Career and Technical Training Options for Triangle Students
CTE-minded learners have access to multiple resources — and can even get a jump-start on college
Triangle students have a wide variety of schooling choices. As they enter middle and high school, they can add two more options to the menu: the NC Career & College Promise partnership; and career and technical education, or CTE, programs. While many middle and high schools in the area already offer their own slate of CTE classes, there are now additional options that enhance the resources already available to students interested in these subjects.
NC Career & College Promise
NC Career & College Promise, often referred to as CCP, is a partnership between local high schools and community colleges throughout North Carolina. High school students can begin taking college courses during their junior and senior years, either on campus or online — tuition free. CCP courses lead to industry certificates and credentials, or transferrable college credits, at 16 participating UNC institutions.
Lisa Mabe Eads, program coordinator with NC Career & College Promise, says that while earning tuition-free college credits appeals to parents, they should make sure their students are ready to undertake the rigorous challenge of college-level work.
“A student who enrolls in CCP and expects the coursework to be ‘easy’ — or for class policies to be like high school — would likely experience challenges,” Eads says. She recommends that students talk to an adviser and choose a pathway before enrolling to avoid taking unnecessary courses.
For those motivated students who already know what they want to do after high school, NC Career & College Promise courses offer a tuition-free head start on their career. “Many students do not just earn credits toward a certificate,” Eads says. “Many earn the full associate degree while in high school.”
NC Career & College Promise courses are offered through 58 community colleges in North Carolina. The courses are available to all high school juniors and seniors, and offerings and availability vary by institution.
Cooperative Innovative High Schools
Another option available through NC Career & College Promise is what is known as Cooperative Innovative High Schools. Students enrolled in one of these high schools and attend classes on their own campus, but have access to college courses as early as their freshman year. These high schools have formed cooperations with local community colleges, as well as four-year institutions such as North Carolina State University and North Carolina Central University.
Eads says Cooperative Innovative High Schools are specifically designed to serve students at risk for dropping out before graduation, students whose parents did not complete high school or students who benefit from accelerated academic instruction. As a result, eligibility requirements and application processes vary by school.
Triangle residents can choose from one of 10 different Cooperative Innovative High School campuses — six in Wake County and four in Durham County.
Which Students Benefit From CTE Programs?
Middle and high school students who are drawn to technical fields but aren’t yet ready to decide on a career path, or who prefer a hands-on learning environment, might consider a CTE program since these programs work closely with local businesses to train students in technical skills that meet industry needs.
In place of a traditional “sit and get” model of education, CTE courses offer students hands-on and collaborative learning opportunities. Students choose courses from more than a dozen career clusters, including business administration, marketing, STEM and health sciences.
Evan Waldron is a Chapel Hill High School graduate who participated in his school’s CTE program. Now a sophomore at NCSU studying aerospace engineering, his goal is to become a commercial pilot. In high school, Waldron studied network engineering, web design, video production, and game art and design. His CTE classes led to three summer internships, including a networking systems internship with Cisco.
Although the courses and internships were outside the field of aeronautics, Waldron says his experience with CTE was beneficial. “CTE courses have given me an incredible skill set that enables me to be marketable across many industries,” he says.
CTE students gain more than technical skills, says Kathi Breuwer, career and technical education director for Chapel Hill-Carrboro middle and high schools. “Students come into some of our engineering courses and earn certifications that will help them get a job right out of high school,” she says. “But they also get hands-on experience with internships at local businesses. These experiences provide them with transferrable, real-life skills” — such as problem-solving, and the ability to communicate and collaborate with a team.
Despite the many benefits, CTE programs face a certain amount of stigma. Once referred to as vocational training, CTE programs have long been associated with low-performing students. Breuwer says struggling students still benefit from CTE courses; however, higher-performing students can, too, because they can be challenged by honors and advanced placement CTE courses.
Breuwer also points out that 98 percent of those students who took four or more CTE courses in one concentration have gone on to two- or four-year schools.
In the end, CTE training is not just about getting into the right college. It provides an opportunity for students to try new things and find their passion, before they or their parents are paying college tuition for it.
Wake County Cooperative Innovative High Schools
North Wake College and Career Academy
Vernon Malone College and Career Academy
Wake Early College of Health Sciences
Wake STEM Early College High School
Wake Young Men’s Leadership Academy
Wake Young Women’s Leadership Academy
Durham County Cooperative Innovative High Schools
City of Medicine Academy
Hillside New Tech High School
Josephine Dobbs Clement Early College High School
Middle College High School at Durham Technical Community College
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Christa C. Hogan is a freelance writer in Raleigh and an at-home-mom to three busy boys.