The U.S. Labor Market and its Implications for CTE and Pathways


The National Center for College & Career Transitions (NC3T) and the Drexel University School of Education co-hosted a Webinar on Tuesday, April 22, 2014, “The U.S. Labor Market and its Implications for CTE and Pathways”, which focused on U.S. labor market indicators of the success rate for Career Technical Education (CTE) programs.  Dr. Bruce Levine, Assistant Clinical Professor and Director of the Drexel School of Education’s Educational Policy program, and Brett Pawlowski, Co-founder of NC3T, moderated the event.

Dr. Paul Harrington, faculty member in Drexel University’s School of Education and Director of the University’s Center for Labor Markets and Policy, classified CTE as a form of human capital investment. Human capital refers to the ability, knowledge, skill, and behaviors that make individuals productive at work and home and is often gained through education, training, and work experience, all of which are aspects of CTE programs.

Within the marketplace, CTE can be viewed as an investment good, with the cost in the present and the benefit in the future, as opposed to a consumption good, where the cost and benefit occur almost simultaneously. As an investment commodity, a young person or an investor often will not see the benefits of CTE until the youth reaches adulthood.  However, the risk is worth the reward; CTE programs produce an increase in professional skills, knowledge, abilities, and behaviors in our future workforce. CTE programs also prepare productive workers for a changing workforce that requires more formal training and less on-the-job experience.

Scientific invention and engineering innovation have also had an influence on changing labor demand, as both create new products and services in addition to delivering products and services, which make more use of software and physical capital, as opposed to menial labor. This is all in part due to the business cycle, which has an influence on short-term and long-term hiring.  . Since 2000, manufacturing jobs have been on a steady decline, whereas professional and technical services, such as computer system design, have been on a generally consistent incline.  The health care sector also has been on a steady incline, in particular ambulatory health care, hospitals, and nursing care. These three different sectors represent the different amounts of risk present when a young person chooses a field of study: the high risk of manufacturing, the medium risk of computer system design, and the low risk of health care. The Great Recession of 2008 has had an especially large impact on the difference in hiring types for young adults, which perpetuate these trends.

Dr. Harrington concluded his presentation by answering questions from the audience and moderators.  He advised that the most important component a successful CTE program can have are links to the local labor market, which allow instructors to have access to the most current labor marketplace information in addition to helping their students be considered first for employment. Dr. Harrington also suggested that CTE programs partner with local business for funding and proper instruction in exchange for producing skilled workers.  He commented that CTE participants have more preferred behavioral traits and work experience that employers desire, such as reliability, workforce experience, and discipline. Dr. Harrington finished the discussion by recommending that people not substitute academic and occupational preparation for each other, but allow them to be strong compliments.

To access full Webinar content and information click here.

Garet Fryar is a policy research assistant at the American Youth Policy Forum.


Photo credit: Flickr

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