More Students Choosing CTE Career Paths

Finish high school, start a career, earn a paycheck. It’s an appealing path for a growing number of students who are choosing skilled trades as their ticket to a bright future.

Career and Technical Education, better known as CTE, has seen a boom in popularity, thanks to a strong economy and the need for skilled tradespeople on job sites. In Johnston, there is rising demand for CTE and other career-ready courses, such as the School-To-Work program at Johnston High School.

Blahut STW Onsite

JHS student Payton Blahut is completing her School-To-Work marketing internship with Koester Construction.

CTE-type courses at the high school include classes in the Industrial Technology, Business, and Family Consumer Science programs, along with Project Lead the Way engineering classes, and the JHS School-to-Work program, all of which have grown immensely in popularity in recent years.

“More and more students are seeing the benefits of hands-on work experience while they are in high school,” said Dr. Jyll Johnson Miner, JCSD Coordinator for Career and Technical Education and Related Arts. “Whether it’s a skilled trade or career interest, students can utilize their time in high school to learn employability skills and get a jump start on their professional careers.”

When it comes down to it, many skilled trades, such as welding, plumbing, HVAC, and electrical work allow for high school students to enter the workforce with limited experience and start an apprenticeship, working alongside a trained and certified professional. Many apprenticeships are paid for by the company and create a smooth transition between on-the-job training, field knowledge, and a secure job.

In April, more than 70 Johnston High School students attended the “Build My Future” career immersion event in Des Moines. Build My Future is a hands-on event where students across Iowa learn more about the various skilled trade careers available to them and meet potential employers. What’s more, two Johnston students publicly made their commitment to the DMACC Construction program for next fall. Watch a video of the Build My Future signing day here.

“It was an incredible day for Cade (Martin) and Nick (Bruggemann), said Erica Woods-Schmitz, JHS school counselor. “They signed their letters of intent with one of the best construction programs in the state. They both received a bag of tools and a hard hat worth $300 as a ‘starter set’ for their future careers. It was so awesome to see this and have the support of our state leaders in promoting the thriving skilled trades industry.”

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has long been a proponent of CTE as a viable career options for students seeking something other than a 4-year college degree or enlisting in the armed services. In a recent annual report from the Iowa Department of Education, the following findings were highlighted, among others:

  • Number of CTE courses: 9,027 CTE courses were offered in Academic Year 2020, up 1.4 percent from last year.
  • Most growth: Information Solutions was the CTE program with the most growth, up 16.5 percent from last year with a total of 83 programs. Applied Science, Technology, Engineering and Manufacturing provided the largest number of programs with 595.
  • Increase in participation: CTE participation has risen by 3,018 students, a 3.1 percent increase. This tracked with an increase in participation in college credit contracted courses, which saw a 3.3 percent increase of 618 students.

As interest continues to grow in the strong and viable field of skilled trades, Johnson Miner said the Johnston Community School District is prepared to meet the needs of students.

“We love seeing so much interest from students,” Johnson Miner said. “There is a lot of community and statewide support for students to get into these careers and we will be right there, offering opportunities for our kids to be in the right places at the right times, with the right skills.”