Career and Technical Education

Career and Technical Education

Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs provide students with hands-on, technical learning to help students explore career paths and get a jump start on the coursework and credentials they’ll need to enter the workforce.

Thanks to Illinois’ renewed focus on CTE programs high school students are more likely to participate in college coursework, earn industry-recognized credentials, and participate in work-based learning experiences.

The Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act passed in 2016 and amended in 2018 introduced new tools and strategies for districts to ensure students graduate high school college and career ready. Districts were encouraged to build out career pathways, offering students industry-informed courses with multiple entry and exit points that allow students to build their skills as they progress and achieve their education goals.

In 2019, Illinois’ budget appropriation for Career and Technical Education (CTE) saw its first funding increase in over a decade. Even so, the appropriation is still lower than neighboring states. Investment in CTE is a cost-effective way to expose students to a career area and prepare them for a meaningful career. Students who ‘concentrate’ their CTE studies in a given career pathway are more likely to graduate than non-CTE students.

2020 marked the first year implementing Illinois’ new “Perkins Plan,” a federally mandated framework detailing how the state would manage its CTE program and spend its state and federal CTE dollars. This four-year plan built on the foundation laid by the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act by investing in innovative pathway development and delivery. The Perkins Plan also put equity front and center introducing new dashboards for tracking student enrollment and a needs assessment to help districts identify and address enrollment gaps.

Improving access to underserved populations continues to be a challenge. A new House Resolution, HR582 (West), would task the P-20 Council with studying the current CTE funding and governance structures to maximize collaboration among secondary, higher education, and employer partners and bring equitable access and opportunity to all. Additional funding for recruitment and more transparency around school-level funding and program governance would help move the needle forward to ensure all Illinois students have access to high-quality CTE programming.