The key element for career technical education (CTE) is specialization, and this specialization tends to be unique to every CTE program. Some programs have demanding external standards that must be met, some have very high unit loads, most are expensive to operate, and some lead to transfer as well as associate degrees beyond certificates of achievement. All CTE courses or programs with prerequisites must have the prerequisites reviewed every two years. For curriculum chairs and committees unaware of the nuances of CTE programs, a short list of some factors to consider follows. More information should be obtained directly from the faculty leading the programs locally.
Some or all CTE programs:
- Do not have base or initial courses that always fill, thus CTE programs are often required to design programs around offering many of their courses occasionally. A program may need an entry beginning academy that covers all basics so that from this point on any student can take any following course.
- Are “content full” yet they must also accommodate underprepared students. Some CTE faculty design curriculum around trying to meet some of these needs “in-house,” such as with contextualized learning.
- Have a hard time interfacing with other academic elements like general education (GE) courses for a variety of reasons. A well thought out GE package tailored to a program, would require GE courses that satisfy the standard GE requirements or modified GE requirements for those students who go on to earn a degree in that major.
- Offer terminal certificates/degrees and prepare transfer students. Often the curriculum is the same for both, other times it may be fairly complex, particularly if there are outside agencies heavily influencing course content, such as in nursing and public safety. Also note that about ¼ of all community college transfer programs are also CTE.
- Tend to be lab intensive. It is common to see mixed courses such as a 3 unit course with 2 hours of lecture and 3 hours of lab in one course. Also it is common for lecture/labs combinations to be paired with both corequisites and prerequisites.
- Have critical safety issues which may lead to limitations on enrollment, class size limitations, facilities limitations, etc.
- Must be regionally approved by the Regional Consortia. These programs also must meet local or regional needs that should be demonstrated by labor market data. Any changes or modifications to programs also need Regional Consortia approval.
- Are frequently considered for discontinuation. Savvy curriculum committees can help faculty design curriculum that is robust, will withstand the test of time, and will allow for adaptation and sustainability.
- Write many grants. This can lead to specialized curriculum.
- Have mandatory advisory groups that influence curriculum.
The cooperative work experience (CWEE) modality of instruction is typically an aspect of CTE, and some colleges have great CWEE programs that provide elective instruction to all students. These are approved courses with Course Outlines of Record (CORs) that must meet the same rigor as any other course.