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CTE working wonders: Celebrating generations of innovation.

Engagement in the classroom, across our communities and in our states turned into a crucial component of our education system on February 23, 1917, with the signing of the Smith-Hughes National Vocational Education Act. This landmark legislation formalized hands-on learning; provided federal funding in agricultural, trade and industrial education; and included the cooperation of the states, requiring each state to liaise between local district needs and federal entities.

As we commemorate the 100-year anniversary of Smith-Hughes, we are reminded that career and technical education (CTE) supports so many facets of our daily lives, such as access to food, medical services, transportation and logistics, as well as how much it has evolved to encompass so many other fields. From 3D printing and computer programming to technological innovations, the reach of CTE is now near endless and multifaceted.

We have also come to associate CTE as key to cultivating soft skills--learning to collaborate, problem-solve, and manage time and projects. Both the ability to build and maintain infrastructure and to work efficiently and effectively are the foundations of our nation's prosperity.

And for more than 90 years, members of the Association for Career and Technical Education[R] (ACTE[R]) have worked with each other and within their communities to create thriving CTE programs and opportunities for the students they serve.

Since its formation in 1926, ACTE has grown into a robust association providing professional development and national representation for thousands of CTE professionals across the country. ACTE continues to serve as the voice for the CTE profession and to work in concert with the state ACTE associations, ensuring that CTE interests are represented at local and national levels.

As an organization, one of our core values is to "associate" with those who are like us and share common interests, such as our peers and colleagues in education, and with those who complement us, such as our nonprofit partners and the business community. When we take a moment to step back and consider why we join a professional association, these considerations come to mind: friendship and a sense of belonging to a like-minded, yet diverse community; learning from each other; personal growth and leadership development; and a safe place to brainstorm new ideas. What's more, the list continues into more tangible benefits: discounts to events, access to resources, and advocacy and awareness building.

Awareness to Elevate Perceptions of CTE

Awareness is the first step in generating involvement in an association. Awareness represents the collective knowledge of ACTE members and related professionals, and it is made manifest in a variety of activities and initiatives. For instance, awareness campaigns portray CTE as essential to students' college preparedness and career exploration, discovery and readiness.

ACTE is now running two campaigns: CTE Month[R] in February, and all year long in our new CTE Working Wonders initiative. CTE Month showcases CTE accomplishments across the country through special school visits and in-school celebrations complemented by festive CTE Month products (balloons, mood pencils, pens, bracelets, etc.) to illustrate CTE awareness. Visit to learn how to get involved and showcase your CTE program this month.

Our CTE Working Wonders campaign gathers resources to help community members--from educators and administrators to parents, students, policymakers and business leaders--communicate the crucial role CTE plays in our students' lives and nation's economy.

Some key ideas and talking points about today's CTE, gathered from our members active in the field, include:

* CTE is relevant for all age groups, from early exposure to careers in elementary school to career transitioning throughout adulthood. The 100-year anniversary of the Smith-Hughes Act celebrates a lifetime of learning in CTE.

* CTE exposes students of all ages to the full spectrum of career possibilities.

* CTE is not just "the trades." It's the how- to for all fields.

* CTE teaches soft skills, such as time management, problem-solving and teamwork.

* CTE ensures students are college- and career-ready, leading to a vast array of respectable professions that contribute to the stability and resiliency of our economy.

* CTE provides resources for integrative and interactive learning in and outside the classroom.

Visit for additional resources to help you relay the intrinsic value of CTE to your community.

Research to Illustrate CTE's Role in Numerous Careers

Research spearheaded by ACTE's Public Policy Department offers information on the latest trends, leading career opportunities, salary information and the significant role CTE plays in our economy. Below are some of our recently released infographics and resources:

* "CTE Improves Student Achievement in High School, College and Career," crafted by ACTE and the National PTA using research data from the National Research Center for College and University Admissions, is an infographic that illustrates the important role parents play in their children's college education and career success, as well as the possibilities CTE provides to them.

* "STEM is CTE" showcases CTE classrooms as hands-on learning environments that bring STEM concepts to life, apply core academics to real-world situations and equip learners with the creative problem-solving skills to tackle our nation's most pressing issues.

* Sector sheets, sponsored by Pearson, are easy-to-read two-page flyers that feature CTE's role in high-growth, high-demand industry sectors and include career opportunities and job positions via CTE, as well as compelling salary data. Our latest sector sheets offer information on these fields, as well as for specific audiences: Construction and Architecture; Law, Public Safety, Corrections and Security; Media and Entertainment; and U.S. Military and Veterans.

These tools can be shared with industry, education leaders, policymakers and the public to illustrate how CTE supports specific industries and prepares students for career success. The complete collection of sector sheets, covering 14 sectors to date, can be found at, along with eight companion videos in the ACTE microdocs series at The complete collection of ACTE's research can be easily accessed and downloaded at

Recognition to Showcase the Very Best

One of the most important aspects of CTE awareness is in the recognition of outstanding achievements of individuals and organizations. For educators, the ACTE Excellence Awards showcase their exemplary work in the field. For businesses and organizations, the awards program highlights some of the finest apprenticeship programs, connectivity to CTE programs and opportunities for students. For the public, these achievements demonstrate the valuable role CTE plays in our everyday lives.

Presently, these noteworthy individuals and organizations are recognized at the annual awards banquet during ACTE's CareerTech VISION.

Looking to the Future

Multiple generations of dedicated CTE professionals will continue to gather and implement their collective knowledge in their schools, communities and professional associations. One hundred years from now, future generations will have their own CTE stories to tell, forming new ideas and forging new innovations on how the world should work alongside their predecessors' timeless values of learning, making and striving.

By Julia O'Brien

Julia O'Brien is the ACTE marketing and membership manager. E-mail her at
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Author:O'Brien, Julia
Date:Feb 1, 2017
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