Career and Technical Education (CTE): A Primer

Source: Cassandria Dortch, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report for Congress, R42748, February 10, 2014

Career and Technical Education (CTE), often referred to as vocational education, provides occupational and non-occupational preparation at the secondary, postsecondary, and adult education levels. CTE is an element of the nation’s workforce development system. As such, CTE plays a role in reducing unemployment and the associated economic and social ills. This report provides a primer on CTE to support congressional discussion of initiatives designed to rationalize the workforce development system.

CTE prepares students for roles outside the paid labor market, teaches general employment skills, and teaches skills required in specific occupations or careers. In order to focus and structure programs, curricula, and resources, practitioners at the local, state, and federal levels often organize CTE into 16 career clusters and various career pathways for each career cluster. CTE career clusters include several occupational areas, such as health science and manufacturing. Career pathways generally refer to a series of connected education and training strategies and support services that enable individuals to secure industry-recognized credentials and obtain employment within an occupational area and to advance to higher levels of future education and employment in that area….