Facts and Figures

What is Career and Technical Education (CTE)? 

Career and Technical Education (CTE) provides students of all ages with the academic and technical skills, knowledge, and training necessary to succeed in future careers. Today’s cutting-edge, rigorous, and relevant CTE programs are taught in middle schools, high schools, career centers, and community and technical colleges, and they prepare youth and adults for a wide range of high-wage, high-demand careers. 

About 12.5 million high school and college students are currently enrolled in CTE programs across the country. CTE prepares these learners for the jobs of today and tomorrow by introducing students to workplace competencies through hands-on instruction. CTE programs give purpose to learning and education by emphasizing real-world skills and practical knowledge within a selected career focus. 

Why CTE? 

An estimated 29 percent of the current construction workforce will retire by 2026, resulting in a shortage of one million craft professionals in the construction industry.  

In 2021, 69 percent of companies reported difficulty hiring – a 15-year high. Employers are struggling to find and retain qualified applicants.  

More than 80 percent of manufacturers report that talent shortages impact their ability to meet customer demand.   

In 2020-2021, there were over 12.3 million students enrolled in CTE programs across the country. 

What is the skills gap? 

The skills gap is what we call the gap between the skills a worker possesses and the skills they need to perform a certain job.  

In the United States, 53 percent of all jobs require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree. Plumbers, HVAC specialists, manufacturers, and medical technicians are all examples of this kind of work. However, only 43 percent of workers are trained to this skill level, demonstrating the need for technical training programs that close the skills gap and prepare students for high-wage, high-skill, and in-demand career fields. 

As an example, the skills gap may leave an estimated 2.4 million manufacturing jobs unfilled between 2018 and 2028. Education and training systems must be equipped and ready to meet these needs in the coming years. CTE is an opportunity for students to learn core academic, employability, technical, and job-specific skills while gaining invaluable hands-on experience.  

Quick facts about CTE 

The average high school graduation rate for CTE concentrators is 94 percent, compared to the national adjusted cohort graduation rate of 85 percent. 

Students involved in CTE are far less likely to drop out of high school than other students, a difference estimated to save the economy $168 billion each year. 

Over 75 percent of students “concentrating” in CTE end up enrolling in postsecondary education after graduating high school. 

CTE students and their parents are three times more likely to report being "very satisfied" with the real-world learning component of their education than non-CTE students and parents. 

Progressive CTE course-taking in high school is associated with higher wages. Workers see a 2 percent wage increase for each upper-level CTE course taken. 

Individuals with associate degrees in CTE fields can earn up to $10,000 more per year than those with associate degrees in other fields. 

CTE Snapshots 

Here are just a few examples of the great work being done in CTE programs across the country. 

New York - East Hampton High School's commercial kitchen lab will be used to teach and practice cooking, baking, and other aspects of the hospitality industry. The new        program also includes hotel and restaurant management. Students will graduate from high school with a food handler's certificate, college credits, internship experience, and a career and technical education certification on their diplomas. 

Ohio - The Paralegal Studies program at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) in Cleveland, Ohio, prepares students to serve as paralegal professionals with American Bar Association-approved coursework in civil procedure, torts and evidence, drafting legal documents and performing computer-assisted legal research. Learning extends beyond the classroom to practicums where students gain experience in a legal office, corporate legal department or public defender’s office. 

Pennsylvania -  At the Cumberland Perry Area Career and Technical Center, the health care pathways program prepares students with the skills needed for a variety of pathways within the health care industry, including a core curriculum that includes Patient Care Skills, Anatomy and Physiology, and Medical Terminology. Students may also work towards stackable credentials and college credits. Students may participate in elective options such as Phlebotomy, EKG, and Pharmacy Technician courses. 

Rhode Island - P-Tech, located at the Providence Career and Technical High School, PCTA, enrolls students in a Work-Based Learning (WBL) placement in preparation for internships and careers in Information Technology. 

West Virginia - West Virginia’s Blue Ridge Community and Technical College (CTC), in collaboration with Allegheny Energy, created the Electric Distribution Engineering Technology certificate program to prepare learners for jobs as utility lineworkers. The program is endorsed by the Utility Workers Union of America Local 102 and provides opportunities for students to enter a field that has typically been limited to internal apprenticeships. Academic instruction gives students an understanding of the technology fueling today’s electrical utilities, while pole training and equipment labs develop skills in operating bucket trucks and digger derricks, reading and interpreting power systems layout drawings, climbing utility poles safely, erecting utility poles, and more.