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Most students look forward to the summer for one universal reason: school’s out! In fact, Alice Cooper’s anthem “School’s Out for Summer” still rings in my ears from when I was in high school. But earlier this summer, 6,000 students and 9,000 parents, advisors and interested business partners converged on Louisville, Kentucky, for the National Skills and Leadership Competitions for SkillsUSASkillsUSA is the largest of the several Career Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) that serve a variety of occupational clusters. I attended the event for my second time, and to see the equivalent of 18 football fields covered with trucks, a make-shift restaurant, and a cosmetology area was once again overwhelming.  


Did YOU hear that this going on at the end of June? My guess is that you probably didn’t. Today, news is covered wall-to-wall with stories of politics and (still) OJ Simpson. A demonstration march of only 100 people in fact can make the national news. But get 15,000 people together every year to see these students shine – which even sounds like good reality TV – and…crickets. Why? 

Well, for insight, check outThe Value and Promise of Career Technical Education: Results from a National Survey of Parents and Students. Trust me, the study is a quick and fun read, much more so than the title implies! If you choose not to click, I’ll summarize the two major findings: 

  1. Parents and students who take part in Career Technical Education (CTE) classes and programs are more satisfied than those who do not. 
  1. More students are not taking part in CTE because they have misconceptions or do not even understand what it is.  

Rereading the second point, you might think, “Oh, THAT’S why we have no idea that Louisville was taken over by this throng of people so big that just the visitors could be a small, thriving town!” 


Skip ahead to page 8 of the study where it talks about the communication gap that swirls around CTE. There you will find the main point: “CTE Needs Champions and Messengers.” According to the study, “Given the dual challenges of outdated perceptions and low awareness, having compelling and trusted messengers to share information about CTE is paramount.” Ironically, there were thousands in Louisville this summer! 

How can you help? First, simply retweeting or sharing this article and others like it on social media helps to raise the profile of CTE! That’s easy, right? And it takes only a moment. Secondly, you will see more posts about CTE here in the coming weeks – take a moment and think about the benefits you will hear about: more relevant education, greater chance to earn credits for college and involving business and industry in education are all topics you will see – they might not surprise you, but they surprise most! Lastly, get to know our Destinations Career Academies where students are earning Microsoft and Adobe certifications RIGHT NOW! Maybe those 15,000 in Louisville need our help. Let’s give it to them, and let’s get to work! 

About The Author

Patrick (Pat) Keeney, Director of College and Career Programs for our Managed Public Schools, is a career educator who has spent time in the classroom, consulting, launching a company, and with K12. Prior to his time in Product Management, Pat served for almost 7 years as part of the K12 Product Development group where he was the lead instructional designer on many high school math and science courses, and helped in designing games like X-germz. Prior to his time with K12, Pat was a consultant at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center where he worked with GOES satellites and deep-space astrophysics. In the late 1990s he founded an online education company. He also spent 17 years teaching in classrooms in Maryland and Pennsylvania, teaching high school mathematics and science, primarily physics. Pat’s interests range from basketball, a sport that he played and coached, to chess. Perhaps most importantly, Pat has also been a learning coach many years, and has seen the K12 experience from that perspective.

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