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Policy Library

Expand the Path to Good Jobs with Better Career and Technical Education

In today’s economy, half of all job openings are in middle-skill positions, which require more than a high school education, but less than a four year college degree. States can help prepare students for these in-demand careers by improving high school career and technical education (CTE). Quality CTE courses starting in high school pay dividends by helping more students graduate high school, get jobs, and earn higher salaries. The “Better Career and Technical Education Act” helps more students get post-secondary credit for these courses and helps build more state CTE offerings tied to in-demand fields.

The National Landscape

Passed in:

Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, Virginia, Washington

Introduced in:

Mississippi, New York
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In The News

“High schools are discovering there are folks who learn differently, who should be leveraging their skills to use their hands,” notes [Cheryl] Schuette [former acting director of the Colorado Homebuilding Academy, an industry-coordinated trained ground for skilled trades]. “When you’re just doing math without a purpose, it’s hard for some. But when you’re looking at a set of blueprints and figuring how to cut something, all of a sudden they nail it.”
“In a sleek laboratory at Marshall University last month, four high school teachers hunched over a miniature steam-electric boiler, a tabletop replica of the gigantic machinery found in power plants. . . . The teachers, who were attending a summer training program, are helping West Virginia in another kind of transformation. Long one of the poorest states, it is now leading the way in turning vocational education from a Plan B for underachieving students into what policy makers hope will be a fuel source for the state’s economic revival.”


  • Students
  • Families
  • Employers requiring skilled labor
  • Career and technical education associations


None noted
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How does CTE help students?
Students who complete CTE courses in high school are more likely to graduate high school, go to college, get jobs, and earn higher salaries. College credit for CTE courses lessens the cost of college and puts it in reach for more students. And many CTE programs can offer recruitment opportunities to underrepresented minorities, particularly in STEM fields.
Is this high cost to the state?
No. There is federal funding available to states to set up and expand CTE courses. And initial state investments in CTE can be more than recouped, with research showing as much as $12 in benefits to taxpayers from every dollar invested in CTE.

Model Policy

This act shall be known as the Enhance Career and Technical Education Act.

This act enhances career and technical education opportunities for students by facilitating college credit for such courses, and better aligning career and technical education courses with in-demand fields.


(a) It is the goal of STATE to enhance career and technical (CTE) courses which have been shown to improve high school academic performance, increase earning potential, and help students stay in school.

(b) Within 100 days of passage of this ACT, the public university system in STATE shall release a plan to award an approved standard amount of course credit for certified career and technical education courses completed by students during their high school education.
  • (i) Such career and technical education studies shall include but not be limited to studies in trade and industry, technology, agriculture, business and marketing, family and consumer science, health occupations, or other related vocational or technical fields.
  • (ii) The [Board or other head of the public university system] shall specify standardized credit offerings for any chosen career or technical education studies, and shall specify general curriculum requirements necessary for an applicant to receive credit for such studies. Such plan shall be developed in consultation with the university faculty governing body, [community college faculty], the state education commissioner, a representative of the state career and technical education association, and other stakeholders as deemed necessary by the [Board or other head of the public university system].
  • (iii) On and after the release of such plan, all colleges with the public university system shall offer course credits to students when such a student provides necessary documentation to demonstrate sufficient completion of an approved career and technical education course in the manner specified by the board of trustees.

(c) Within 100 days of passage of this ACT, the state Labor Department, shall produce semiannual electronic reports of workforce need projections, by industry, job type, geography, and needed credential. These reports shall include a comparison of workforce needs with existing and projected workforce and credential availability in STATE; and shall highlight top in-demand industries, job types, and credentials by geographic area.
  • (i) The Labor Department shall include in this report a mapping of which in-demand job titles and credentials are likely to remain in demand four and eight years in the future; and shall forward the underlying data report and that additional information monthly to the state Education Department and appropriate career and technical education providers, associations, and placement offices in STATE.
  • (ii) After its first receipt of such report, and annually thereafter, the state Education Department shall compare available CTE courses across the state to the mapping of in-demand skills and credentials, and produce a public report of recommended modifications and expansions of CTE offerings throughout the state.
  • (1) The Education Department shall make its annual report available on its website and provide it to the Governor and Legislature.
  • (2) Starting with its second report, the Education Department shall assess and include in its report (a) any budgetary or legislative requirements that would assist in execution off its recommendations; and (b) the availability of private, foundation or other non-state funds that could assist in the implementation of its recommendations.