school counselor and cte

Why Your District Should Really Focus on Building School Counselor and CTE Relationships

  • Ryan Crawley
  • |
  • December 3, 2019

Are your school counselors and CTE leads working in unison to ensure every student succeeds, no matter which future path they take?

As we encourage students to create their own unique pathway to the future, school counselors and CTE should work in lockstep to ensure every student succeeds.

However, getting there is harder than it sounds.

We are all busy trying to achieve our own goals that we may fail to work together efficiently because of a lack of time and communication. But this situation can be remedied for the future, though, through proper planning and transparency.

Enter High School Counselors

Everyone believes the high school counselor has the students’ ear and best interest at heart when it comes to post-secondary planning. Every high school has at least one counselor and, of course, they have a variety of duties they must perform on a daily basis.

Perhaps the most important task they must fulfill is speaking with each of the soon-to-be graduating students to discuss their post-high school goals. What is each student going to do after they graduate?

We assume every student will have some sort of plan in place for post-graduation, but the truth of the matter is that many are ill-prepared and are unsure of what their next step should be. We mistakenly believe in education that parents are always working with their children in figuring out the next steps for their future. However, this is not always the case. And meeting with the high school counselor (someone that is a complete stranger for most juniors and seniors) one time for 15 minutes a year to discuss future plans is not usually productive.

After all, would you be open to discussing your intimate future plans with someone that really does not know a whole lot about you? The counselor is in the tough position to hopefully guide each student towards a solid future. But it is almost impossible to do when they have little to no real actual knowledge about the student—except for tangible information, like grades and absences.

Here’s the Thing: There’s a Lack of Dialogue

While a counselor may have scribbled down each student’s future plans, the information is seldom shared with the educators themselves. This is a missed opportunity. Discussions could be had, and quality advice could be shared from one to the other. If every teacher knew exactly what the student’s future plans were, they could better prepare them to reach their future goals.

Introducing Career and Technical Education

For those who are unfamiliar with the term Career and Technical Education (CTE), it is the approach of teaching junior high and high school students valuable skills that will allow them to enter a career either immediately after high school graduation or build upon these skills even further in post-secondary institutions.

Instead of offering high school students the traditional courses in Science, History, and the such, they are given the option to choose from other specific courses like manufacturing, business, finances, marketing, construction, criminal justice, and medicine. It enables the student to gain extremely valuable skills while narrowing down their possible career options after high school graduation. CTE courses are providing students real-world skills that they can immediately put to use and start building a future with.

In the past, high school vocational classes were limited to agriculture, woodworking, and some auto shop, but CTE is taking it to the next level and making numerous careers a definite possibility for students straight out of high school. These courses usually incorporate technology with technical skills that provide graduates with an actual trade that they can use to build a good life.

In fact, according to studies by Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, 27 percent of young people with just a license or certificate from a CTE program out-earn those with a bachelor’s degree. In addition, a recent report from the State Council on Higher Education in Virginia and College Measures showed that those students that went on and earned a technical associate degree earned more than $2,500 more a year than those that received their bachelor’s degree in Virginia.

When you consider that a bachelor’s degree from a college or university could set you back tens of thousands of dollars and also take away four to five years of employment, CTE courses could be a perfect alternative to college for many high school students.

College Is No Longer the Only Pathway

Most high schools promote the belief that college is something that all students need to experience. The practice of telling students that college is their only real choice at a good living needs to be seriously reconsidered. In real life, this is often just not a possibility for many high school students and their families.

For instance, some families may not have enough to pay for college and the thought of taking out $100,000 in student loans is not an option. On the other hand, some students may aspire to put their skills to use immediately, and enter the workforce right after high school.

If a high school counselor is pushing to all students that college is the answer to their future, then they are doing a disservice to the community. College is no longer a one-size-fits-all model for the future.

Graduating high school students could be earning certificates and credentials with CTE courses that proclaim they have mastered a certain trade or skill—thus achieving similar “success” to their college-bound peers.

In fact, these students could be learning these skills as early as junior high and continue to develop them all throughout high school in an effort to master them completely.

Students Need Real Support from All Involved

As high school students take a hard look at their future, they need all the support they can get. This means that counseling departments need to work hand-in-hand with CTE leads to ensure that every single student has a viable plan in place by the time they graduate high school.

Counselors should aim to interview students as early as junior high to start assessing their interests and figuring out which CTE courses the students may be interested in and suitable for. Just think of a junior high student who has a real enthusiasm for writing and how they could learn directly from CTE educators. The same can be said for those students who love technology. With the right CTE teacher, these students could land prosperous opportunities to code or create apps by the time they graduate high school.

Running a successful counseling and CTE program does not happen overnight and requires strong communication and planning. But if school districts are seriously interested in helping their students thrive not just while in school but after too, then the school’s CTE program needs to be heavily backed by the counseling staff with all educators climbing on board to help.

In this ever-changing world where specific skills are in short supply, a CTE program supported by school counselors could pay off for all down the road.

Ryan Crawley

Ryan Crawley is a journalist, educator, and health and fitness fanatic that currently makes his home in Illinois. Having spent more than a decade in the wonderful world of education as a Reading Specialist, Technology Instructor, and classroom teacher, he has experienced it all. In his free moments, he likes to write books for children that will hopefully be on shelves in the near future. Connect with Ryan at