Career and technical education (CTE) has the potential to offer students pathways into a range of professions that are high-growth and high-wage. Currently, high school vocational programs and the needs of regional employers are not well- aligned. By examining evidence on the types of career programs, which students are taking advantage of them, and how well these programs reflect high-wage, high-skill, and high-growth jobs in a particular region, it becomes clear that the incentives for high school CTE programs are aligned neither with regional workforce demand nor with the economic prospects of individual students.

Key Points:

  • Modern CTE now encompasses up to 16 career clusters, with research indicating that outcomes in different clusters vary widely.
  • It may be tempting for policymakers to respond by over-academicizing subjects where this is not appropriate, such as for manufacturing.
  • Policymakers and educators should take seriously the role that student preferences play regarding which career path they choose and emphasize equity in supporting training that is effective for those pathways.
  • The Legislature could allow districts to use part or all of their CTE allotment for students enrolled in approved courses of study to offset businesses’ costs for employing paid interns—enabling students to gain hands-on experience.
  • Texas Education Code §48.110 (just created by HB 3) can be amended to require a portion of the college, career, or military readiness outcomes bonus to be contingent on postsecondary enrollment or employment (similar to the Texas State Technical College’s return-value funding model).