Marketing change and opportunity.
As career and technical educators, we have no choice but to take on these challenges. Doing so creates the best opportunities for our students and enables us to successfully market career and technical education to parents and potential students. How do we proceed in our marketing efforts?
First, we must understand the current labor market; both on a local and national level. That means gathering data from chambers of commerce, state departments of labor, and the U.S. Department of Labor.
Then, we need to find out what employers are seeking in new employees. What kind of skills do they require for their businesses to be successful? Their answers will guide us in designing our programs. And we must go further and recruit our business partners to join us in talking to parents and students about career paths.
Finally, we know how crucial it is for our students to become lifelong learners, continually improving their skills. That requires us, as educators, to work hand-in-hand with institutions of higher education so that our high school students receive more dual credits for their courses.
As the National Governors' Association says, "The jobs of the 21st century require more sophisticated skills and knowledge. Businesses are looking for employees who can write and communicate clearly, analyze information, conduct research, and solve complex problems."
In this rapidly expanding economy of knowledge workers, no one's education stops at 12th grade. Everyone must continually upgrade their existing skills and acquire new ones.
Keeping ourselves up to date on the careers most in demand and knowing what the employers in our region are seeking enables us to design better programs. The resulting success of our graduates enables us to recruit more students.
Likewise, enabling our students to earn credits toward degrees or certificates from institutions of higher education makes career and technical education more attractive to parents, who overwhelmingly want their children to "go to college."
As you can tell, marketing career and technical education programs is a circular process--talk to businesses, build better programs, recruit more students, and repeat. Because we connect directly to the changing needs of the American economy, we have the capability of offering students a great product--an education for achieving a full, successful life. But we must engage businesses and parents, do our research, and market to the appropriate audiences. Doing so will create an energetic and more prepared workforce.