More than 325,000 credentials were earned by career and technical education (CTE) high school students in the 2022-23 academic year, the highest attainment rate in the 13 years that North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction, and the Office of Career and Technical Education (NC CTE), has collected data.
This news comes from the 2022-23 Credential Attainment Data Report, which will be presented to the State Board of Education at its Wednesday meeting.
CTE students achieved a 41% credential attainment rate for the 2022-23 school year, an impressive jump from 28% in 2021-22. Additionally, there was a 44% increase in attainment of credentials that align with the North Carolina Workforce Credentials (NCWF) partners list.
State Superintendent Catherine Truitt said these credentials are exceptionally valuable because they indicate a student’s mastery of in-demand skills that do not require a degree to gain employment.
“Aligning the K-12 education system with workforce needs has long been a priority for me. This report is fantastic news for the state of North Carolina because it shows the hard work that CTE educators across the state are doing to bridge the skills gap,” she said. “The process of earning industry-recognized credentials gives students an advantage in a competitive labor market and real-world experience. For potential employers, a credential is a sign that a student has both the knowledge and durable skills they need to succeed in the workplace.”
The NCWF list is a verified, curated list of credentials created in partnership with employers and workforce development organizations and is based on real-time job needs. More than half of the top 10 NCWF credentials earned in 2022-23 are related to computer software. While the types of software range from Autodesk for architecture and construction to Adobe for graphic design and photo editing, this trend underscores the importance of computer science in preparing students for jobs in a variety of industries.
According to the N.C. Department of Commerce and its long-term employment projections, computer and mathematical occupations are projected to grow the fastest among all jobs by 2030.
The impact of career and technical education goes beyond the courses themselves. CTE concentrators – students who successfully complete a second- or third-level course that builds upon skills acquired in a prerequisite course – are more likely to graduate on time than their peers. Statewide, the graduation rate for CTE concentrators is 98%, more than 11 points higher than the statewide rate of 86.5%.
Truitt shared a preview of the report at a Union County Public Schools (UCPS) CTE event on Tuesday. UCPS has been in the top three NC districts for number of credentials earned for the last three years. The district has developed several partnerships with local employers and has 97 students placed in internships this semester.
Their Speakers Bureau program, a partnership with the Union County Chamber of Commerce, brings business leaders to middle schools throughout the year to share information about careers, talk about the importance of durable skills and lead students in activities related to their field.
Trey Michael, NCDPI’s Senior Director of Career and Technical Education, said Union County Public Schools is just one example of how his team is working with CTE educators across the state to double down on credential attainment efforts.
“We conduct data dives with districts to help them identify where priority credentials are being left on the table. Then, we provide professional development to directors and teachers to improve their credential attainment in those areas,” he said. “Because of this, more students than ever before are graduating from North Carolina public schools ready to take on in-demand jobs that contribute to a strong and healthy economy in our state.”
NC CTE has strategically aligned credential opportunities with what employers are seeking. The office provides easy-to-use resources for districts, including a Credential Directory that provides all the information CTE directors need to implement each program.