4 CTE Programs That Are Transforming Education and Communities

4 CTE Programs That Are Transforming Education and Communities

Evidence that Career Technical Education (CTE) programs have a positive effect on students and the workforce is overwhelming. CTE programs are empowering students with practical skills and transforming communities with a robust workforce.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, an impressive 95% of CTE students successfully graduate high school, surpassing the national average by 10%. The influence of CTE programs extends beyond graduation, as highlighted by the Association for Career and Technical Education’s findings that every $1 of government funding allocated to CTE can yield up to $12.20 in returns for taxpayers.

Tailoring CTE Programs for Maximum Impact

Amidst this backdrop of success, many school leaders are asking which CTE programs will be the most successful and the best use of tax-payers money? Aligning the right CTE programs with the unique needs of students and the community can be a challenge.

Area districts in South and North Carolina are offering some creative programs that are positively impacting students’ lives and advancing the community they serve. Check out these four inspiring CTE programs that are transforming education and the communities they serve:

1. Veterinary Science: Nurturing Compassion and Community

At Lucy Beckham High School in the Charleston County School District, the veterinary science program goes beyond the typical classroom experience by providing students with hands-on opportunities to care for rescue animals. Led by passionate animal science teacher Alex McCarrell, the program encourages compassion and patience in students. And in return, the animals help students by reducing stress and anxiety.

Vet Science classroom at Lucy Beckham High School.

Rescue animals from local shelters are taken in and cared for by the students. Once the animals are healthy, the students work to get the animals adopted. Since the program began in 2020, the class has found homes for over 50 dogs and cats.

Students in the introductory classes learn about animal anatomy and physiology, exploring the respiratory, cardiovascular, and digestive systems. For those who choose to continue their studies at the advanced levels, the classroom transforms into a fully equipped vet’s office, where they work on real animal case studies. In the fourth class, students undertake internships at local vet clinics, gaining practical experience and further honing their skills.

The design of the classroom at Lucy Beckham High School is purposefully catered to support the program’s objectives. With high ceilings, stainless steel tables, carrier kennels, and a bay door leading to a fenced outdoor space, the facility ensures that students have the resources they need to provide proper care to the animals.

2. Mechatronics and Industrial Engineering: A Partnership Between Education and Industry

Driven by the need for qualified employees in the county, the Anderson Institute of Technology (AIT) was established through the collaboration of Anderson County School Districts 3, 4, and 5. Funded by a 1% penny sales-tax, AIT offers a CTE-based curriculum, complemented by reciprocal coursework opportunities at the neighboring Tri-County Technical College campus.

Anderson Institute of Technology

The Anderson Institute of Technology, a partnership between education and industry.

A key factor contributing to AIT’s success lies in its strong partnerships with the business community. Companies like Michelin and Bosch actively engage in the program, providing invaluable support, expertise, and resources. This collaboration ensures that the curriculum aligns with industry demands, making students job-ready upon graduation. The partnerships also offer internships that allow students to gain hands-on experience, providing them with a head start in their chosen careers.

The school’s showroom serves as an impressive gathering space, featuring an open corridor leading to a coffee bar, perfect for formal and informal gatherings. The showroom also displays student submissions for robotics competitions and exhibitions by corporate and industry partners like Michelin, fostering a dynamic and inspiring learning environment.

Check out our discussion with Dr. Bob Couch, Director of the Anderson Institute of Technology, on our podcast, IdeaXchange: The Future of K-12 Education, as he discusses the program’s development.

3. Electrical Engineering: Empowering Future Electricians to Meet Future Demand

The Continuum‘s electrical program, offered by Florence-Darlington Technical College (FDTC), prepares students to become entry-level electricians with skills in residential and industrial electricity. Recognizing the growing demand for electricians driven by increased construction spending and the rise of alternative energy sources, this career development program equips students with the qualifications necessary to meet industry needs.

Workforce development, The Continuum

Electrical Engineering classroom at The Continuum at Florence-Darlington Technical College, Lake City Campus.

By providing skilled entry-level electricians to the service area, FDTC’s Continuum program contributes to the region’s economic growth and development. As the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 10 percent growth in employment of electricians from 2018 to 2028, the program plays a crucial role in meeting this rising demand.

To learn more about the Continuum’s partnerships and curriculum, check out Episode 12 of our three-part podcast series.

4. Advanced Manufacturing and Mechatronics Labs: Encouraging Diverse Minds

By combining advanced manufacturing and mechatronics, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Olympic High School is introducing students to engineering, coding, CAD design, and more. The CTE programs not only bring transformative benefits and opportunities to students but also for the broader community.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Olympic High School

Advanced Manufacturing and Mechatronics Lab at Olympic High School, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

By nurturing a diverse group of students, including young women and individuals from underrepresented backgrounds, the initiative addresses a disparity in STEM fields. As Melissa McAtee, a co-leader of the school’s robotics club, Team 4935 T-Rex, aptly puts it, “There is a drastic, drastic, drastic disparity with people of color, underrepresented groups in STEM… So we’re always looking for girls and people of color to get them in there to figure out advanced manufacturing, coding, CAD, design, engineering.” This program plays a role in bridging this gap but also preparing students for the evolving demands of the modern workforce.

Careful consideration was given to the design of the spaces. The manufacturing lab is strategically located on the first floor, with classrooms above to ensure an isolated structural system. This layout mitigates noise and vibrations generated by the equipment, creating an optimal environment for both learning and teaching. A state-of-the-art sound control ceiling system also controls the advanced manufacturing lab’s acoustics.

Through workforce development, industry partnerships, and curriculum alignment, CTE programs benefit not only students but also local communities and educational institutions. As these programs continue to thrive, they stand as shining examples of how CTE initiatives can build a brighter and prosperous future for all.

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Dr. Michael Chewning

Dr. Michael Chewning, AIA, ALEP, LEED AP, NCARB is a Principal and K-12 Director at McMillan Pazdan Smith. He is passionate about educational planning and attained the designation of Accredited Learning Environmental Planner (ALEP) from A4LE. His commitment to excellence in K-12 educational design culminated with the completion of his Doctorate of Education in professional leadership.


Michelle Smyth

Michelle Smyth, AIA, LEED AP is a Principal and K-12 Project Manager at McMillan Pazdan Smith. Since joining MPS, Michelle has been focused enthusiastically on projects in our K-12 practice area. She is a graduate of the Leadership Class of 2019 for the Greater Summerville / Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce and is a graduate of Leadership South Carolina Class of 2023.