Describes promising practices and strategies for career technical education (CTE) programs in rural communities as identified by Advance CTE through interviews with state leaders and case studies from states that have succeeded in connecting learners to industry.

Career Technical Education (CTE) “provides opportunities for learners to gain real-world skills and…experiences through their coursework and direct interactions with industry partners through work-based learning, mentorships and Career Technical Student Organizations….Having access to industry partners and the world of work is critical to learners’ career awareness, exposure and preparation and to the overall quality of the CTE pathway” (p.1).

“To help states unpack the challenges and potential approaches to expanding access to quality [CTE] programs in rural communities, Advance CTE—in partnership with the Council of Chief of State School Officers and education Strategy Group through the New Skills for Youth…initiative—[released] a series of briefs titled CTE on the Frontier. The series [explores] some of the most pressing challenges facing rural CTE, including program quality, access to the world of work, leveraging partnerships to expand program offerings and the rural CTE teacher pipeline. “

Through interviews with state CTE leaders at both the secondary and postsecondary levels, Advance CTE identified promising practices and strategies to strengthen access to and the quality of CTE pathways in rural communities. This brief, [is] the second in the series, [and] explores how states can and are supporting efforts to ensure that all learners in rural communities have the opportunity to engage directly with employers and the world of work” (p.1).

In this brief, the authors describe:

  • “The State role in connecting learners with the world of work” (p.1) and rural CTE.
  • Connecting industry to learners, including lessons learned from West Virginia’s simulated workplace and door-to-door exposure through mobile labs in Montana, Nebraska, and South Dakota; And discuss scaling employer interactions through technology using lessons learned in Louisiana.
  • Strategies for connecting rural learners with the world of work, including leveraging existing infrastructure to support industry-led career pathways, such as in the Dakota Nursing Program, cross-system and cross-sector alignment in Montana, and Warren County’s Area Technology Center in Kentucky.
(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

The authors provide the following strategies for implementing CTE in rural areas: Bringing Industry Exposure and Experiential Learning Directly to Learners Many communities have brought the workplace to the learners, which addresses the insufficiency of work-based learning and transportation barriers. “West Virginia’s Simulated Workplace program demonstrates how [rural communities] can draw on industry experience to provide authentic work-based learning to students within a classroom setting….Through Simulated Workplace, high school students transform their classrooms into businesses to create an authentic workplace environment. Participants in the program are treated like employees” (p.2). Scaling Employer Interactions through Technology “Technology can help bridge the physical gap between learners and industry partners….In Louisiana, micro-industry engagement is more than just virtual speaker presentations. Rather, it is…a series of…structured engagements…designed around four key tenets: • All students have virtual access to workplace experts in every industry sector they are interested in exploring; • Teachers are empowered with the technologies and curated instructional resources to find virtual workplace experts relevant to every student’s…interests; • Schools and teachers offer students a menu of virtual and in-school exercises that provide the best possible analog to onsite workplace-based learning; and • Students must prepare for productive sessions with workplace experts, mastering increasingly sophisticated communication skills with unfamiliar workplace adults” (p.6). Leveraging Existing Infrastructure to Support Industry-Led Career Pathways “Every state leader interviewed identified health care as a critical industry….Many states also shared strategies related to expanding access to and providing opportunities for learners to be successful in health career pathways and programs….North Dakota and Montana [for example], are focusing on leveraging existing networks and partnerships with health care facilities to provide industry-led career pathways (p.8). State Strategies to Connect Rural Learners with the World of Work. • “Be creative when defining a `classroom’ or `workplace’…. • Take a regional view…. • Invest in intermediaries to build capacity and provide technical assistance…. • Focus programs and funding on specific employer engagement activities rather than trying to do everything with one program” (p.12-13). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)