The recent reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act—the principal federal education program supporting career and technical education (CTE)—expressly aims to “align workforce skills with labor market needs.”
How Aligned is Career and Technical Education to Local Labor Markets?, co-authored by Pepperdine University associate professor Cameron Sublett and Fordham Institute senior research and policy associate David Griffith, examines whether students in high school CTE programs are more likely to take courses in high-demand and/or high-wage industries, both nationally and locally. By linking CTE course-taking data from the High School Longitudinal Survey to employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it seeks to answer three central research questions:
- To what extent do national CTE course-taking patterns at the high school level reflect the current distribution of jobs across fields and industries?
- To what extent is CTE course-taking in high school linked to local employment and industry wages?
- How do patterns of CTE course-taking differ by student race and gender?
Overall, the study finds that many fields that support a significant number of U.S. jobs see little CTE course-taking in high school, suggesting the potential for greater alignment in these areas.
Students are also more likely to take courses in fields that support more local jobs, but less likely to do so when those jobs are high-paying, suggesting that today’s CTE is connecting kids with jobs that are plentiful but low-paying by industry standards.
Finally, although national CTE course-taking patterns differ significantly by race and gender, all student groups exhibit similar responses to local labor market demand.
Because numerous studies suggest that Americans have become less mobile in recent decades, it’s more imperative than ever that the local business, postsecondary, and K–12 education sectors join hands to strengthen the connection between high school CTE programs and the local job market.
Only then will labor market “alignment” become more than a buzzword.
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The Thomas B. Fordham Institute and its affiliated Foundation promote educational excellence for every child in America by focusing on three policy areas: High Expectations, Quality Choices, and Personalized Pathways. We believe that all schools that are supported with public funds should be held accountable for helping their students make academic progress from year to year; that all parents deserve to have a range of high-quality options, as well as reliable information with which to make the best choice for their children; and that students have a variety of needs, interests, and ambitions, so our K–12 education system ought to reflect this. We promote these ideals via quality research, analysis, and commentary, as well as offices in Ohio that advocate for better education for Buckeye State children and authorize a portfolio of charter schools.