Tips on how to pick a career and technical education (CTE) program while in high school and when to get started.
🚂 This is entry
2 of the blogtrain CTE.
Because CTE is underrated, many people don’t know about it or understand it well. That was true of my wife and I when our firstborn entered high school. And because we have five kids and didn’t want to forget everything by the time the next kid was ready, I have been documenting our learning as we go. Occasionally, people ask us for help, so I’m sharing what we’ve learned about getting started with CTE, and I hope it helps.1
📆 When should we get started?
Most programs take 1-2 years to complete. This means:
- Some schools offer CTE programs for Freshmen and Sophomores, making it possible for a student to complete multiple programs during their high school years.
- Learn about your options as soon as possible, even before your Freshman year and certainly during it. Start by finding out if a program fair is offered near you. There you will get to see different programs, ask questions, and learn about the application/enrollment timeline. If you can’t make it to a program fair, contact the your local CTE office directly to ask questions. Sometimes school guidance counselors at the Jr. High and Sr. High levels are able to help.
- Spots can fill up quickly, so you’ll want to be ready.
- Apply before the year your program starts.
🤷♂️ How do we pick a program?
We have used the following approach to help our kids pick a program. Admittedly, this is a maximalist approach, but from this guide, you can see that’s the kind of guy I am. You may not need to do this much. Just try to keep it fun—mostly that means not rushing, nor taking too long to decide.—and, of course, kids will want/need varying levels of guidance. Be a good listener.
Here’s what we have done:
- Decide what program locations are workable for your family. For us, this meant finding a location we could reliably get to after school since at the time the high school did not offer CTE on campus.
- Figure out what programs at those nearby locations offered an industry-recognized credential or certification. Not all tech programs do this. One can learn a skill without getting a credential, but an industry-recognized credential is usually more valuable.
- Pick a program that sounds fun to the student. This quiz helped start some good conversations in our home.
- While letting the student’s interest be the primary driver, ask the student to also consider (1) what might provide a helpful life skill? and (2) what might be an under-supplied skill in a growing field (since those skills would likely provide the most potential earnings and job security)?
- Once the student picks something, have him or her watch a few “day in the life” videos on YouTube and talk with a couple people who do the job.
This CTE guide is my own, but it has been graciously reviewed by a two CTE administrators in two different Arizona counties. I appreciate their input. That said, things change; so your best bet is always to contact your local CTE district for up-to-date information. Click the reply button to send me corrections or other feedback. ↩︎
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). ↩︎