Career and Technical Education in Oregon

by Pat O'Connor

March 3, 2020

Career and technical education (CTE) provides students with the academic and technical skills, knowledge and training to succeed in future careers and be valuable workers in Oregon’s workforce. In the U.S., roughly 12.5 million high school and college students are enrolled in CTE courses. These CTE courses introduce students to workplace competencies and make academic learning available in a hands-on environment. High school graduation rates for students that take CTE courses is about 90 percent, 15 percentage points higher than the average in the U.S.

CTE courses are offered at Oregon’s high schools from A to Z. Actually from Adrian High School to Yoncalla High School. Evidently we don’t have any high schools in Oregon that start with the letter “Z.”

There are many good paying jobs in Oregon that do not require a four-year college degree. These jobs do, however, require advanced training and specialized skills beyond a high school diploma. CTE program can provide the skills and training necessary to work in careers that pay well but do not require a four-year college degree.

Postsecondary CTE is offered at Oregon’s 17 community colleges that prepare students for the workplace. Students may earn associate degrees and/or a certificate of completion.

CTE is organized by a national framework called “Career Clusters.” The Career Clusters are designed to expose students to a range of different career options. The Career Clusters are found within six broader career learning areas. The six career learning areas are:

  • Agriculture, Food and Natural Resource Systems
  • Arts, Information and Communication
  • Business and Management
  • Health Sciences
  • Human Resources
  • Industrial and Engineering Systems
Within the six career learning areas, Oregon has 17 Career Clusters. For example, within industrial and engineering systems, there are five Career Clusters a student could select to study. Those clusters are:
  • Architecture and Construction
  • Automotive and Heavy Equipment
  • Engineering Technology
  • Manufacturing
  • Transportation, Distribution and Logistics
A list of all 17 of Oregon’s Career Clusters, as well as the focus areas offered within each cluster, can be found here on the Oregon Department of Education’s website. 

Initiatives for CTE

Federally funded initiatives for CTE include the authorization of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V). As Oregon works on creating a new CTE State Plan, Perkins V allows the state greater flexibility in designing a plan that meets Oregon’s needs.

Another federally funded initiative is CTE Nontraditional-Perkins Funded Projects. This funding focuses on occupations or fields of work where individuals from one gender comprise less than 25 percent of the individuals in that occupation or field of work. Nontraditional fields for women include the building trades and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) related careers. Nontraditional fields for men include nursing, early childhood education, and kindergarten to 3rd grade teaching careers.

A state funded CTE initiative in Oregon is CTE Revitalization Grants. These grants are designed to support student success that leads to career and college preparation and also has the potential to support local economic development.

Another state funded grant supporting CTE are Oregon FIRST Robotics Grants. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a program with the mission to: “Inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.”

Partnerships in CTE in Oregon

CTE can provide a great opportunity for partnerships between school districts, community colleges, private industry, and economic development entities to work together providing Oregon employers with the trained workforce they need and providing Oregon’s students with the skills, knowledge, and real-world experience they need to obtain and succeed in high-skill, high-wage, and high-demand careers.

Two examples of these partnerships are found in the Willamette Valley. In Oregon’s capitol city a public-private partnership between Salem-Keizer Public Schools and Mountain West Investment Corporation has resulted in the Career Technical Education Center (CTEC). Mountain West was able to purchase and renovate a former manufacturing facility. The center offers 10 different CTE programs at the CTEC facility.

Salem-Keizer Schools develop the program curriculum and hire faculty and staff. They also register the students and provide transportation to CTEC. CTEC programs align with high school graduation requirements as well as industry certifications and standards.

In Albany, the Albany Chamber of Commerce had a Workforce Development Taskforce which was looking at the needs of local business and industry. That taskforce developed a plan to combine their efforts with local education to provide more training options for students in Linn and Benton counties. As a result, the Pipeline was developed to provide a single place for students, parents, educators, and industry to access information and opportunity. Local businesses, eight school districts in Linn and Benton counties, Linn-Benton Community College, the City of Albany, and Linn County are all partners of the Pipeline. Pipeline’s unique funding is paid through contributions of local businesses and industry members, financial and advisory assistance from Greater Albany Public Schools, Linn-Benton Community College, and Linn County.

These are just two examples of the innovative public-private partnerships that are taking place in Oregon to train tomorrow’s workforce with the skills and knowledge they need to work in the high-skill, high-wage jobs that will be in high demand by employers in Oregon.

Anyone interested in enrolling in CTE should get in touch with career counselors in their area, whether in high school or the local community college. They will know about programs, training centers, and other CTE resources that are available in their local area.

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