The Importance of Engaging Kids in CTE from Kindergarten through 12th Grade

Group of students learning over a computer.

It’s challenging to understand the vast array of careers available in the world when you are a kid. Most students are familiar with the jobs that are local and familiar to their community. However, exposing students to possibilities beyond the neighborhood is an important role in education. That is where career and technical education (CTE) programs come in.

What is CTE?

CTE programs teach students technical skills that will support them in future careers. Most programs offer a wide scope of learning experiences that extend across several career fields and industries. Some of these learned skills may be in areas such as auto, business, IT, agriculture, STEM, healthcare, and more. The form that CTE classes take in schools varies depending on the district and local opportunities. However, the advantage to incorporating CTE programs in any form is widely beneficial for students. 

CTE in Upper Grades

Currently there are more than 12 million high school and college students in CTE courses across the country. These courses are preparing our students with hands-on, applicable skills that prepare them for the workforce. According to the Applied Education Systems CTE statistics, 95% of students enrolled in CTE courses graduate high school. This is 10 percent higher than the overall national high school graduation average as of 2021. 

CTE programs offer students learning opportunities in technical fields that are not typically learned in the classroom and support them in setting goals for their future. This results in students graduating high school with relevant and marketable skills that make them competitive candidates in the job market. Even if they choose to not pursue the career they’ve gained experience in through the CTE program, they are equipped with skills that are transferable across various positions. 

The benefits of CTE for elementary

While CTE is typically taught in middle, high school, and post-secondary, adapting and implementing these career readiness programs in the younger grades is equally beneficial.

However two questions stand. First, how do we engage elementary students in CTE? And second, how young should we start? 

It is essential that we expose our students to career options as early as possible. This introduces them to several professions they may not have opportunities to experience in their typical everyday lives. Most youth are unaware of just how many options are available to them. Broadening their understanding to these possibilities will kickstart their thinking about the future and will support them in goal-setting. 

It’s important to note that the goal of CTE in upper and lower grades does differ. Secondary and higher education programs aim to set students on a path specified to their interests and skills. The purpose of elementary CTE is to simply expose students to their wide expanse of opportunities.

Here are 3 CTE activities you can utilize in your elementary classroom:

  1. Invite guest speakers - Guest speakers can present their jobs along with what they do. Knowing how inquisitive our young students naturally are, their questions will flow as they learn from and interact with the guest speaker.
  2. Incorporate dramatic play areas - Children are drawn to dramatic play, especially our Kindergarten and 1st grade students. They gravitate to dramatic play areas in the classroom, like a make-shift rocket ship, hospital, or restaurant when given the chance for free play. These play areas are both entertaining and interesting to young children and familiarize students with various careers based on the toys and scenarios teachers make available.
  3. Plan field trips - Going on CTE related field trips provides students with first-hand experience in other career fields. It builds their knowledge base and gives them an introductory idea of what it takes to enter that field. This can be achieved through an in-person workplace tour where students meet the employees, ask questions, and see the behind-the-scenes. An alternative can also be a virtual field trip where students can go essentially anywhere ranging from a contractor’s construction site to outer space. The internet is chalk full of videos that feature business owners and field specialists talking about their profession.

All in all

Higher percentages of students will form interest in career and technical fields when we expose them to CTE-based curriculum beginning from a young age, even Kindergarten. Students will explore different opportunities before they form preconceived notions of the types of individuals that are typically in those fields based on the stereotypes often cemented in society. This will lead to a wider variety of people from all types of backgrounds entering these technical fields. 

CTE will empower all K-12 students with feelings of self-control over their goals and life direction as they learn new skills and master these areas of interest. 

To learn more about computer science curriculum Skill Struck offers grades K-12, take a look at our course catalog here

Keep reading