February is #CTEMonth…How to Get Involved!

Ten Ways to Support Career Tech Ed Programs

February is #CTEMonth…How to Get Involved!

By Adria Salvatore, AWFS® Education Director

Happy #CTEMonth! In February, we celebrate Career Technical Education (CTE) and highlight ways to engage with CTE programs, teachers, and students!

What is CTE?

When you were in high school, you may have been aware of “vocational education” or “shop” classes — this was historically how students learned woodworking skills. But today, the educational landscape has changed and the focus is now on Career Technical Education (CTE), which provides students with real-world skills to prepare them for future careers in industry. CTE spans many industry sectors, but for the wood industry, CTE programs that would most closely align are usually related to wood technology, construction and building trades, architecture and engineering, and manufacturing.

Why is CTE Important?

Quite literally…students from CTE programs are our industry’s future workforce! CTE students learn skills related to woodworking careers AND learn about wood industry career pathways. But industry engagement with CTE programs is essential, so here we share some specific ways in which you can get involved:

Ten Ways to Support CTE Programs

1. Serve on a local school CTE program advisory committee: Advisory Committees are a critical component of a school’s CTE programs. They serve as a connection between the program and local industry employers and help to ensure that the program is offering instruction that is aligned with industry standards and practices. Reach out to your local school districts to find your CTE programs and engage with the advisory committees, which meet virtually or in person throughout the school year. This is an important first step in building a relationship with the school and learning of other ways to get involved. Almost all the following suggestions on this list could develop after connecting with CTE programs and learning their needs, which is a process that can happen organically through advisory committee involvement.

An industry pro assists a student during a SkillsUSA competition.

2. SkillsUSA and other CTSO’s: Is SkillsUSA or a similar Career Technical Student Organization (CTSO) that supports career pathways active in your area? Schools have SkillsUSA chapters that support CTE students by enhancing the workplace and technical skills that they are learning in their CTE program. SkillsUSA offers competitive events for students, which are a fun way for industry to engage. Read more about SkillsUSA here.


3. Volunteerism, guest speaking, and mentorship: Your local CTE program may have opportunities for you to volunteer in the classroom or participate as a guest speaker virtually or in person. Students need to hear from industry professionals about the career pathways that exist and what a real industry career experience is like. Is there an opportunity to serve as a mentor to students within the program? Create a connection that could help guide a student’s career path and introduce students to your company as a potential employer! Check out this article on guest speaking in the classroom.


4. Teacher Externship: Can you open your shop to a local CTE teacher to shadow you for a short time during summer or winter break? This is usually for one week or less and allows the teacher to see firsthand what is happening in industry. This will help the educator communicate career information to students and incorporate processes or techniques they observed in your facility into their curriculum. Check out this article on teacher externships.

Students at a MFG Day event.

5. MFG Day and other plant tour opportunities: MFG Day was established by the National Association of Manufacturing (NAM) to promote careers in manufacturing. Companies open their doors to students and educators, offering plant tours or events about career pathways and opportunities within their company. Learn more and register your own MFG Day event here. NOTE: Certainly, you can offer a plant tour or open house any time — work with the local school program to identify the time that works best for them and other logistical considerations to ensure a successful event. Check out this article about offering plant tours.


6. Student Internship: While this is a serious investment, it is certainly one of the most powerful ways to provide career opportunities to students. Very little can compare to a student being there and learning first-hand about the company and the different career pathways available! Many school districts now have specialized CTE liaisons and processes for establishing an internship – you don’t have to do it alone, it should be a partnership with your school program! Check out this article on internships.


7. Other Work-Based Learning Opportunities, including Apprenticeship: Beyond internships, there may be other ways to offer work-based learning. Apprenticeships could be one valuable option. Did you know that a Wood Manufacturing Specialist apprenticeship framework was recently approved by the Department of Labor? If you are ready for this level of commitment, talk with your school program and ideally, your local community college and possibly other employers in the area to explore how to start an apprenticeship program.

AWFS’ SoCal chapter SWM held a tool drive and collected items to give to woodworking students.

8. Donate material or supplies: Your local CTE program may have a need for material or supplies to offer students the most current industry-aligned lessons and projects. Or perhaps there are students who cannot afford material fees or other expenses associated with participation. There could be a way for you to support those students! If you have items to donate but can’t find a school program, contact AWFS and we may be able to connect you with one!


9. National Career Awareness Campaigns: Beyond MFG Day, NAM has launched the Creators Wanted campaign to showcase careers throughout all sectors of manufacturing. On the construction side, NCCER has launched Build Your Future and Careers in Construction Month. Many school CTE programs access these campaigns to enhance their career instruction. Learn more about these campaigns and how your company can support them by hosting events or providing career success stories or other resources.

AWFS exhibits at events for CTE educators, counselors, and administrators.

10. Events – career fairs, conferences, and more! Participate in local school career fairs or other community engagement events. If your company has a strong presence or significant employment needs, explore ways to engage with statewide CTE organizations or other groups that support school counselors or school administrators. Nationally, equipment and supply manufacturers and distributors that would like to connect with school programs are encouraged to exhibit at the SkillsUSA TECHSPO Trade Show and ACTE CareerTech Vision conference, both events provide significant visibility for your company to CTE students and teachers.


11. BONUS: Advocacy! Learn about legislation that supports CTE and funding vehicles at the state and federal level. The Perkins grant is the primary federal funding source for CTE programs, and it was reauthorized recently. CTE is a hot topic, as many realize how critical it is to our future workforce, so watch for other bills and connect with AWFS on ways to make your voice heard!

Learn more:

The Association for Career Technical Education is the leading national voice for CTE. Find their industry-focused resources here.

Most states have their own ACTE organization, learn more about your state’s ACTE organization here, and connect here.

Use this list to find and connect with your state SkillsUSA director to engage with SkillsUSA in your state.

Check out this book on how to connect with education: The Employer Engagement Toolkit: Brett Pawlowski; Charlie Katz: 9780692287750: Amazon.com: Books

For questions or to share your CTE success story, contact AWFS® Education Director Adria Salvatore adria@awfs.org or (323) 215-0311

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