Career and technical education (CTE) is an opportunity for advancing students' college and career readiness, yet some students experience barriers to CTE access, participation, and completion. Stereotypes about certain occupational fields may lead some students to select or be placed in CTE programs based on perceptions of their demographic characteristics. For example, a study in one state found that female students enrolled in CTE were substantially underrepresented in STEM CTE programs, but overrepresented in Human Services and Education and Training CTE programs.1 Nationally, male students predominate in CTE programs that lead to many high-skill, high-wage jobs, while female students make up the majority in the lower-wage, lower-skill areas.2 In addition, students with disabilities are less likely to participate in CTE in STEM fields, but research has found that such students who took applied STEM courses experienced lowered chances of dropout, increased math test scores, and increased enrollment in postsecondary education.3
Advancing Equity in CTE, investments by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE), aimed to build the capacity of CTE professionals to address equity and access barriers in CTE program enrollment, participation, and completion. These investments help OCTAE support the development of long-term strategic plans to help reduce the inclusion and equity barriers encountered by CTE students. These investments, through the support and development of policy proposals, program initiatives, and the sharing of emerging and promising practices on OCTAE’s Literacy Information and Communications System (LINCS) Community, a professional learning space for educators, help address the inclusion and equity challenges in the access, participation, recruitment, completion, retention, and post-program outcomes of CTE students. These efforts contributed to the development of technical assistance and professional development resources that support state leaders and education providers in promoting accessible and inclusive learning environments that meet the unique needs of all CTE learners.
1 Hamilton, A. F., Malin, J., & Hackman, D. (2015). Racial/Ethnic and Gender Equity Patterns in Illinois High School Career and Technical Education Coursework. Journal of Career and Technical Education, 30(1).
2 National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education. (2012). Title IX at 40: Working to Ensure Gender Equity in Education. Washington D.C.: Author.
3 Plasman, J.S., & Gottfried, M.A. (2016, October). Applied STEM Coursework, High School Dropout Rates, and Students with Learning Disabilities. Educational Policy. Sage Publications.