The U.S., in general, has done a rather poor job of recognizing that a high school curriculum designed to prepare students for a liberal arts higher education is not the optimal option for everyone. But, there are programs in place that do provide alternatives in Colorado.
The old shop classes in Colorado schools that included drill bits, lumber and T-squares have morphed into a place where robotics, virtual reality and wind power are being taught. More and more students are flocking to these courses during high school and after, lured by state-of-the-art technology, low tuition and secure future job prospects.
After a drop from 2009 to 2012, enrollment in career and technical education courses has surged, with more than 125,000 high schoolers and 20,000 middle schoolers enrolling in 2015. In all, a record 181,000 Colorado students were enrolled in CTE courses, a national curriculum with seeds in vocational education courses. . . . These days, CTE courses span agriculture, skilled trades, business marketing, criminal justice, culinary arts, fashion design and Science, Technology, Energy and Math, or STEM.
“This is not your granddad’s vocational education,” said Sarah Heath, state director/assistant provost for CTE in the Colorado Community College System. A lot of these students enter into a marketplace desperate for workers. As many as 16,000 advanced manufacturing jobs go unfilled each year and most require highly skilled workers, experts say. To that end, 84 percent of high schoolers who finish CTE courses had jobs within a year, while 94 percent of all CTE finishers obtained a job, Heath said. Starting salaries depend on the job, but high school graduates with a mechanical maintenance degree can start at $29,000 annually and go up to $83,000, CTE officials say. . . . Many CTE courses are concurrent, meaning high school students can earn college credits. Enrollment in these classes is at an all-time high after a roller coaster ride in the years after the Great Recession.
By last year, 38 percent of all enrolled students in Colorado secondary schools, or 125,182, took at least one CTE course, an all-time high, according to officials. Those numbers were up from 120,702 in 2013-14 and continue an upward trend in CTE enrollment after dipping to 112,427 in 2011-12. Post-secondary enrollment was also up in 2014-15, with 34,829 students. Only 2012-13 boasted a higher enrollment, 34,893.The most popular certificate programs for high school students are for nurses aides, welding, automotive technology and cosmetology, Heath said.
For pure value, it’s hard to beat many career- and technical-oriented courses, proponents of technical education say. Students at Aims Community College, for instance, haven’t faced a tuition hike in six years. Those who live in the taxing district around the Greeley-based school pay $2,021 a year for 30 credit hours, Aims spokeswoman Laura Coale said. Weld County, meanwhile, provides residents with up to $3,000 a year for four years to use toward education, Coale said. By contrast, tuition for two semesters at the University of Colorado at Boulder for in-state residents pursuing an undergraduate degree in business is $31,745; for engineering, it’s $30,065.From here.
As an aside, the usual "E" in STEM is "engineering" and not "energy".