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CTE Strong: Reimagining CTE After a Pandemic Year

Friday, May 28, 2021

This article was excerpted with permission from ACTE’s High-Quality CTE During COVID: Challenges and Innovation.

As COVID-19 enters a new phase, it is leaving a changed landscape that has presented major challenges but also opportunities for innovation in CTE. CTE professionals can harness the disruption that COVID-19 caused, and the lessons learned from the past year, to reimagine how CTE serves learners. Emerging from the pandemic with stronger CTE programs will require the input of multiple stakeholders and systems working together — coordination across education, workforce development, and employer communities will be critical moving forward. Here are steps you can take to adjust to the new CTE landscape.

Reassess labor market alignment

  • Consult with employer and workforce partners on the most immediate, pressing labor market changes that resulted from the pandemic as well as potential mid- and long-term changes in occupations and skill needs.
  • Lay the groundwork for the next comprehensive local needs assessment update required under Perkins V, which will be due in 2022. Focus your assessment on changes resulting from COVID-19 in the local and regional workforce and on pandemic-related challenges in access, equity, and program delivery.
  • Begin making changes to your CTE career pathway offerings to reflect new information, taking care to exercise caution while the post-pandemic economy is still evolving.
  • Continue to build relationships across stakeholders to create a more coordinated system of career preparation and talent pipeline development in your region.

Prepare students for the emerging workforce

  • Continue to incorporate opportunities to accelerate progress — through dual credit and work-based learning — as well as opportunities for meaningful industry-recognized credentials into CTE programs. These can help students complete programs with valuable credentials, enter the workforce more quickly, earn more, and save time and money.
  • Continue to grow “learn-and-earn” opportunities like youth apprenticeships that help learners start careers.
  • Integrate employability skills needed in the post-pandemic workforce throughout CTE programs, including the ability to communicate and collaborate remotely, which will likely continue to be a feature of many workplaces even after COVID-19.
  • Develop outreach and messaging strategies that clearly and transparently communicate the benefits of CTE programs to prospective learners and their families.

Commit to equity

  • Analyze your local CTE data from the 2020-21 school year for access gaps. Focus upcoming student recruitment and career exploration activities on students who are underrepresented in high-wage, high-skill, and in-demand program areas.
  • Expand elementary and middle school career exploration opportunities using a mix of in-person, remote, and blended tools and activities that support learning about self, learning about careers, and engaging with employers. Focus efforts in locations and programs that have had to cancel activities over the past year to ensure those students do not miss out on critical opportunities for career development.
  • Analyze your local CTE data from the 2020-21 school year for learning losses and persistence and success gaps. Focus student supports, such as mentoring, coaching, and bridge programs, on helping students who have experienced the most learning loss or disengaged from learning to re-engage and complete their CTE programs or graduate.
  • Work across institutions, learner levels, and systems to coordinate and centralize wrap-around supports that help meet learners’ pre-existing and pandemic-related educational, career, social and emotional, and tangible needs. Use multiple modes of communication and interaction to engage students, families, and caregivers in education and career planning.
  • Continue to incorporate Universal Design for Learning, accessibility standards, social and emotional learning, and trauma-informed practices into curriculum and lesson development to address the needs of underserved and special populations.

Embrace innovative tools and delivery models

  • Evaluate the technology-based tools and instructional strategies that were successful this year and think through how they can be integrated into CTE programs even after in-person instruction resumes without pandemic limitations.
  • Evaluate delivery models in light of knowledge gained during the pandemic to determine the content and experiences that can continue to be offered remotely and the content and experiences that must be offered in person.
  • Collaborate across secondary and postsecondary levels and with employer partners to integrate technology-based tools, related instructional strategies and diverse delivery models in ways that are appropriate for each CTE program area and learner level.
  • Continue to encourage self-directed learning, which many students gained skills and experience with this year. Consider models in which students complete knowledge-based modules at their own pace, and schedule time in a stationary or mobile lab for hands-on practice or use classroom time for more collaborative work.
  • Continue to strategically invest in diverse delivery methods for hands-on learning, performance assessment, and career exploration, such as video, virtual and augmented reality, and mobile labs.
  • Continue to develop diverse strategies for industry engagement and work-based learning that provide more access points for students to experience the world of work and more options for employers to engage with learners.

To find additional recommendations on how to develop and support CTE professionals and how to advocate for CTE, please see the full document: High Quality CTE During COVID: Challenges and Innovations.

Photo by Dimitry Anikin on Unsplash