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Career and Technical Education (CTE) | CTE Month

What (and When) Is CTE Month 2021?

January 21st, 2021 | 6 min. read

Chris Zook

Chris Zook

Chris Zook is a contributing author to the AES blog. He enjoys everything about online marketing, data science, user experience, and corgis.

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Career and technical education (CTE) is quickly becoming the hottest topic in education news throughout the United States.

Appropriately, it also has its own month of celebration!

Teachers, administrators, and students celebrate CTE Month every year in February. In 2021, CTE Month is more popular than it’s ever been before — and for good reason!

CTE is proven to work as an educational philosophy. It helps students learn. It offers a variety of education strategies for teachers. It can even empower whole school districts with new funding! 

As a result, everyone has something to celebrate in CTE Month 2021!

So where do you start?

Let’s kick it off by diving into the big question — what is CTE Month?

What Is CTE Month?

01-what-is-cte-monthCTE Month is an observation of the value and importance of career education as a whole.

While this education style went by several other names in the past (vocational education, vo-tech, technical education, etc.), it’s become a popular alternative to the traditional American education circuit.

CTE Month celebrates the 16 career clusters that make up CTE as a program. Your school may only offer education for a few of those clusters, but they’re still celebration-worthy!

This is important because American public schools traditionally push post-secondary education as the primary way for students to become successful in adulthood.

But that’s simply not true!

CTE focuses on hard skills, career readiness, and learning a trade. The grading is less based on someone’s conceptual understanding of a topic (thought that’s still important) and more based on their advancement as a skilled worker.

CTE Month brings these qualities to the forefront of students’ minds every February. It shows students that you don’t have to be “book smart” to be considered a good student, and even “book smart” students can discover valuable skills from work-based learning.

So this is all well and good — but when can you do this?

When does CTE Month actually take place?

When Is CTE Month?

02-when-is-cte-monthCTE Month is a predictable “holiday” month every February.

Schools around the country have different ways to celebrate, but many of them choose to do something like:

  • Hosting an open house
  • Holding a job fair
  • Sending instructors to talk to younger students in a school district
  • Collaborating with high school guidance counselors to improve awareness and enrollment
  • Connecting with local business leaders to raise awareness of graduating students

With that kind of celebration, you may be thinking that there are a lot of people involved with making CTE Month successful.

And you’d be right!

Who Celebrates CTE Month?

03-who-celebrates-cte-monthTeachers, students, administrators, schools, and education organizations all celebrate CTE Month in their own ways and for their own reasons.

Teachers may celebrate by organizing classroom visits from local business leaders or promoting internships at companies for their students.

Students may celebrate by talking to younger classes about what they’ve learned in CTE and why they feel it was a good choice for them.

Administrators could celebrate by dedicating funding to CTE programs and awareness campaigns.

Whole schools could celebrate with posters, extra-curricular events, student/teacher recognition, parental awareness campaigns, and a whole lot more.

Finally, education organizations — like AES — celebrate by making sure everyone knows CTE Month is something to be celebrated!

Often, technical education classes act as the hub for all of this CTE activity, although health science teachers, career readiness teachers, computer teachers, and guidance counselors like to get involved as well.

In fact, many post-secondary institutions — especially schools that focus on STEM — celebrate CTE Month because CTE emphasizes the skills students may need to start in engineering, mathematics, or technology occupations.

So with all of this information, we still have one big question left to answer.

Why is CTE Month so important?

Why Is CTE Month Important?

04-why-is-cte-month-importantSome naysayers may suggest that CTE Month isn’t necessary anymore. After all, the federal Department of Education has supported CTE verbally and financially in sweeping reform in 2018.

But it’s not just the funding or awareness that makes CTE Month important.

CTE Month plays a vital role in eliminating the stigma that has been associated with CTE and non-traditional education in general.

We all know what that stigma is — and some of your students may even be ridiculed because of it.

The stigma sounds something like this:

“CTE is for dumb kids.”

The truth of CTE is more like this:

“CTE offers a skills-based route to lifelong success.”

The irony of this stigma runs deep, especially for CTE clusters like health science.

After all, if someone ends up in a hospital one day, they’ll mostly be in contact with nurses, patient care technicians, and other specialists who got their start in the CTE classroom.

They’ll see an MD-educated doctor for about 10 minutes tops.

The same is true for systems administrators and IT specialists. Some of them may have gone to a four-year institute — like the managers or C-level executives — but the people who make things work probably got their education from a CTE program.

Auto-mechanics, court clerks, and even local government employees are all educated through the American CTE system.

So this perception that CTE is for “dumb” students couldn’t be further from the truth.

It actually reveals a major flaw in the US education system as a whole — namely, that far too many students “fall through the cracks” of modern expectations and processes.

In that respect, CTE represents an essential safety net for students who would otherwise be considered sub-par by the education system.

CTE gives those students a chance to thrive.

CTE isn’t mutually exclusive from college, either. In fact, CTE can play a major role in college readiness.

As noted by the University of Connecticut in 2018:

“While CTE maintains a negative association with the low-track, vocational programs of the past, CTE can be a path to college — not a path away from it. Further, CTE offerings present the opportunity for students to go in-depth in experiences that may not be traditionally associated with students of their gender, race, or socioeconomic status. CTE can (and should) be a mechanism to shift past social mores, not reinforce them.”

This is the message that CTE Month sends. It gives teachers, students, and administrators more options to elevate CTE instead of leaving it up to students to judge in their social circles.

What are the results?

The same publication from University of Connecticut notes that:

“There are clear benefits for students who take in-depth coursework in CTE subjects. These students attain increased graduation rates and wages, and these effects appear to be particularly notable for historically disadvantages groups, namely low-income students and students with disabilities.”

In other words, the results of CTE are better education, more student inclusion, and higher graduation rates — especially for the students who wouldn’t have had those opportunities in a traditional education environment.

And if anyone ever doubts you when you talk about the value of CTE Month, just tell them that a four-year university can prove it! 

How Will You Celebrate CTE Month 2021?

CTE Month is almost here! Are you ready to celebrate?

If you need a few ideas to help kick-off CTE month in your school, click below:

Discover How You Can Celebrate CTE Month >