Have you been struggling to find the right person for the job? With the skilled labor shortage on the rise, it's a problem that many blue-collar businesses are facing. But what if there's a solution right in front of us? Career and Technical Education (CTE) can be the key to unlocking a hidden pool of talent!
CTE Month is a time to recognize the importance of these programs in preparing students for the workforce. By investing in CTE, companies can create strategic partnerships and excite young people about learning trades — while providing valuable training opportunities. By building better relationships between schools and businesses, CTE programs provide an opportunity to create a strong workforce equipped with industry-specific skills.
With thoughtful planning, companies like yours can leverage this month to reduce hiring problems and tap into hidden pools of talent through CTE initiatives. Here's how:
The Benefits of CTE
One of the main benefits of CTE is obviously closing the labor gap. Through CTE courses, students are able to gain real-world skills that can be applied in the workforce, like industrial safety practices, machining, welding, or construction. This gives them a competitive edge as employees who can walk onto the job with practical skills and knowledge. And it gives businesses access to a larger pool of qualified candidates and a consistent pipeline for sourcing talent.
But the benefits go beyond training and recruitment in the here and now… By nurturing relationships between businesses and schools, companies can establish a long-term investment in the skills of future generations.
The current labor landscape is such a problem because there have been years of underinvestment in CTE programs. The millennial and Gen Z generations were told to go to college and get a desk job, with little emphasis on the skilled trades. By encouraging students to pursue CTE, you can create a new narrative around blue-collar careers and excite the next generation.
Creating a Strategic Partnership with Schools
If we want to close the skilled labor gap, we have to spark interest in trade jobs early on. That means getting into schools as early as elementary and middle school and showing kids the amazing opportunities a career in the trades can offer! By starting young and building a relationship with students, we can guide them towards a fulfilling career and solve the skilled labor shortage at the same time.
Here are a few ways to partner with CTE programs and get kids excited about blue-collar careers:
For Elementary and Middle School Students
- Leading interactive demonstrations
- Offering virtual or in-person field trips to explore your company’s operations
- Being a guest speaker and sharing your experience in the industry
- Overseeing hands-on projects as part of the class curriculum
For High School Students
- Offering internships with the option to earn credits
- Participating in mentorships for guidance and support
- Allowing on-site job shadowing to give a peek behind the scenes
If there are currently no CTE programs in your area, you may have to take the lead to offer career exploration opportunities to your community. Here are a few ideas on how to recruit with school partnerships:
- Work with schools to develop CTE programs that align with the skills needed in your industry.
- Share industry knowledge and insights with teachers to keep the curriculum relevant and up-to-date.
- Invite students to visit your business and learn more about the day-to-day operations and skills required.
- Host workshops or events to promote the benefits of your industry and encourage students to consider it as a career path.
- Develop an apprenticeship program in-house to provide students with an even deeper understanding of your business and trade.
- Provide scholarships or funding for students to continue their education in your industry.
Remember, the more you invest in the program, the better the outcome will be. Start early, and watch the talent pool grow.
Examples of Successful CTE Efforts
Members of Congress recently introduced a bill called the "Supporting Small Business Career and Technical Education Act," which helps small businesses hire graduates of CTE programs and provides support for aspiring entrepreneurs. This recognition of the current struggles of businesses and the potential of CTE programs is a huge step in the right direction!
But you don't have to wait for the government to get involved to start seeing the benefits of CTE. Here are a few real-life examples of companies that have minimized their hiring crisis by investing in CTE programs:
Oregon's Hillsboro School District, the City of Hillsboro, and local industry have collaborated to create a youth apprenticeship program specifically geared towards advanced manufacturing. High school students enrolled in this unique opportunity can earn up to $16 an hour while gaining invaluable experience working alongside professional mentors at nearby companies Jireh Semiconductor and Tosoh Quartz.
After high school, graduates have the opportunity to continue with either of the companies for a wage of $18 an hour or move on and utilize their talents in another area.
In Colorado, Flow Right Plumbing, Heating and Cooling developed their own internship program to foster the next generation of plumbers and HVAC technicians. The 12-week program includes both classroom learning and ride-alongs. After completing the program, Flow Right helps interns get their licenses and join their team. According to the owner, this initiative resulted in the company's number of licensed professionals doubling in less than a year!
And in South Carolina, engineers from nearby businesses pay a visit to A.J. Whittenberg Elementary School to introduce students to career opportunities in engineering. By attending this school, students have the opportunity to launch their long-term career paths with a strong foundation. This education program continues through middle and high school to keep the momentum going.
To further meet the increasing demand for the booming local automotive industry, this school district has also joined forces with notable brands like BMW and Michelin in order to create courses that specialize in mechatronics and car research.
This is just a sliver of the success that CTE programs can bring. By investing in the education and training of the future workforce, these companies were able to minimize their hiring woes, increase productivity, and even give back to their communities.
If your organization isn't already taking advantage of the potential that CTE offers, now is the time to get involved. Make Career and Technical Education a priority this month, and watch the labor shortage crisis fade away!