CTE courses across the Valley prepare students for college, workplace

By Nora Heston Tarte


CTE stands for Career and Technical Education, a type of education that puts emphasis on learning concepts that prepare students for post secondary education or immediate entrance into the workplace. It achieved mass acceptance in 1926 after World War II, but the program has come a long way since then. It’s no longer limited to those interested in auto mechanics or cosmetology; today CTE includes everything from culinary courses to health science. The goal is to provide students with a range of high-wage career opportunities that will satisfy the future job market, and according to national statistics, 94 percent of high school students are taking advantage of the opportunity.


Peoria Unified School District


When school districts develop CTE programs, they often look for gaps in the local employment pool—areas where there aren’t enough qualified candidates to fill open positions. That’s one reason PUSD offers courses in fire science. After all, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Arizona could use more first-line supervisors of firefighting and prevention workers.

While students interested in fire science get early exposure through the program, the effort they put in while in high school also jumpstarts their careers. “Peoria Fire Captain Danny Comella provides students with stackable credentials, meaning college credit and various industry certifications,” explains Danielle Airey, director of communications and public relations at PUSD. And the certifications are as varied as the CTE course offerings.

“The PUSD Fire Science program prepares its students to transition to the Firefighter Academy by introducing the students to all skills needed to be successful in the academy,” Airey says. “Skill based assessments aligned with academy standards are utilized in the sequence of courses.”

This means that if students want to pursue fire science as a career, their skills and credits will transfer to area programs such as the Firefighter Academy at Glendale Community College and a related bachelor’s program at Northern Arizona University.


Scottsdale Unified School District


At SUSD, students can pursue an education in graphic design, advertising or art. With the latest design software, including Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign CS6 and CC available to them, they are primed to enter the workforce or use these courses as credit toward a fine arts degree. For the latter, it’s like taking a college course before entering college.

While students gain exposure to the arts, they also create portfolios that will help them meet future goals, whether that includes post secondary education or immediately entering the workforce. And with clients including the state of Arizona, Valley Metro Bus and Light Rail and the Arizona Health Department, it’s easy to see why these high school students often beat out college students for jobs.


Queen Creek Unified School District


For QCUSD, the goal is not only to expose students to future career possibilities, but also to help them become successful in the areas that interest them—it’s a big draw of CTE programs across the Valley.

One offered area of stuffy is culinary arts. With two courses in this category, the program is designed to introduce high school students to the basic knowledge and techniques learned in the culinary industry. Students who take Culinary Arts I will be introduced to health and wellness in a culinary arts workplace, safety procedures, food safety, food borne illness, nutritional concepts, the Choose My Plate food guide pyramid and bakery and pastry preparation. They will also receive a food handlers certificate. Culinary Arts II expands on that knowledge while awarding students an additional food management certificate and job shadow experience.

“Both courses are job simulation classes,” says Annette Hudnall, who is part of the program at QCUSD. “It is very disciplined, time management is imperative, students learn to [work] effectively in teams… to solve problems, [and learn] effective communication skills and ethical behavior.”


Phoenix Union High School District


In an effort to prepare students for the job market of the future, Phoenix Union offers CTE courses that cater to career area professionals predict will be in need in the future.

“CTE pathways such as software development, web design, networking, information security, engineering and entrepreneurship related to the technology industry will provide select industry certification and college dual enrollment, and will also prepare the students for success in college, career and life,” explains Seth Beute, communications director for PUHSD.

Not only do the technology-heavy CTE program offerings cater to careers in computer sciences, and specifically coding, the skills learned in these classes also ready students to enter a workforce in any position where technology and computer science skills are a basic requirement.

“Employment opportunities in technology related careers, and more specifically coding and computer science, are growing at a faster rate than other industries,” Beute points out.


Chandler Unified School District


At CUSD, the health sciences are a bit of an umbrella. Students who enroll in these CTE courses can learn about medical professions such as nursing, sport medicine or biotechnology. Each program is two years, and allows students an introduction into a specific field of interest, as well as transferable skills that will help them find success in those careers.

“These programs provide the opportunity for students to not only experience hands-on, real world application but to help them decide if these are fields they want to pursue after high school graduation,” says Lindsay Duran, CTE Instructional Program Specialist at CUSD.

Students in medical professions and sports medicine receive their CPR for healthcare provider’s certification, a necessary certificate for many endeavors, and those who pursue medical professions also get the opportunity to sit for an LNA, a state license regulated by the Arizona State Board of Nursing.


Gilbert Public Schools


At GPS, students interested in agriculture have a unique opportunity to explore careers in the vast field.

“We are not that different from other programs except we are a complete program,” explains Curtis Willems, an agricultural educator at GPS. “Meaning we cover all the areas of an agriculture program. We do not specialize, but give students exposure to all areas.”

The CTE agriculture courses at GPS are hands-on. Students work on project-based curriculum and pursue endeavors that are student driven or student focused.

“We teach classes that fulfill graduation requirements such as science, computers and economics,” Willems explains. “At the same time we offer leadership and career experience.” Some students even receive OSHA certifications.







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