Career tech education still strong after 100 years

Today’s career-technical education doesn’t look much like the shop class or home economics lessons of past generations. Such traditional “vocational” education — teaching the best way to hammer a nail or bake a pie — has mostly given way to students learning high-tech job skills and earning professional certifications that can translate directly into well-paying, in-demand career opportunities. Supporting this transition and the educators who lead it is the Ohio Association for Career and Technical Education. For more information about the organization, which is based in Westerville, Ohio, we contacted Christine Gardner, executive director:

Tell us about the Ohio Association for Career and Technical Education — its history and its current mission.

The Ohio Association for Career and Technical Education (Ohio ACTE) was founded in 1955, but the history of career-technical education is much longer than that. In 1917, Ohio’s General Assembly passed the Ohio Acceptance Act and completed its plan for “vocational” education, which evolved into career-technical education (CTE) as we know it today. The Federal Vocational Education Act of 1963 sought to solve the problem of unemployment and underemployment among the nation’s youth, as well as address a critical shortage of skilled and technical workers. Ohio was one of the first states in the nation to make “vocational” education accessible to all students.


Ohio ACTE’s mission is to advocate for career-technical and adult education (CTE) in Ohio and offer educators the information, representation and resources they need to provide outstanding educational opportunities for students of all ages and abilities. The organization’s vision is to be at the forefront of innovative educational techniques and processes to equip educators to meet or exceed their students’ educational goals and life expectations while pursuing their career calling.

Whom do you serve, and how? How does one become a member, and what are the benefits?

Ohio ACTE serves all educators in Ohio who provide career-technical education. This includes high school instructors and administrators, adult educators, and those teaching career-technical education in higher education and in middle schools, since CTE has been expanded to include middle grade programming in the last couple of years. Anyone involved or interested in CTE is welcome and encouraged to join.

While Ohio ACTE directly serves career-technical educators, the ultimate benefactor of the association’s efforts are career-tech students and business and industry served by our efforts. Ohio ACTE leaders work with many partners to advocate for career-technical education.

Association benefits directly impact career-tech educators and include workshops, seminars, and other ways to increase all educators’ knowledge and ability to deliver quality education.  Ohio ACTE also advocates with legislators, Ohio Department of Education staff and others to build partnerships and increase effectiveness of education. The organization also provides members with information on career-tech related educational matters through its website , newsletters and timely updates.

What are your recent accomplishments? What challenges has your organization faced?

A long-term and ongoing accomplishment is the change in attitude toward career-tech education. What started out as “vocational” education, has evolved to include hi-tech education in the health sciences, robotics, engineering and many other many other disciplines.  The knowledge that career-tech students need to be successful in today’s workforce, in college, and throughout their careers encompasses STEM education.

Other accomplishments include partnerships we have built and continue to build with other organizations, like the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, Battelle and many others.  Legislatively, the organization has done a good job working with our Ohio Legislators and our Federal members of Congress to make sure they understand the benefits of career-tech education to students and Ohio’s economy.

What kind of events and publications do you sponsor?

We sponsor an Annual “Connections to Education” Conference in July that focuses on how career-tech connects real world experience and education. The Conference allows educators to get a jump start on the school year and provides information and resources to schools and their staff who are looking to build career-tech opportunities for their students.

Ohio ACTE also keeps members and others updated through a monthly electronic newsletter and a printed newsletter “Today’s Education…Tomorrow’s Career”, which is published twice a year. Both publications keep readers updated on opportunities for educators and the advocacy work of the association.

Has there been a resurgence of interest in career and technical education and adult education? If so, why?

There has absolutely been a surge of interest in career-technical education recently. One of the reasons is that today’s workforce requires very high-tech knowledge and skills as industries continue to automate and require very specific skill sets from employees. There is also recognition that the path to career success, although different for everyone, depends on getting an early start through career exploration, career planning and secondary education that provides a foundation for what a student wants to do next. Career-technical education benefits all students, whether they are heading to college and/or starting their career.

Looking to the future, what does your organization see as its major focus?

Ohio ACTE will continue to advocate for career-technical and adult education and provide opportunities for educators to keep up with all the changes in delivery of CTE and education in general in order to provide students a meaningful educational experience.

The organization will work alongside others to increase and expand opportunities for students through CTE. Ohio ACTE will continue to celebrate the success of students who benefit from the hands-on, problem-solving focus of CTE and apply it to their continued education and career.


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