Are your school counselors and CTE leads working together to ensure every student succeeds, no matter what future path they choose for themselves?

As educators, you’re well aware that student plans after high-school are not “one-size-fits-all”. There are students who know exactly what they want to do. And then you have others who struggle to believe future success is even possible.

As a counselor, you need to help both types of students devise a plan for future success—as well as cater to all the other types of students in between. That’s a tall order when you consider the 500:1 average student to counselor ratio, plus all the other tasks you handle in a given day. 

As we encourage each student to create their own unique pathways for the future, a strong partnership between CTE and Counseling departments is a great way to expand and enhance a district or school’s student support network. There are examples of strong alliances between Counseling and CTE across the country — Wisconsin, Arizona, and Michigan are just a few of the states making advancements. But obtaining this alignment takes a concerted focus and, for some, can be challenging.   

The reality is, your school and district is stronger when internal teams like Counseling and CTE work together, as opposed to working separately. So, here are a few tips to kick-start collaboration, enabling counselors and CTE educators to work together towards students’ success. 

Build Joint Objectives

As it stands today, counseling and CTE departments often have different measures of success. Both are focused on offering high-quality student support, but whereas traditionally counselors have focused that support around college, CTE instructors have focused on workforce readiness. 

But times are changing. Today, students need to be ready for post-secondary academic and employment success. So, how do you bring these two distinct departments, each with different goals, together to best support every student? 

Start by focusing less on departmental differences, and more on the similarities. Using this mindset, create a list of joint objectives. These objectives can be agreed upon as shared responsibilities that ultimately lead each student down the right path.   

If you’re wondering how to initiate this process, don’t sweat it. Here are some quick steps to get you going: 

  • First, identify who you want as a representative from each department. These representatives can then work on setting up meetings and reporting back on agreed upon objectives to their respective departments, ensuring transparency throughout the process. 
  • Make your objectives SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. Maybe you want to achieve X or Y or Z. The key is ensuring both parties understand the goals and can easily evaluate if they’re being achieved.
  • Establish regular meetings and work out a schedule on how frequently the two representatives should meet to align on objectives and common goals. For example, once a week, bi-weekly or once a month. 
  • Set up a system where you have a process of measuring these joint goals to assess your progress on the path to success. 

Once you start taking the first few steps towards building joint objectives, the rest will follow, allowing for a smoother alliance between the two departments. 

Understand, Respect and Learn from Each Department’s Respective Processes

Collaboration isn’t always easy—especially if each department already has a process or structure in place. For instance, processes, funding, and objectives for counselors and CTE educators respectively may have already been put in place by the district. And things may have been operating that way for years. 

Most counselors are unaware of how the CTE stream functions and many CTE educators are also uncertain of what a typical day looks like for counselors. To truly collaborate, it’s important to understand the background and challenges each department faces. 

For example, when setting up one of your first meetings to go over joint objectives, Counseling and CTE departments should consider setting an agenda that encourages each department to explain their current processes, measures, and roadblocks. 

This can also be a great opportunity for knowledge sharing. Counselors may have their own perspectives and insights to share with the CTE folks. CTE educators can also impart their unique viewpoints and share how they’ve dealt with hurdles or what their processes are when it comes to handling certain obstacles. While collaborating, be sure to respect each other’s unique perspectives and processes. 

With a clearer understanding of each department’s challenges, you’ll likely uncover areas where processes can be merged rather than kept separate. Once dialogue has started, keep lines of communication open. Bringing groups together, and getting them to gel takes time. But in the end, this collaboration will lead to a more engaged and successful student population, which benefits all departments.  

Focus on the End Goal: Creating a Universally Loved Experience for Students

While your departments get acquainted internally, don’t forget about your students’ experience! After all, they’ll be the ones to reap the benefits of a strong Counseling and CTE relationship. Aside from 1:1 meetings and in-class sessions, how else can you provide students with an engaging future readiness experience?

Let’s face it. Both counselors and CTE educators are juggling a lot of expectations — from students, parents, and their district leaders. Rather than relying solely on human power, why not turn to technology? Online programs can offer a plethora of future readiness support. 

For instance, a college and career readiness program like Xello gets students engaged and excited about planning their future. Through activities like assessments, lessons, and course planning, students are able to get an overall (yet detailed) view of where they may fit in the world. What’s more, counselors and CTE educators can learn more about their students based on their activity in the program, and create tangible outcomes.   

A program like Xello ensures students do the required work to understand their pathway for future success. All the information is stored in a centralized system that counselors and CTE educators can easily access, giving them a single source through which they can view students’ progress and plans. This makes collaboration between the two departments that much easier. There’s now a shared resource to leverage and it makes updates between departments quick and easy. 

Don’t Forget to Celebrate the Wins!

It’s like the cherry on top of a great collaborative experience. Although both of your departments may start off on rocky ground as you get acquainted, you’ll eventually be met with success. Don’t forget to take the time to relish each moment, consider it a learning, and apply it again in the future! Your students will thank you.

Counseling and CTE: Supporting Students All Around

As high school students make big decisions about their future, they need all the support they can get. By strengthening relationships between the Counseling and CTE departments, you can ensure that every single student has a viable plan in place by the time they graduate high school.

With a clear understanding of CTE support available, counselors can help guide students towards relevant CTE courses. Similarly, with the support of Counseling, CTE educators can help expose students to post-secondary academic options that students may otherwise have ruled out. 

Running a successful Counseling and CTE program does not happen overnight and requires strong communication and planning. But the key is to leverage the powerful relationship between counselors and CTE educators to help pave the path towards creating future ready students. 

Ryan Crawley
ABOUT RYAN

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 ryancrawley54@gmail.com.