Career And Technical Education: Support Your Teen’s STEM Future

By Stephen DeWitt and Catherine Imperatore

There’s a lot of pressure for high schoolers to choose the “right” career for their future. With all the emphasis on STEM careers, some students may think they have to go to school for four to eight years to be qualified.

When you think of STEM fields the next generation could pursue, you probably think of aerospace, information technology and bioscience. However, exciting STEM careers like computer programmer, commercial pilot and registered nurse are also in high demand and offer good salaries. In addition to these career fields, “traditional” CTE areas such as agriculture, automotive and manufacturing have evolved to meet the needs of today’s workplace and technology-driven economy.

Career and technical education (CTE) programs in high school help students develop and apply academic and technical skills for a broad range of exciting STEM-related career fields—whether they plan on attending a four-year college or two-year college, or even getting an industry certification or apprenticeship.

CTE Prepares Students for College and Careers

According to the Southern Regional Education Board, 80%of high school students currently taking an academic curriculum with rigorous CTE meet college and career-readiness goals, while only 63% percent of students taking the same academic core but without rigorous CTE meet those goals. The STEM sector in particular is evolving rapidly, as the pace of technology advancement requires the workforce to be up-to-date on the latest knowledge and skills requirements.

Jobs that require education and training beyond high school but less than a bachelor’s degree are a significant part of the economy. For instance, according to Bayer Corporation, almost half of talent recruiters at Fortune 1,000 companies report trouble finding qualified candidates with two-year STEM degrees, though the jobs are very available.

Determining a career path with your teen should depend on their personal interests, goals and ambitions, but CTE can and should be considered for all students, including those who are entering STEM fields through a four-year college route.

So what do high school CTE STEM programs look like?

One example is the agricultural science program at Allentown Regional High School in Monmouth County, N.J., a program that prepares students for high-demand, high-wage careers and higher education related to agriculture, food and natural resources. The program incorporates the Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education (CASE), a rigorous national curriculum that integrates, emphasizes and enhances academics, STEM and technical skills with a focus on project-based learning and intensive professional development for educators.

In addition to CASE-certified courses in Introduction to Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources; Principles of Agricultural Science-Animal; Principles of Agricultural Science-Plant; and Animal and Plant Biotechnology, Allentown students can also study agricultural mechanics; greenhouse, nursery and landscape management; veterinary and equine science; and aquaculture and wildlife science.

Students gain hands-on experience by operating school greenhouses and, through strong business partnerships, pursue work-based learning opportunities at local nurseries, veterinary clinics and farms as well as in agribusiness/retail settings. They can also practice their skills and interact with business and community leaders through the intracurricular Future Farmers of America (FFA) program.

Future Farmers of America

The FFA chapter at Allentown is considered one of the best, ranked in the top 10% of FFA chapters by the National FFA Organization. Allentown also has articulation agreements with Mercer County Community College and Rutgers University, and has worked to expand relationships with other postsecondary institutions.
Dale Cruzan III, Agricultural Science Teacher and FFA Advisor at Allentown had this to say about the program, “CASE has made concepts relevant for my students. These are concepts that students are taught in other classes, but never truly make the connection to real life because they are not engaged with the material. CASE provides them with hands-on, engaging labs that help them master the concept.”

CTE Programs in the Community

Another example of CTE is the Springfield- Dayton, Ohio region’s investment in the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) industry. To grow the workforce in this emerging area, the Dayton Regional STEM Center (DRSC) is partnering with local high schools to pilot the Modeling and Simulation: Surveillance and Response Course, which helps students develop skills in modeling and simulation using UAV interface technologies while exposing them to associated STEM careers.

Activities include simulating how an unmanned aircraft monitors natural disasters and creating a mobile application that uses UAV data. DRSC has pursued partnership with a local postsecondary institution to award dual credit, plus students can work towards industry-recognized certification for the modeling software utilized in the class.

Remember, as you are helping your teen prepare for life after high school, make sure to explore your community’s CTE options. It might lead to an opportunity of a lifetime.

STEM Careers

See 22 jobs that only require 2-year degrees or certification

Stephen DeWitt is the Deputy Executive Director at the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE). Catherine Imperatore, research manager at ACTE also contributed to this article.

About the Association for Career and Technical Education Association

The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) is the largest national education association dedicated to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for careers. It’s our mission to provide educational leadership in developing a competitive workforce. For more information about STEM related education, go to and

Leave a Reply