CTE pathways: key to equity at BHS

In this day and age, one does not have to go to college to be successful. One of the ways that California is trying to make jobs more accessible to high school graduates is through Career  Technical Education or CTE Pathways. According to the program’s website, CTE Pathway classes provide students with the “knowledge and skills necessary to transition to employment and postsecondary education.” The CTE program is at heart of many of Berkeley High School’s unique class offerings such as Law and Social Justice, Biotechnology, and Fire Science. Currently, BHS offers over 15 different CTE classes. Not only do CTE pathway classes allow students to explore a variety of interests, but they also promote equity among students.

If students aren’t given the opportunity to explore subjects like those previously mentioned, they will have to look for educational programs outside of schools. These programs often require time to be set aside after school or on weekends, which isn’t always feasible if students have other commitments like playing a sport or working. Another common barrier is that many opportunities have fees, making them inaccessible to low-income students. For instance, one biotechnology program at the University of Chicago costs approximately $8,350. 

Even if opportunities are free, there can be a competitive application process that requires students to demonstrate their expertise in a field. The Art and Design Experience at the Academy of Art University, for example, requires that students submit a portfolio as part of the application. If students have no previous experience with the subject, then they are at a disadvantage and are unlikely to get into the program. This creates a cycle of students being shut out of entire careers due to a lack of accessible opportunities. As such, CTE pathways provide students with a designated way to get hands-on, real-life experience that will help them as they pursue a career in their desired field. 

Furthermore, many students either don’t want to, or cannot afford to go to college. According to a study by YouthTruth, 26 percent of  high school seniors of the class of 2023 reported that they did not want to go to college while an additional 8 percent said they wanted to go to college but did not expect to attend it. CTE pathways enhance students’ ability to immediately pick up a job right after high school by equipping them with the proper skills to be competitive in the job market, giving them greater economic mobility. Earning a living straight out of high school opens up greater opportunities for students to finance their goals. For some, it provides a way to pay for college in the future, while for others it may be a way to pursue entrepreneurship and start their own company.

Since the federal government provides extra funding for CTE classes, there is a disparity between funding for CTE and non-CTE classes. This means that a CTE art class, for instance, would have the ability to buy better materials than a non-CTE art class. Although they are the same subject, CTE art classes provide students with more comprehensive training due to their greater access to resources. However, it is important to consider that students can choose which class they take. For students who simply wish to pursue art as a hobby or gauge their interest in art, then a non-CTE class would do just fine. But, if a student wishes to pursue a career in art, then a CTE is prudent, and they can make their decision accordingly. 

The fact that students have access to classes that allow them to explore careers and their interest in a particular career ensures that circumstances and barriers don’t hold students back from pursuing their dreams. CTE classes are a valuable aspect of BHS that prepare students for a job in the real world, which after all, is what school is all about.