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CTE and economic development – A strong correlation

Career and Technical Education (CTE) and economic development are two things many think may not go together, but the correlation between the two is stronger than ever in South Dakota.

Sara Vande Kamp, Director of Eastern South Dakota – Perkins, noted that the state supports the CTE programs and events because they understand the importance of it to the future economy of the state and the foundational work skills it offers every student.

“CTE provides students with technical knowledge they might not have ever explored in their academic journey. These opportunities can lead them to outstanding options for college or a career that takes them directly to the workforce in their own community which keeps these valuable skills in South Dakota,” Vande Kamp said.

Through the past several decades, the perception of CTE has changed. Instead of a “vocational education,” modern CTE today includes health sciences, computer sciences, manufacturing, education, agriculture, and other high demand areas.

“There is a piece of CTE in all areas of the workforce and I think this means we will continue to see a growth and necessity for affordable and accessible educational opportunities with our technical colleges,” said Vande Kamp.

Today’s workforce is changing too because of CTE. CTE is providing highly trained individuals who have the knowledge and skill set to begin careers or embark on additional training upon graduating high school.

“Allowing students the opportunities to explore these career options with hands-on learning results in students making more informed decisions about their post-high school plans. In turn, the workforce is being made up of employees (or entrepreneurs) who not only have the knowledge, skills, and training to be successful from the start, but also have the dedication and commitment to the field they’ve chosen to work in,” said Fawn Wilde, Director of Western Statewide CTE Consortium.

Luckily, today, students are able to take a field trip, job shadow, or even talk with someone who is involved in a CTE related career.

“We have assessments and resources available for all students to figure out what CTE program might be the right path for them,” said Vande Kamp.

Businesses and economic developers looking to grow their own workforce have options too. Economic development professionals who are interested in learning more about CTE programs are encouraged to facilitate connections between their local businesses and high schools. This connection helps the CTE community better react to the local business needs in the community. The options for businesses include internships, hiring CTE students, and working with CTE teachers to drive industry standards, making these connections a win for all involved.

A total of 25,282 South Dakota high school students participated in CTE classes during the last academic year (2021-2022). With 16 different career clusters to choose from, the top three clusters participated in were: Human Services (over 10,000 participants); Business Management and Administration (over 8,000 participants) and Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources (over 5,000 participants).

To learn more about CTE and how your local business or community can get involved, find your local contact here.

South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development

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