Get Career Ready: Why technical education can be an option for some teens

Get Career Ready: Why technical education can be an option for some teens

- in 2023 Editions, Magazine, March 2023

During high school many parents are preparing their teens for college. However, what if they aren’t interested in college or aren’t ready? Instead, they enjoy hands-on activities rather than a traditional classroom setting or want to do something different? 

A career technical educational (CTE) program might be a good place to start. Students who attend CTE programs learn applied skills in a technical career such as manufacturing, nursing, biomedical science, automotive, cosmetology, and more. CTE focuses on students getting jobs and they support this by connecting students with employers, interview preparation, resume writing, and mock interviews. 

Some career centers offer summer camps and middle school programs for younger children. Others offer programs for students with learning differences.

What types of children thrive in career technical education?

Maureen Lehman, director of workforce services at Polaris Career Center, says, “There are two types of students: ones who know what they want and those who don’t know what they want until they are exposed to something. In career tech you can work while you’re trying to figure out what you want to do.”  

Kailyn Clarke of Alliance for Working Together (AWT) Foundation encourages parents and students to look for clues in the things they enjoy doing. 

 “The making and crafting done by children and teenagers isn’t that different from manufacturing,” she says. “Making slime, building with LEGOs, making stickers with the cricket machine are similar to skills needed in manufacturing.” 

How do I get connected?

Start with the school guidance counselor or CTE department at your child’s school. 

 Doug Miller, director of community outreach at Polaris Career Center advises, “Career centers tend to be affiliated with local school districts. The children remain enrolled in their local districts and take classes at or through the center if the program is offered outside of the individual school district.”

During sophomore year, students enroll in the two-year CTE program. Then they start classes at the beginning of junior year. If you have a teen who has graduated or is a senior and is interested in a CTE program, then he/she can join an apprenticeship program or enroll in adult education at a career center. 

What about a teen who needs extra support?

If you believe your teen is in danger of dropping out, then there are options to attend school and obtain employment through career technical education or an alternative school.  

Flex High School Principal Kimberly Sterlekar, a community school in Cleveland, suggests parents “tour any school they are considering. 

Parents should ask about the amount of one-on-one time provided, what additional supports are available, whether year-round enrollment is offered, and the level of parent involvement necessary to be successful,” she says. 

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