As a Career and Technical Education (CTE) administrator, you play a pivotal role in how the programs at your school prepare students with the technical skills and knowledge to succeed in their chosen industry. Your leadership serves the ever-changing needs of learners, parents, teachers, industry, and the community.
But what constitutes a high-quality CTE program? How do you know if your efforts are providing the best opportunities for students and serving the needs of your community? The role of a CTE administrator is expansive and can’t be captured in a single blog post. With that in mind, we want to discuss four components of quality programming to ensure students receive the best possible instruction. Each section includes practical suggestions to help turn this information into actionable steps.
1. Quality Staff
Your staff is the heart of your CTE program. Without qualified teachers, data professionals, and work-based learning coordinators, students won’t be prepared for their chosen careers and plans upon graduation. As an administrator, part of your role is to ensure programs have high-quality professionals with experience in the field they are teaching and that these individuals are supported with individualized professional development. “Prepared and effective program staff” is one of the 12 components in the ACTE Quality CTE Program of Study Framework™. The framework specifies that CTE staff “meet appropriate state, district and/or institution certification and licensing requirements.”
As we’ve noted in a previous blog, the growing popularity of CTE has coincided with a national shortage of qualified CTE professionals. There’s a good chance these professionals may be joining your program after successful careers in other industries. Consider how you can offer these individuals extra support as they learn new pedagogical skills.
Providing access to individualized professional development helps to ensure your staff’s skills and knowledge stay sharp. Depending on program offerings, you could be supporting teachers in a wide range of subjects like biotech, cosmetology, wind turbines, or advanced automation. While it’s impossible for you to know every nuance of these occupations, you should have an idea of which resources are helpful for professional development. Are there industry conferences teachers can attend? Local businesses offering externships? Additional industry certifications?
- Assess the needs of your staff both individually and collectively. Consider how to help new CTE teachers transitioning from other industries to develop skills like classroom management techniques and methods for delivering engaging instruction.
- Create a list of potential professional development activities. Conferences and industry events are often local, low-cost options.
2. Proper Equipment
Your role as a CTE administrator will likely involve overseeing equipment and facilities. By nature, CTE involves hands-on learning where students will familiarize themselves with the tools and equipment used in a specific industry. The ACTE Quality Framework specifies that facilities, equipment, technology, and materials should
- Reflect current workplace, industry, and/or occupational practices and requirements
- Support and align to curriculum standards and program objectives
- Meet federal, state, and local standards for occupational safety and health in the related industry
Your facility could house advanced manufacturing equipment, commercial kitchen equipment, or carpentry tools. How do you ensure students have up-to-date and safe facilities where they can learn to use the tools of their chosen trade?
An advisory committee of local industry experts and knowledgeable community members can offer insight into equipment quality. A plant manager from a local manufacturer will know the types of equipment that should be in your facility, where to source new equipment, and how to maintain your investment.
- Catalog the equipment used in your CTE programs. Ask teachers and industry experts for input when determining which instructional equipment should be updated.
- Develop a budget for replacing tools and equipment. Consult industry experts to determine where to source new equipment and the life expectancy of the new resources.
3. Work-Based Learning Opportunities
In addition to working with industry-appropriate equipment in the classroom, high-quality CTE programs also provide opportunities for students to interact with industry and community professionals. These experiences often occur in a traditional classroom or the workplace and should encourage firsthand engagement with the knowledge and skills required in a given field.
Learning how to program an industrial robot in a classroom setting is much different than doing so on a busy manufacturing floor! Students will benefit from seeing the skills they are learning applied in a real-world setting and will have an opportunity to ask questions about their chosen career. Forming relationships with local community and industry leaders also offers future employment and education opportunities. Specific activities listed in the ACTE Framework for work-based learning include workplace tours, job shadowing, school-based enterprises, internships, and apprenticeships.
- Create a list of employers in relevant industries who may be willing to offer tours of their facilities or be a guest speaker in the classroom.
- Research local internship or apprenticeship programs to see if there are opportunities to match them with your CTE programs.
4. Industry Engagement
As you may have noticed from the previous sections, building connections with local industry and community members is essential for a high-quality CTE program! Each occupational area should be supported by an occupational or trade advisory committee of local business and industry professionals.
Asking local employers to contribute their time and resources is easier if you can articulate how your CTE programs serve the needs of the community and local industry. Perhaps your programs prepare students for a specialized postsecondary technical program or offer students the opportunity to explore careers in specific occupations that are prevalent in the area. Determine what makes your community unique and how your CTE programs serve those needs.
Once you demonstrate how the CTE program prepares students for industry, employers may be more willing to lend their expertise. Opportunities include:
- Reviewing curriculum
- Assisting in identifying high-quality credentials
- Providing personnel to assist in the credentialing process
- Validating facilities, equipment, and materials to industry-expected standards
- Providing work-based learning experiences
- Investing funds through in-kind support
- Identifying professional learning opportunities for teachers
- Identify unique aspects or needs of your community and prepare a written response detailing how your CTE programs meet those needs.
- Create a “wishlist” of ways local employers could contribute resources or expertise to your programs. Look for opportunities to build relationships with these employers before asking for their support.
Looking for More CTE Administrator Resources?
If you are interested in learning more about the ACTE Quality CTE Program of Study Framework, we encourage you to explore ACTE’s online library of resources. There you will find reports, research studies, toolkits, guides, webinars, and more.
NOCTI and its partners collaborate to develop resources tailored to help administrators succeed. The CTE administrator book series examines topics like data collection and reporting, engaging employers, aligning curriculum, and budgeting. With case studies and best practices, this series is a valuable resource for any CTE administrator!