair-minded approach David Etzwiler, the CEO of Siemens Foundation took in this article!
As the White House shines a spotlight on workforce development to address the skills gap, the German model of apprenticeships has been appropriately offered as the gold standard from which the United States can learn. Every year in Germany, close to a million students participate in the nation’s dual system of education. Programs combine classroom with on-the-job training and a clear pathway to higher education and a quality job, contributing to Germany’s low youth unemployment rate and its leadership in advanced manufacturing.
But even if the United States could create our own version of the dual system today, we would still be at a relative disadvantage due to something much more fundamental: the stigma attached to vocational education, or what the U.S. calls career technical education (CTE). That is the first hurdle to address.
America’s CTE system provides many students with similar benefits to that of the German program. It enables students to enhance their core high school academic courses with technical, real world skills that prepare them for the future. In other words, CTE is a powerful tool already addressing the skills gap. It can open millions more doors into the middle class and is an important part of the prescription to what ails us today.
But one disadvantage CTE has compared to the dual system is that it isn’t fully embraced by students and parents, or they simply aren’t aware of it. In Germany, the dual system is as prestigious as university. In the U.S., CTE is often mischaracterized as an inferior educational pathway to college prep. For some time now, CTE enrollment rates have been flat.
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