Employers cite a shortage of skilled workers as one of the biggest challenges they face. The skills gap has been a key factor driving programs and initiatives to increase the number of workers with postsecondary credentials. Correspondingly, there’s been a focus on career and technical education.
A new report from the American Enterprise Institute sheds light on both the substance and the branding of the new programs. Frederick M. Hess and RJ Martin ask and answer the question, Is Career and Technical Education Just Enjoying Its 15 Minutes of Fame? A summary of their key takeaways:
First, and most obviously, career and technical education’s prominence has increased steadily and significantly over two decades…
Second, this increased interest in career and tech- nical education is part of a broader growth in the prominence of training and workforce development. Regardless of the reason for this growth—whether economic anxiety or disenchantment with college for all or a simple evolution in public taste—career and technical education advocates are making their case at a propitious time for career-centric education.
Third, career and technical education’s rise has been unusually consistent and long-running when compared to other 21st-century education reforms and is especially notable for an idea that generates little controversy.
The analysis is fascinating (read the article for more detail).
In a stab at addressing this question, we examined the media attention devoted to career and technical educa- tion over the past two decades—and how that compares to the attention devoted to other popular 21st-century education reforms.
We used the search engine LexisNexis (a database of news articles from national and international media outlets) to identify the number of articles each year that mentioned career and technical education and, for comparative purposes, other related terms. We searched for “career and technical education” rather than “CTE” to not inadvertently include articles about chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease that has received extensive coverage for its impact on former football players’ health.
We’ll show two graphs from the presentation. The first looks at mentions of career and technical education; note the persistent rise.
And compare with other education reforms.
Unlike the big spikes for No Child Left Behind, career and technical education has experienced a steady growth.
…while it has not come anywhere close to those peaks, career and technical education has shown a markedly different public profile than these other reforms—all of which exploded to public consciousness over a span of three or four years and then declined. Career and technical education, on the other hand, has seen a long, dramatic, and uninterrupted build over an extended period of time. Given this long pattern and an attendant lack of controversy, career and technical education seems unlikely to experience the rapid declines in public interest endured by these more polarizing reforms.
It seems a good bet that career and technical education’s gradual build will give it more staying power than other contested, high-profile 21st-century reforms.
It may be as simple as this: Career and technical education has been recognized as an effective strategy fro meeting a challenge that has grown steadily as employers address a still-vibrant economy, an aging workforce, and emerging technologies.