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Donald Gilman: What is Career and Technical Education?

Career, Technical and Agriculture Education (CTAE as it is known in Georgia) prepares students for a wide range of careers and further educational opportunities. These careers may require varying levels of education — including industry-recognized credentials, postsecondary certificates, and two- and four-year degrees; in essence, CTAE is about preparing students for careers.
CTAE is offered in middle schools, high schools, area career and technical centers, community and technical colleges, and other postsecondary institutions. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education, approximately 12 million students participated in secondary and postsecondary CTAE programs supported by the Carl D. Perkins Act during the 2010-2011 school year.
In Sumter County, we have 328 students enrolled in CTAE course offerings at Americus Sumter High School and Americus Sumter Ninth Grade Academy. These courses include training in agriculture, automotive, business management and administration, education, engineering, government and public administration, healthcare science, hospitality, information technology, and marketing with some of the programs leading to an initial certification in these students’ chosen area of study. Additionally, we have a Work Based Learning program that is designed to tie the academics of the class room to the real-world application that is experienced in a job setting. Finally, the third component of CTAE that impacts students is the Career Technical Student Organization (CTSO). These are student organizations like FFA, FBLA, DECA, Skills USA, and HOSA, just to name a few. When all three components combine, students have a unique opportunity to experience real world settings in competitions and internships that will expose them to a career in their life after high school.
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, almost all high school students participate in CTAE, and more than half take three or more credits. About 60 percent of college students are involved in CTAE programs, and more than 25 percent of the adult U.S. population participates in work-related training.
CTAE is at the forefront of preparing students to be “college- and career-ready.” CTAE equips students with: core academic skills and the ability to apply those skills to concrete situations in order to function in the workplace and in routine daily activities; employability skills (such as critical thinking and responsibility) that are essential in any career area; and, job-specific, technical skills related to a specific career pathway.
The value of a CTAE program is a school system is a respected asset. CTAE increases student achievement. The graduation rate for students involved in Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education (CTAE) has risen to 94.9 percent in Georgia — a strong indicator of the relevance of these programs and their impact on student outcomes. This represents a six percent increase in the graduation rate for CTAE pathway completers, up from 88.9 percent in 2014.
“This rate proves that when students are engaged and see the relevance of their education, they succeed,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “Every child is not the same, and we need to provide an educational experience that offers a variety of paths toward college, career, or the military.”
“The mission for CTAE in Georgia is to educate our future workforce by providing experiences for students that will prepare them for workplace success,” State CTAE Director Barbara Wall said, Ed.D. “The 94.9 percent graduation rate of Georgia’s CTAE pathway completers is strong evidence that Georgia’s CTAE students graduate both college and career ready.”
As Sumter County Schools prepare to embark on building new high school facilities, CTAE will be at the forefront of the educational efforts. Currently, we are working with One Sumter, adviser Russ Moore of Seamless Education Associates Inc. and other entities to secure grant funding for a College and Career Academy to be conducted on the campus of the new facility. The Academy will be dynamic in preparing students for our area workforce needs in an effort to keep our local talent in Sumter and surround counties versus losing our capable youth to the metro areas of our region. If you would like to know more about our efforts or participate with us in this endeavor, please feel free to contact me at dgilman@sumterschools.org. We are looking forward to preparing our youth for continued sustainability of our community.

Donald Gilman, Ph.D., is director of Career Technical and Agriculture Education for Sumter County Schools.