ONE OF THE KEYS TO A ROBUST ECONOMY IS A POWERFUL AND EFFECTIVE FORM OF education and training that equips individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful at whatever they decide to do in life. Career and technical education (CTE) offers a mix of education and training that is becoming more attractive to students and industry alike because it provides a context for academic, technical and employability skill development.
CTE as we know it today is relatively young, and it is still experiencing some growing pains, especially in finding innovative and cost-effective ways to deliver education and training to individuals in the United States. Some countries have a similar, but more formal, system in place that connects academics, authentic work-based learning and careers via an apprenticeship. Usually called vocational education and training (VET), apprenticeships are typically seen as a well-respected way to earn an education and learn a trade. For instance in Switzerland, apprenticeships are quite popular, with two-thirds of students choosing to do an apprenticeship in a number of fields and industries, according to the report Earn While You Learn: Switzerland's Vocational Education and Training System. And as the title suggests, apprentices earn money during their training, a measure that sees them graduating debt-free--all while contributing to the health of the economy and the country's workforce.
Though some may view an apprenticeship as a "lesser-than" option and a four-year college degree as a badge of success, the perception is slowly changing. Leaders in education, government and industry are working together to create more structured and industry-backed apprenticeships. Take for example Apprenticeship 2000, which is a four-year apprenticeship program that emulates some of the European apprenticeship models. Participants receive hands-on training in a technical field (e.g., welding, machining, mechatronics, etc.) from highly skilled professionals, while simultaneously earning an education. As in Switzerland, one of the major pluses of the program is that students earn a salary during their training, and they graduate with an education and a skill that makes them work-ready.
Though the wheels of change are slowly turning, what else can we learn from other countries? What are some of the best practices and strategies we can adopt here to make CTE even stronger? Articles in this issue provide some answers to these questions. We highlight the VET systems in Switzerland and Australia, and there's also an article on how one school in Michigan is taking global education to heart by partnering with a school in China.
More students are choosing CTE. We owe it to them to give them the best learning experience possible, including learning from others. Together, we can continue to build a stronger CTE.