900 Hours of Career Technical Education Instruction

Some people view high school career technical education as insignificant. They are uninformed. If we could reconstruct our high schools to provide quality career technical education, we could change our society to reduce the dropout rate, employ our youth, and substantially reduce crime and incarceration. A major piece that underlies high school career academies is the idea of a four-year sequence of career technical education courses in one program. A four-year sequence of career technical education adds up to 900 hours of instruction. Explained simply, this includes 180 hours of career technical education for each of the first three years of high school and 360 hours during the senior year of high school. These 900 hours provides the essential instructional time to develop employable skills. 900 hours is more hours than a college major. 900 hours is more than an apprenticeship program. 900 hours is more than police academies. 900 hours is far more than what one would consider to be substantial instruction in one subject matter. The time of 900 hours allows for complex instruction and time for an internship. Typically, senior career academy students leave high school at noon to go to career theme related internships.

The 900 hours of career theme specific instruction is complemented with additional, related coursework. There are additional courses in soft employment skill development. There are also courses in computer technology. There are courses in entrepreneurship. The point is a career academy is not like a regular high school. A career academy prioritizes a career theme that is intended to create an employable adult. This is completely different from regular high schools. Perhaps most significantly, in career academies, preparing students to go to work is honored as an equal mission to college preparation.

A regular high school schedules students around graduation requirements and then squeezes in elective courses such as art, music, and then, career technical education. The result of this scheduling process is that students receive only a smattering of an introduction to a career technical education program. The really significant consequence of this scheduling process is millions of unemployable adults. Today’s high school graduates not only lack employable skills, but they lack essential soft employment skills necessary to obtain and keep employment. Today’s high schools truly only value college preparation. They condescend to any program that is less than college preparation. This “college only” culture is a form of bullying of average and low achieving high school students. Today’s high schools only value college bound students and the rest are chaff.

The present high school situation is a disaster for America. It is a disaster for us economically to have millions of unemployable adults. Is also a disaster for the unemployable adults. Too frequently, they become involved in crime. Realistically, we must face the reality that they have been pushed into criminality by a system that prepared them for nothing more. Work provides the wherewithal that allows people to live in America. When our youth have the job skills enabling them to go to work, they don’t join gangs, commit crime, prostitute themselves and end up in prison.

The 900 hours of career technical education instruction required in career academies deserves respect. Disrespect is the problem and respect is the ultimate solution. Sequenced career technical education courses and their teachers deserve respect. Career technical education students and graduates deserve respect. Career academies have many fine traits, but the guts of it are the fine teachers who build self-esteem in kids of all abilities. Career academy teachers are miracle workers. Their miracles occur because the students respect the career theme and become engaged in the relevant curriculum. They see the potential in their future for long-term employment. This is the motivating factor for the students. This student motivation results in high attendance, high graduation rate, and high employment rate. This motivation literally transforms the whole high school experience. The 900 hours of career technical education deserves support and the sooner the country figures it out, the better off we all will be.

James C. Wilson, Ed.D.

Dr. Wilson is the author of Disposable Youth: Education or Incarceration? available on Amazon.com

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Dr. Wilson is the author of Disposable Youth: Eucation or Incarceration? on Amazon.com
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