Career and technical education: A path to success for many 


This time of year fills many students with anxiety about what to do after they graduate from high school. For too long, students have heard that a four-year college degree is the only way to succeed. This is a false narrative, and it can set students up for failure.  

Career and technical education (CTE) provides learners of all ages with valuable skills to enter the workforce and should not be viewed as a “backup plan” but rather as a path to a high-paying, family-sustaining job. When a student graduates from a CTE program, they often have a diploma in one hand and often multiple job offers in the other.  

February is CTE Month and a time to recognize the contributions CTE programs make to the economy, along with the important work being done by CTE professionals and teachers across the country. As co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional CTE Caucus and senior members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, we strongly support CTE programs that provide learners of all ages with career-ready skills. 

CTE empowers individuals to take control of their personal and professional futures. It’s part of a well-rounded education, keeping more students engaged in their learning regardless of the path they choose and opening more doors to quality jobs.

Many high-achieving students are choosing CTE as a pathway to success. Industry certifications and acquired skills can be used right out of high school in a job, additional skills-based education program, or in college. 

By modernizing the federal investment in CTE programs, we are connecting more educators with industry stakeholders and closing the skills gap between in-demand jobs and qualified workers. There are millions of open and available jobs right now, and CTE programs give Americans the skills to fill them. 

These programs work to develop America’s most valuable resource — its people — whether they choose to work in agriculture, the arts, marketing, or manufacturing. CTE is offered in a range of settings including high schools, area technical centers, and technical and two-year community colleges.  

A record number of more than 12 million high school and college students are currently enrolled in CTE programs across the nation, showing the strength and resiliency of these programs in addressing the needs of today’s workforce. 

Congress recognized the importance of CTE when we passed the bipartisan Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act in 2018, which modernized federal investments in CTE programs and helped connect educators with industry stakeholders. 

This was the first major overhaul of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) since 2006 and it continued Congress’ investment in these successful programs. This legislation, which passed with unanimous support from each chamber before being signed into law, added important flexibility for states and CTE programs to tailor their education to meet the unique needs of the local community. 

Perkins is critical for educational institutions as well as local businesses. Small business owners rely upon Perkins programs to increase the number of skilled candidates in emerging sectors. 

Future workers in fields such as manufacturing, information technology, infrastructure, health care, and agriculture also rely upon career and technical programs to obtain the skills necessary for high-skill, high-wage, family-sustaining careers. 

As CTE enrollment continues to grow in programs across the country, it is clear these federal investments are producing their intended results. We will continue to work across the aisle to fully fund these programs and ensure our nation’s CTE programs have the flexibility and resources necessary to equip a 21st century workforce. 

Glenn “GT” Thompson represents the 15th District of Pennsylvania and Suzanne Bonamici represents the 1st District of Oregon. They are co-chairs of the Bipartisan Career and Technical Education Caucus.

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