Career and Technical Education in Oregon

by Pat O'Connor

October 5, 2021

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 11.1 million high school and college students were enrolled in CTE courses during the 2019-2020 school year. 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 nearly 91%, 8 percentage points higher than Oregon’s 82.6% graduation rate for all students.

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.”

In 2019-2020, there were 138,111 participants in career and technical education (CTE) in Oregon. Of the students reporting as male or female, secondary CTE participants were 55.1% male and 44.7% female. Among postsecondary CTE participants, 50.7% were male and 46.7% were female.

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. 

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.

One example of these partnerships is found in the Oregon’s capitol city. In Salem, 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.

This is just one example 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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