Is Career and Technical Education a Good Option for My Child?

Updated on August 8, 2016
MaryBethRobinson profile image

Beth is a mother of 3. A graduate of the Ohio State University and experience with HR, Career & Tech Ed and lots of mom stories!!

Career & Technical Education as an Option

High School students today are inundated with options on how to prepare themselves for college. College Credit Plus, Honors classes, AP classes, all that will provide them with college credits and prepare them for their future college plans. But, what if your child doesn't want to go to college? Is that even an option anymore? Should you be mortified that your child may not be deemed college material? No. Because there are other options.

Forty years ago, working in a skilled labor market was not looked down upon. Today, it's a different story. However, those trades and jobs have not gone away. There is a huge need in the labor market for skilled electricians, plumbers, construction managers, welders and cosmetologists. Those jobs are not being outsourced and are not being automated. With an aging workforce and attrition, younger skilled workers are needed to replace them.

So, how do you prepare your child for the workforce? Career and Technical Education. There are Career & Technical Schools located all over the United States. In Ohio, where I live, I work for a Career & Technical School and have seen the benefits these schools offer students looking to learn a skill or trade.

I will say this is not your vocational or trade schools from the 70's and 80's. There are options today that allow students that choose career & technical education to focus on a skill that may or may not require a college degree. Students who choose something like welding or electrical technology, will have the ability to obtain specific licensures and certifications required to work in that field. As a result, students can begin working in their field of choice right out of high school. However, there are also programs available in pre-nursing, engineering, programming & software development and web design that all require a college degree in order to work in those fields. Attending the career center and taking those classes in those areas of study allow the student to earn college credit and work hands on in that field, which in turn allows that student to decide if that career is the best choice for them.

My defense in favor of career & technical education is that a student can "try" a career in their field of choice. They get hands on learning, the ability to work with mentors in the field and decide if that is the right career path for them. This empowers our students and allows them to start making some very grown up choices. Is that what I see myself doing for the next 30 years? Will I enjoy doing this and am I capable of being successful in this career field?

I emphasize to the students I meet with, that not going to college is fine, but you better learn a skill. If you have a skill, then you are employable and you can earn a livable wage. Making minimum wage in high school is fine because your bills consist of buying tennis shoes, eating out and paying for social events. However, when you're 25 and earning minimum wage and are now required to pay rent, insurance, utilities, food, clothing etc., that earning doesn't stretch very far. But, if you have a skill that you can build upon and use, you can earn a livable wage. You now have options with that career track as well.

Another great aspect of career & technical education on the college prep side, is that you get to see first hand what it's like to work in that career field. Sometimes, hands on learning is imperative to the decision as to whether or not it's the right career choice for you. For example, in the pre-nursing program, students are learning how to take care of patients and will work in clinicals that will require them to get in to the not so nice aspect of nursing. If you can't stand the sight of blood, or the smell of vomit, then nursing may not be the right choice for you. So, taking these classes and learning this before you graduate will keep you form making a very costly mistake in college.

For those parents who are wringing their hands wondering what their child is going to do after high school, have your child learn a skill or a trade. No matter who they are, what personality they possess, there is a career track for them. Have your child do some interest surveys, meet with the high school guidance counselor and visit your school district's career & technical school to see what they are all about. In Ohio, career centers are an extension of their public high school, and therefore, are free to those students living within the assigned school district. The only cost assessed are for the uniforms. The other benefit is that for those students who play a sport, and are involved in extracurricular activities at their home school, they can continue to play their sports, or stay in their clubs. The career centers are part of the high school and allow your child to continue to be a part of their home school. They are just learning in a different environment.

I know I keep referring back to Ohio, but each student has the same graduation requirements as those students in the traditional high school. They must have the proper number of credits and state requirements to graduate. This does not absolve them from taking core classes, this is in addition to the required curriculum set forth by your state. Therefore, it's a mandate that can not be avoided or changed. The only difference is that their extracurriculars end up being lab and hands on work in their program track.

Please consider looking in to career and technical education for your students. This may be the best decision you and your child will ever make.

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