Looking to the Future of CTE at PACTA’s Symposium

(February 16, 2024)

In recognition of CTE Month, I recently had the opportunity to attend the event “Pathways to Career Readiness: An Education and Workforce Development Symposium.” The symposium was hosted by the Pennsylvania Association for Career and Technical Administrators (PACTA), bringing together CTE educators, advocates, students, and stakeholders from across the state in Hershey, PA. The symposium topics centered around helping students find pathways to success even while the needs and requirements of the workforce are constantly evolving.

Over the two days of the convention, participants had the opportunity to attend breakout sessions covering content such as newly developing CTE programs, employer engagement, pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships, and the role of AI in the future of CTE.

I attended a session with representatives from Career and Technical Centers (CTCs) that are building out their General Education programs. This is a new area of opportunity for CTE in Pennsylvania. The 2023-24 school year was the first time schools could have General Education CTE programs approved by the Department of Education. The panel members at the session represented five institutions that are leading the way in creating these new programs. They spoke about building new curriculums off of existing programs in Early Childhood Education, using classes that are already offered as a base to grow their General Education programs. Many shared struggles in deciding on what certifications should be involved in the programs, so that students have more than a high school diploma when they graduate to get them started in their field – as they do in many other CTE programs. This is a new and exciting area for CTE that is growing before our eyes. Successful programs in General Education could potentially help alleviate some of the pressure of teacher shortages that Pennsylvania is facing, much like the rest of the country.

The symposium was also an opportunity to celebrate the successes of the students who participate in CTE. The presidents of seven of Pennsylvania’s Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) were recognized by the Director of the PA Bureau of Career and Technical Education, Judd Pittman, and PACTA’s State Past President, John Augustine. These seven young women spoke to the symposium attendees about their journeys in Career and Technical Education, from struggles to triumphs, and how it had made a difference in their lives and in determining their trajectories beyond high school.

This symposium was a wonderful opportunity for stakeholders in CTE to learn from each other as we all work to build pathways for students to make their way in the world. Allies for Children looks forward to working with our partners, many of whom were also in attendance, to help our CTE systems and programs better serve our students.

Laura Condon, Allies for Children Project Coordinator