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Community College: Career Technical Education

Shulock, N., Moore, C., & Offenstein, J. (2011, February). The road less traveled: Realizing the potential of career technical education in the California community colleges. Sacramento, CA: Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy. Available at

The authors examined student enrollment and progress data in four high-wage, high-need career technical education (CTE) programs in California community colleges. A key finding was that students’ earned credits do not translate into completed credentials, suggesting both that students lack clarity around program requirements and that CTE pathways are weakly structured.  Additionally, the authors argue that a lack of data on student enrollment by program and on employment outcomes limits monitoring of progress toward the CTE mission of the community colleges. The report recommends helping students earn recognizable technical credentials by requiring them to declare a program of study, offering programs that are more consistent across the colleges yet still responsive to regional demand, and  reexamining  the associate’s degree to ensure that the degree prepares students for employment as well as for transfer to a four-year university.

Moore, C., Jez, S. J., Chisholm, E., & Shulock, N. (2012, February). Career opportunities: Career technical education and the college completion agenda. Part II: Inventory and analysis of CTE programs in the California community colleges. Sacramento, CA: Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy. Available at

The second in a four-part series about supporting the operation of CTE programs in California community colleges, this report examines the full set of career-oriented credentials offered by California community colleges. The authors find little alignment between available programs and the needs of the current economy. Furthermore, inconsistency across programs leads to confusion for students and employers about the meaning of a credential. The authors suggest that California community colleges could enhance their value by orienting program offerings more purposefully to distinct regional needs, to programs of proven value, and to those colleges that have demonstrated capacity to effectively deliver programs.

Jobs for the Future. (2011, November). Counseling to careers: Helping students select best bets. Boston, MA: Author. Available at 20Careers.pdf

Jobs for the Future. (n.d.). Sterile Processing Technician. Boston, MA: Author. Available at

Jobs for the Future has developed a service—Counseling to Careers—aimed at helping community colleges connect their students with programs of study that are aligned with local labor market demand. The first document here provides a brief overview of this work. The second document is an example of a career profile, created by Counseling to Careers, for use by counselors and students. The sample profile provides an overview of the tasks, benefits, and requirements for a job as a sterile processing technician, and outlines the educational pathway and career ladder associated with the job.

**This document is considered a priority reading.