By Grace Belize Anderson

As a high school senior, my classmates and I are excited to be preparing for the next stages of our lives. For some of us, that means college; others will join the military, and still others will head straight into the workforce.

But are we prepared for the jobs that await us? So much has been written about the “skills gap” – the difference between the subjects we learn in high school and the skills imperative to land and succeed in today’s high-demand occupations, like Healthcare, IT, and Construction.

I firmly believe all high school kids should be exposed to robust skills training programs in high school, even if they do plan to go on to college. Career Technical Education (CTE) offers students real-world courses of study that equip them with in-demand skills, thus preparing them for the next chapter of their lives (which will hopefully include being gainfully employed)!

Specifically, CTE offers students the chance to gain exposure to a wide variety of potential career paths and job descriptions, so when they enter the workforce they’re ready on Day One to fill the in-demand and lucrative roles within our nation’s most critical industries. It’s a win-win for the student and the employer!

As the national president of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), a career and technical student organization, this issue is near and dear to me. Through my work with FCCLA, I recently had the privilege of attending the Association for Career & Technical Education (ACTE) Vision Conference in Nashville. It was amazing to see other students like myself, as well as teachers, school administrators and other professionals, who believe in the mission of CTE!

Another important benefit of CTE is that research shows skills training in high school helps to mitigate against high school dropout. According to ACTE, the average high school graduation rate for students concentrating in CTE programs is 93 percent, compared to an average graduation rate of roughly 80 percent for the general population. Research consistently shows relevant, real-world learning opportunities help keep kids in school. Students feel their education is valuable and will serve them well as they enter adulthood and pursue their chosen career paths.

FCCLA believes in the power of students and the power of education. We encourage our chapters to hold career fairs empowering students to speak with local business leaders, inquire about possible internships or employment opportunities, and understand the skill sets they’ll need to be the ideal candidate to fill advertised hot jobs.

Actually, now more than ever, it is critical that students begin some form of CTE in high school as technology continues to disrupt most industries at a rapid speed. Consider this alarming statistic courtesy of payscale.com: 65 percent of children entering primary school now will ultimately work in a job that doesn’t even exist today! It is critically important that students prepare to meet the needs of the modern workforce, which is exactly the aim of CTE. Parents, I know you love your kids. But do you really want them living with you until they’re 35 years old because they can’t get a job? Of course not! Encourage them to explore CTE to help ensure future generations of Americans are fully equipped to create a vibrant and strong 21st-century workforce.

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Grace Belize Anderson is a senior at Wyoming Virtual Academy.


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