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Florida celebrates February as Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month to recognize the accomplishments and collaboration of students, educators and leaders that generate CTE’s great success in the state. CTE programs are organized into 17 career clusters that train and prepare students for occupations in Florida’s key industry sectors. Currently, Florida has nearly 800,000 K-12 CTE students, which is the highest in the state’s history.

Benefits of CTE in Secondary Schools

Students can immensely benefit from beginning their Career and Technical Education journey in middle school and high school. CTE courses often provide valuable, hands-on learning experiences that give students a more practical sense of what a job in the industry would entail. These courses can have rigorous curriculums and high performance standards. In fact, some are designated as Level 3 courses—equivalent to an honors course—which can boost the GPAs of students who do well. CTE courses may include opportunities to earn industry certifications, which make students more employable and may apply credits toward high school and college graduation. Additionally, students in CTE programs are shown to be more engaged, graduate high school at higher rates and have rewarding careers.

One of the most significant advantages is the cost effectiveness of CTE programs. Some CTE courses are offered at no cost to students, particularly if they are offered as programs and electives at a public secondary school. Moreover, completing three courses in a CTE program fulfills a requirement for the Florida Gold Seal Vocational Scholars Award through Bright Futures, which will pay up to 75% of tuition and fees for a technical degree or career certificate program.

Students are able to earn a standard high school diploma through the CTE Pathway option. Along with course requirements in math, English, science and social studies, students who choose this pathway must complete two credits in work-based learning programs and two credits in career and technical education that result in a program completion and industry certification.

Career and Professional Academies

Students who are interested in a particular industry may apply for enrollment in a career and professional academy. These academies allow students to simultaneously earn a high school diploma, industry certification and the opportunity for postsecondary credit. Students enrolled in career academies gain the advantage of small learning environments, relevant career courses, personalized advising and partnerships with local employers.

Each school district in Florida has at least one career academy, and there are plenty of options in Northeast Florida. Although CTE programs in all 17 career clusters are offered at career academies across the state, available programs and courses vary across each academy. Students who are interested in this route should consult a school guidance counselor to learn about applications and programs. Refer to the CTE webpages for Baker, Clay, Duval, Putnam, Flagler, Nassau and St. Johns school districts for more information.

CTE programs create indispensable  learning opportunities for middle and high school students and should be promoted as rewarding and valuable educational options. CTE students and graduates bring useful skills and practical knowledge to the workforce that key industries in Northeast Florida and beyond greatly benefit from.