Is Career and Technical Education Just Enjoying Its Fifteen minutes of Fame?


Over yesteryear couple years, career and technical edu-cation has garnered a lot of attention. Politico reported that 49 states and Washington, DC, enacted 241 career and technical education -related laws, executive actions, and budget provisions in 2021. [1] The National Governors Association has tagged career and technical education among its 12 priorities, and Jobs for the Future has observed that career and technical educa-tion \”has become the 'next best thing' in senior high school reform.\” [2] A 2021 AEI study discovered that career and tech-nical education was the only real education issue most gubernatorial candidates supported. [3] Meanwhile, a 2021 analysis reported the number of students concentrating in career education rose 22 percent, to three.6 million, in the past decade. [4]

All this raises a large question, given education's long experience with fads and shifting sentiment: Is the boom in career and technical education yet another fad, or does it reflect something more substantial? That answer mat-ters for how much attention this push deserves from educators, parents, and policymakers.

In a stab at addressing this question, we examined the media attention dedicated to career and technical educa-tion in the last two decades-and how that comes even close to the interest dedicated to other popular 21st-century education reforms.

We used google LexisNexis (a database of news articles from national and international media outlets) to identify the amount of articles every year that mentioned career and technical education and, for comparative purposes, various other terms. We looked for \”career and technical education\” instead of \”CTE\” not to inadvertently include articles about chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease that has gotten extensive coverage because of its effect on former football players' health.

In every case, we looked for articles in the LexisNe-xis category \”US Publications,\” a selection of major US media sources.5 While that LexisNexis category is comprehensive, it's not exhaustive. For example, blogs plus some education-specific media, for example Edu-cation Week, aren't included. The exclusion of special-ized outlets ensures that the results are a pretty good gauge of how much attention the appropriate issues received across the broad sweep of US media.

Since 1998, the number of articles mentioning career and technical education has increased more than a hundredfold, as displayed in Figure 1. Since 2004, media mentions have become over tenfold, and they've doubled since 2012. In short, the cover-age dedicated to career and technical education is growing during the past two decades.

This heightened curiosity about career and techni-cal education is part of a bigger trend, which entails increased attention to skills training and workforce preparedness (Figure 2). Indeed, media mentions of workforce development increased with a factor of 13 in the past two decades.

Meanwhile, other training-related terms which were once more common than career and technical educa-tion haven't kept pace. In 1998, career training was more ubiquitous than career and technical educa-tion was, however it was surpassed by career and techni-cal education in 2004 and is now mentioned not even one-third as frequently. Vocational education was once mentioned 10 times more frequently than career and tech-nical education was, but starting in regards to a decade ago, it plateaued and was surpassed by career and technical education. It seems reliable advice that mentions of career and technical education came at the cost of vocational education and career training; less clear is whether or not that shift has any substantive import or perhaps is mostly a question of branding.

To put coverage of career and technical education in context, Figure 3 shows the attention dedicated to three from the 21st century's noticably education reforms: No Child Left out (NCLB), Common Core, and also the Obama-era push to overhaul teacher evaluation. In their peaks, No Child Left Behind and Common Core received three to five times just as much media attention as career and technical education garnered last year. At its height this year, teacher evaluation received 50 percent more attention than career and technical education received this past year. Yet, while it has not come anywhere close to those peaks, career and technical education indicates a markedly different public pro-file than these other reforms-all which exploded to public consciousness on the length of 3 or 4 many then declined. Career and technical edu-cation, on the other hand, has seen a long, dramatic, and uninterrupted build over an extended time period. With all this long pattern as well as an attendant insufficient controversy, career and technical education seems unlikely to experience the rapid declines in public places interest endured by these more polarizing reforms.

Career and technical education even outpaces the interest devoted to other familiar education improvement strategies (Figure 4). For instance, one of the most high-profile education reforms of history two decades has been school vouchers. From 1998 to 2008, media mentions of faculty vouchers significantly exceeded the ones from career and technical education. Over the past decade, however, career and technical education swept up to after which surpassed attention devoted to vouchers. This really is noteworthy given that vouchers have always been the kind of controversial issue that attracts press attention, while career and tech-nical education has tended to not evoke such strong emotions. Meanwhile, whereas attention to career and technical education was once indistinguishable from that shown for other long-standing enthusiasms, such as school turnarounds, personalized learning, and 21st-century skills, career and technical education has steadily distinguished itself in the last 10 -15 years.

Mostly out of curiosity, and partly to get a little per-spective on how much attention these tallies actually represent, Figure 5 compares the mainstream US media mentions of career and technical education to people of some recognizable pop culture figures. In the last five years, for instance, career and technical edu-cation has held its own against Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth while generally outdistancing celebrity Kim Kardashian and two-time NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) Steph Curry. Indeed, career and technical edu-cation's press mentions outpaced Kardashian's in four of the past five years and Curry's in most five-including both of his MVP campaigns.

Given the ebbs and flows of education reform, it is important to closely take notice of the evolution and public fate of numerous education enthusiasms-both to assist see where situations are going and to make sense of the way we got here. In the case of career and technical education, such scrutiny suggests some things.

First, and many obviously, career and technical education's prominence has increased steadily and significantly over two decades. What is not so clear is whether or not this reflects the emergence of something new or the (seemingly successful) rebranding of the famil-iar concept of vocational education. Notably, mentions of vocational education haven't budged in the past decade, while interest in career and technical educa-tion has taken off.

Second, this increased interest in career and tech-nical education is part of a broader growth in the prominence of training and workforce development. Regardless of the reason behind this growth-whether economic anxiety or disenchantment with college for all or perhaps a simple evolution in public places taste-career and technical education advocates are earning their case in a propitious time for career-centric education.

Third, career and technical education's rise continues to be unusually consistent and long-running when compared to other 21st-century education reforms and it is espe-cially notable to have an concept that generates little contro-versy. After all, the reforms which have garnered a lot more notice than career and technical education, in gen-eral, rapidly retreated after being catapulted to prom-inence. Meanwhile, even seemingly popular reforms (such as school turnarounds, personalized learning, and 21st-century skills) have failed to gain nearly as much fanfare as career and technical education.

It seems a good bet that career and technical education's gradual build can offer more endurance than other contested, high-profile 21st-century reforms. For better or worse, career and technical education appears poised to become a focal point within the post-NCLB, post -Common Core world.

1. Kimberly Hefling, \”States Embrace New Career and Technical Education Policies,\” Politico, January 26, 2021, https://www.

2. National Governors Association, \”Policy Positions,\”; and Jobs for future years, \”10 Equity Questions you should ask About Career and Technical Education,\” February 13, 2021,

3. Frederick M. Hess and Sofia Gallo, \”What Do Would-Be Governors Have to Say About Education,\” American Enterprise Insti-tute, February 21, 2021,

4. Michelle Hackman, \”Vocational Training Has returned as Firms Pair with High Schools to Groom Workers,\” Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2021,

Tags : Education

The author admin

Leave a Response