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Career exploration, college options for high school students

Morna Foy
March 5, 2013

         There was a time when a high school diploma was the ticket to many family-sustaining careers, allowing access to more than 70 percent of all jobs in 1973 according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. That is no longer the case, with the Center reporting that by 2020, 65 percent of jobs will require at least some education or skills training beyond high school.

         That dramatic shift makes robust Career and Technical Education (CTE) partnerships all the more critical. These increasingly innovative collaborations allow high school students to explore career opportunities, experience the rigorous education needed to access them after high school, and understand career progression potential.

         CTE students often earn college credits and gain personal enrichment at the same time. Just as importantly, some students identify career fields in which they find they are not interested, saving significant time and investment after high school.

         Throughout February, as part of CTE month, I had the chance to see first-hand impressive collaborations that Wisconsin’s technical colleges have with high schools throughout the state. I’m proud to support these partnerships. They consistently open doors to promising futures in agriculture, business, manufacturing, health care, marketing, information technology and engineering careers.

         Wisconsin’s technical colleges provide education – and a graduate placement rate that consistently averages about 90 percent – in these and many other fields, preparing individuals for high-skill, high-wage careers. Unfortunately, many high school students – and those they rely upon for guidance – are often unfamiliar with these opportunities.

         All of us – parents, educators, and employers – share responsibility for furthering career awareness and exploration. It can be as simple as helping students identify areas of ability and interest, with the help of online resources like the Wisconsin Career Pathways website, or the Career Interest Questionnaire on the Wisconsin Technical College System website. You might also consider creating or supporting job shadowing opportunities or career days.

         Perhaps most importantly, you can find a way to get involved with delivering, supporting, or taking advantage of the many CTE options that currently exist for students, or that could exist with your vision or assistance.

         For more than 20 years, Wisconsin’s technical colleges have been energetically engaged in middle and high school CTE programs, with more than 90,000 students currently participating. But there is a need to accomplish much more. We can do that, together, by promoting career awareness and college credit options every month of the year.


         Morna K. Foy is president of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS), which offers more than 300 programs awarding two-year associate degrees, one- and two-year technical diplomas and short-term technical diplomas and certificates. In addition, the System is the major provider of customized training and technical assistance to Wisconsin’s business and industry community. Nearly 370,000 individuals access the technical colleges for education and training each year.