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Stronger Together: Career Technical Education

Part of Stronger Together: A Guidebook for the Safe Reopening of California's Public Schools. Created through the Reopening Schools Task Force that fostered a collaborative process for educators and stakeholders to lend their important voices.

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As California begins the process of reopening its schools, special consideration must be given to those that offer programs in career and technical education (CTE). CTE programs and the local educational agencies (LEAs) that offer them need to consider the conduct of instruction, how career counseling should be offered, and the measures required to ensure safety without losing quality work-based learning (WBL) opportunities. For a safe reopening CTE programs should review the health and safety guidance and checklist as well as guidance for other work sectors that the student may be working in.

As schools plan to reopen, reviewing the following 12 essential elements described by the California Workforce Pathways Joint Advisory Committee (CWPJAC) will help create a quality CTE program. These 12 elements are supported by the CWPJAC Guiding Principles. The Guiding Principles and the 12 essential elements are located at

CTE programs are part of the comprehensive educational system and must be held to the same general guidelines set by the LEA. However, due to the nature of CTE programs and the hands-on approach that is needed, additional elements must be considered as schools plan for a safe reopening. Please refer to the CDE Career Technical Education page as a starting point for how current CTE students are being served, at There are also resources for CTE distance learning at

CTE Instruction

CTE classrooms often engage students in learning activities that stretch the imagination and require critical thinking as well as experimentation. As such, students need to be prepared to enter the classroom or learning space feeling safe and comfortable. When schools are planning for reopening, they should consider what types of instructional models would best match the CTE program goals and ensure students and staff are engaging in a safe manner according to the health and safety guidelines.

LEAs should consider the following as they move to reopen their CTE classrooms.

  • Develop a system to clean all equipment or tools being used using the health and safety guidance as the foundation for their planning. Tools are checked out often during an instructional period and returned at the end of that class. A process should be developed to ensure that all tools are cleaned each time they are returned so that they are ready for the next student or next class.
  • In an instructional laboratory such as a shop, equipment is used numerous times during a class period and may need to be sanitized according to the health and safety guidance. Extra time should be spent at the beginning of the year to review typical safety precautions with additional time reviewing special circumstances centered on cleanliness to avoid exposure to COVID-19.
  • A process should be developed to ensure all equipment is clean and safe every time a class occurs. Many CTE courses assign tasks to students who assist in cleanup at the end of class, and the students should be trained in all safety processes and procedures. It would be appropriate to assign a student each period to ensure that equipment is properly cleaned following each use.
  • To reduce the number of students in a CTE laboratory and maintain physical distancing, consider having half of the students remain in the classroom while the other half participates in the laboratory instruction.

A high-quality CTE program includes instruction and also engages students in career counseling, leadership, and experiential learning. To reopen schools, all three components need to be addressed along with high-quality CTE instruction.

Career Counseling

Career counseling is an important component for a student when they decide which high-quality CTE program to choose. When schools reopen, they should consider the following with regard to career counseling.

  • Since counselors and teachers will likely be able to see students on site but with less face time, they may need to rely on blended instruction with some in-person direction and some via a remote platform. Direction could also be delivered by recorded instruction posted on a class web page.
  • Educators should rely on online tools such as the California CareerZone, found at California Career Center, and mobile apps such as the Career Surfer, My Stuff Job Central, and My Stuff CAP (career action plan) which students can use on their own and at their own speed to complete assignments.
  • Educators will need lesson plans and activities developed for distance learning that can be given to students with less upfront direction due to the limited time of in-person instruction.

Experiential Learning

An important component of a quality CTE program is experiential learning. This is where a student is able to gain additional skills through job shadowing, internships, and entrepreneurial experiences. To ensure that students remain safe and healthy while completing this instructional strategy, LEAs should consider the following.

  • Work with business and industry partners to develop a plan to maintain distancing requirements while students are on site.
  • Look into alternatives to on-site placement. Are there opportunities for virtual industry opportunities?
  • Work with teachers on potential methods to supervise and monitor students who are taking part in experiential learning opportunities. Teachers should consider skills being obtained by the student and also notice safety and cleanliness policies.

For long-term preparation, LEAs must explore different modes of delivering work-based learning (WBL), problem and project-based learning, and how a blended approach of virtual and in-person instruction can create more experiential learning opportunities for students.

Career and Technical Student Organizations

Leadership development though participation in a Career Technical Student Organization (CTSO) provides skills that are necessary to be successful in any career. Critical thinking, consensus building, teamwork, and job readiness skills are a few of the many standards addressed through participation in a CTSO. As a graded component in a CTE course, it is important that the LEAs review the expectations and how they can be accomplished in a safe and healthy way.

Engage students in a process to review their calendar of events in an effort to provide creative alternatives to participation. Some considerations might include:

  • Holding monthly meetings in a way that enhances the distancing requirements
  • Developing engaging activities that can be completed virtually
  • Working with community groups to plan for safely participating in service projects
  • Reviewing the LEA’s current travel policy and adopting revised strategies to ensure safe and healthy travels, as many CTSO activities are out-of-class and often out-of-town
  • Reviewing the current travel restrictions for students and faculty, addressing travel within the community, county, state, and even nationally
  • Addressing the need of the travel versus the risks
    • For example, if a group of seven students is traveling within a 30-mile radius to participate in a competition, what would the restrictions be? If the students were traveling the same distance to take part in a meeting, would the same restriction apply? What if the students were participating in a leadership conference with students from other communities?

For many students, their CTE class is what keeps them in school and engaged in learning. Significantly, it is the hands-on learning that takes place within a high-quality CTE program, and it is the social gathering that builds relationships. LEAs are encouraged to provide safe and healthy opportunities for students to develop alternatives that keep the students engaged in the hands-on learning process as well as having the opportunities to be social.

To ensure that learning is occurring, be creative; engage industry partners, teachers, and students; and listen actively. These are big steps that help CDE properly prepare young people to enter the career of their choice and/or elect to continue their education beyond high schools.

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Questions:   California Department of Education |
Last Reviewed: Friday, December 03, 2021
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