Career and Technical Education for the new economy

Every business owner realizes the importance of a skilled and educated workforce. The power of any organization lies in its people and their ability to wisely and effectively advance its goals.

Thus, it’s no surprise that education is a key driver of economic development. A community that provides its children with the best educational experiences possible is one that will reap widespread economic benefits in the years to come.

As we delve deeper into the 21st century, we have a good idea of what the workplace of the future will demand of employees. Workers will need to master ever-changing technologies, think critically and use their imaginations to solve problems. They’ll also need to re-learn and adapt as jobs and the economy evolve.

We don’t even have to look far into the future to know this is true, as most positions today require these skills to be successful.

That’s one reason why Career and Technical Education (or CTE) in the Milwaukee Public Schools is so exciting. The main tenets of CTE are college and career readiness, project-based learning, problem solving and the use of real 21st century technologies in the classroom.

In MPS, over 15,000 students are involved in CTE programs. The advantages to those students and our community are many. Not only does CTE provide students a meaningful connection between what they learn in school and what they will do in the workplace, but it also provides them with the kinds of skills needed for high-wage, high-demand or high-skill fields.

In fact, this year nearly 700 MPS students in CTE programs will receive industry-recognized pharmacy technician, OSHA and Microsoft Office Technician certificates.

There are other advantages to CTE. According to the most recent data, students in CTE programs are more likely to graduate, less likely to get suspended and have higher attendance rates and better academic achievement.

As technology continues to expand and the economy becomes more global, basic skills become much more integrated and relative to specific applications. Today’s citizens must be able to interact on a daily basis with a variety of technologies, solve complex problems and communicate clearly and effectively. Jobs that offer an opportunity for economic independence demand strong academic and technical skills and technological proficiency.

Milwaukee Public Schools has a long and proud history of supporting career and technical education that help to prepare young people for the world beyond high school. As a community, we need to rally behind our local schools and unleash the potential of young people across our city. If successful, we have much to look forward to.

This commentary is published on the occasion of MPS Children’s Week. To learn more, visit

Lauren Baker is Career and Technical Education Coordinator at MPS.

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