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CTE Classes Inspire Career Exploration


Throughout the history of Berkeley High School (BHS), there have been a vast variety of classes offered to students of all grades and small schools. Recently, however, there has been a trend of decreased enrollment of students in the Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes. Despite this pattern, students and teachers continue to argue for the value of CTE classes as a viable option.

CTE classes are designed to help students further engage in careers outside of the academic-specific sector.

Klea Bajala, a BHS teacher who currently teaches Introduction to Carpentry and Digital Design & Fabrication, both CTE classes, voiced her opinion on the value of these courses.

“In your core studies, you learn a lot of theory. For example, you learn about the Pythagorean theorem. You understand what it is, but you don’t understand why you need [it]. In carpentry, you use this theorem to build a roof. In any CTE program, you’re taking that knowledge and applying it to the world,” she said.

For Bajala, these classes are very important in the professional development of students beyond high school. She mentioned that “not everyone is going to be able to pay for college [and] not everyone is going to college,” so these classes bring opportunities in different job fields.

In California, there are around 1,634,562 students enrolled in CTE classes, according to Advance CTE. Out of these, 53.6 percent are male and 46.4 percent are female. Bajala said she saw a gender bias in her CTE classes. She said that a lot of her female students didn’t really “see a place for [themselves] in this class” and saw themselves doing more of an “academic route because of personal biases against these types of jobs.”

Neveah Angel Escario, a junior in Academic Choice (AC) who has taken Digital Design and Fabrication, voiced her opinion on the issue. “I definitely think there is a gender bias, specifically in this class. Being one of the very few women in this class is definitely telling,” Escario said.

Escario also mentioned the benefit of being able to have a woman as a teacher. “It’s empowering to see women just like me doing things usually taught by a man,” she said.

A trend at BHS has shown that students drop out of CTE classes as the year advances. According to Bajala, the construction industry has been stigmatized and looked down upon as not requiring an important set of skills, so many students choose to abandon the course, seeing it as something unimportant.

“[We] grow up thinking that [jobs in the construction industry] aren’t good jobs,” Bajala said. “If you’re not a doctor or a lawyer, or you’re not going to college, it’s sort of looked down upon.”

Despite this mentality, there are “30 million jobs in the US that do not require a bachelor’s degree that pay median earnings of $55,000 or more,” according to the US Department of Education.

Andrew Walton, a junior in AC, said his perspective on CTE classes changed upon his taking carpentry. He now sees himself pursuing a CTE pathway professionally. “When you complete a project, you gain a sense of satisfaction,” Walton said.