Tips on how to pick a career and technical education (CTE) program while in high school and when to get started.

πŸš‚ 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

πŸ“†Β 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.

πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈΒ 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 funβ€”mostly that means not rushing, nor taking too long to decide.β€”and, of course, kids will want/need varying levels of guidance. Be a good listener.

Here’s what we have done:

  1. Pray.2
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Pick a program that sounds fun to the student. This quiz helped start some good conversations in our home.
  5. 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)?
  6. Once the student picks something, have him or her watch a few β€œday in the life” videos on YouTube and talk with a couple people who do the job.
  7. Decide.

  1. 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. ↩︎

  2. “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). ↩︎