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Can Career and Technical Education (CTE) Improve Student Outcomes?

Shaun M. Dougherty
Shaun M. Dougherty

After a few decades of decline, there has been a resurgence of interest in Career and Technical Education (CTE) in high schools around the country. Yet, there are still questions about the effects of CTE on student outcomes. How can CTE programs can adjust to meet the demands of changing job markets and how can programs be designed to provide better opportunities to disadvantaged populations? In this webinar, Shaun Dougherty, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Education at Vanderbilt University and co-principal investigator of the Career and Technical Education Research Network, discusses the evidence on these and other issues.

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Highlights from the Webinar

Career and Technical Education can be beneficial to high school students

  • There is evidence that CTE improves social and content-based engagement among students.
  • CTE promotes skill development for employment.
  • There is potential for CTE to lead to increased familiarity with college aligned programs.

There are questions about whether CTE should be a path to college and, if so, for whom?

  • For some students, completing high school remains a substantial challenge.
  • Not everyone know what to study or how to choose well.
  • Yet, there are clear returns to college degrees and certificates.
  • A key policy concern is avoiding unnecessary debt, especially debt that doesn’t ultimately lead to a degree or certification.
  • Programs need to emphasize that immediate college enrollment is not necessarily the most important outcome.

There are key challenges ahead in developing CTE programming and aligning it with labor market needs.

  • There’s a need to better understand how to recruit and train CTE teachers.
  • Maintaining program alignment with labor market needs, especially in program development happening at the state level.
  • There should be a continued focus on ensuring the quality and value of these programs.
  • Although there is growing enthusiasm behind CTE programs, issues related to stigma and college pathways remain at play.

Read more about Career and Technical Education

Ensuring Equity in Evolving High School Career and Technical Education Policies, Fast Focus 42-2019
What do we know about Career and Technical Education? Fast Focus 38-2019
Building human capital and economic potential, Fast Focus 21-2014


Children, Education & Training, Employment, Job Training, K-12 Education, Labor Market, Transition to Adulthood