CTE in Oregon
Oregon has become a top industrial state in the country, with manufacturing accounting for almost a third of its state GDP. But Oregon manufacturers are struggling to find workers with the qualifications they need to take on a bevy of high-skill jobs. Many Oregon workers do not have the training and applied learning experiences that employers look for and value.
Jobs in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), which require workers trained through strong CTE (Career and Technical Education) curriculum are growing two to three times faster than other Oregon jobs. And, STEM/CTE jobs are high-wage, helping to enrich the economy and Oregonís prosperity. But right now, there simply arenít enough Oregon workers with the skills that are needed to fill those jobs.
CTE programs are working to change that.
At only 68%, Oregon has one of the lowest 4-year high school graduation rates in the country. But students in the few remaining CTE programs across Oregon graduate at a significantly higher rate of 86%. And, these students from CTE programs often move on to further career education at a variety of institutions like technical schools, community colleges, and 4-year colleges and universities.
Because career and technical education is an interactive experience, students learn by doing. CTE pilot programs across the state have started a variety of projects, from IT professional training, to developing and managing control systems for water-powered dams, to using high-tech manufacturing machinery. Students in these programs get meaningful, hands-on training and learning.
And, school districts with CTE classes have found that these classes give high-risk students a reason to attend school and to find career options that are exciting to them, resulting in fewer dropouts.
CTE classes can be expensive. They often require additional space, tools, materials, and machinery, as well as teachers with experience in the technologies being taught. Often, class sizes have to be smaller to allow for careful instruction. As a result, many school districts do not have the resources to initiate or expand their CTE programs.
The legislature is working to find funding options so that students across the state can have access to manufacturing, construction and technology training. To both combat costs and encourage participation, recent discussions about STEM/CTE have also considered provisions for awarding college credit for high school CTE classes; students would then have fewer credits to earn in post-secondary or technical education programs, giving them a head start at getting the skills they need for their careers.
Businesses are also eager for expanded CTE programs so they can hire Oregon workers with the skills they need. A CTE/STEM coalition has been established to connect businesses, the legislature, government agencies, and the Oregon school system in designing legislation and programs that will most help students find fulfilling careers.
And, to showcase that work, as well as the importance of CTE learning in schools, this Wednesday, February 25 has been designated as ĎCTE Dayí at the Capitol. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Capitol Galleria will be showcasing CTE programs across the state. Students, teachers, and industry partners will be available to talk about the benefits of CTE programs and to explain to legislators why CTE funding is so crucial for Oregonís prosperity.
Lawmakers are encouraged to make CTE funding a priority for this Legislative Session. By connecting education to careers, Oregonians can have better, higher-wage jobs and more fulfilling, meaningful careers.