Tens of thousands of practitioners and policymakers across our country have worked tirelessly over the last few years to ensure that “vocational” education–as our parents knew it–is over. Catalyzed by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, the Administration’s 2012 Blueprint for Transforming Career and Technical Education, and the work of major national organizations such as National Association for State Directors of Career and Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), there has been tremendous growth in availability of high-quality “career and technical” education (CTE) programs to equip students for success in postsecondary education and careers in our global economy.
These high-quality CTE programs are exactly what we want to support in a reauthorized Perkins bill. Programs that are aligned to labor market demand. Programs that require collaboration among secondary, postsecondary, business/industry, and other key partners. Programs that are accountable for academic, technical, and employability outcomes for students, based on common definitions and clear metrics for performance. Programs that capitalize on innovations in state and local policies and practice. And, programs that assure full access and equity by students regardless of background or circumstances.
Despite our efforts and the availability of high-quality CTE programs, there remains an unfortunate stigma surrounding CTE. Too many students do not know about these rigorous pathways into postsecondary education and a well-paying job or rewarding career. Too many parents think about CTE using their own experiences with “shop class” as a reference. Too many members of the general public who have yet to learn that CTE is not only a viable, rigorous option, but a path into the middle class.
This Administration is committed to doing its part to change the perceptions of CTE. On Monday, June 22, President Obama signed an Executive Order expanding the U. S. Presidential Scholars Program to include students who demonstrate scholarship, ability, and accomplishment in CTE. This Executive Order builds on great collaboration between the executive and legislative branches of government, and reflects the hard work of teams of individuals at the White House, on the Hill, and in the Department. We are extremely grateful for this effort. It moves CTE out of the periphery and raises it to a level of federally-recognized prestige on par with traditional academic pathways and the arts.