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Vocational and Educational Training (VET) is now emerging as the basis of U.S. K-12 school reform propelled by STEM-related changes in education, employment, and economic development. You may remember vocational education from your high school days as an introduction to computers course or a shop class such as woodworking. If you participated in Future Farmers of America or took business classes in high school, you experienced a vocational education course. In the United States, over the past decade, VET courses have been rebranded Career and Technical Education (CTE). New market trends have also given rise to a new market name mentioned by Pearson CEO John Fallon recently: “Education-to-Employment”.

Today, high school CTE students are launching rockets to the edge of space at Mach II; designing, building, and programming advanced robots; making prosthetics and other objects with 3-D printers; and responsible for cybersecurity–guarding America’s commercial and government computer networks from hackers. Over the past decade, CTE practice linking rigor and relevance across classical and contemporary courses reflects an emerging educational innovation strategy—linked learning. For Pearson, linked learning connects academic, CTE, assessment, and professional certification programs into a system of courses. CTE, or linked learning, is growing to include more continuing education for adult learners and new pathways to college and university for younger students.


Take a moment and think of the words vocational education. Who are CTE students? Which courses are CTE classes? What educational outcomes do you associate with CTE? Below are some facts about U.S. K-12 CTE students that may surprise you:

  1. The average high school graduation rate in 2012 for CTE concentrators was 93%, compared to the national adjusted cohort graduation rate of 80%. (US DoE)
  2. More than 75% percent of secondary CTE students pursue postsecondary education shortly after high school. (National Center for Ed Statistics)
  3. 4 out of 5 secondary CTE graduates who pursued postsecondary education after high school had earned a credential or were still enrolled two years later. (National Center for Ed Statistics)

Rather than one track for college students and another track for employment-bound students, CTE students elect a “Program of Study” (POS). The POS, or linked learning strategy, is a multi-year course flow joining academic, elective, and CTE courses into a plan to achieve life, career, and education goals.

View & Download our new 2017 Career and Technical Education Catalog

In the U.S. and globally, Vocational and Educational Training (VET) is being transformed by science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) change. CTE and VET are increasingly for all students—not just for those electing an employment path in lieu of higher education. Over the next five years, CTE and VET will increasingly be viewed as part and parcel to classical education.

Are you a CTE teacher? What trends are you seeing take shape? Please comment on our Facebook page.

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Jim Brazell

Jim Brazell

CTE Specialist

Note: Fresh Ideas for Teaching blog contributors have been compensated for sharing personal teaching experiences on our blog. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.