Abigail Burrola writes for the Martin Center about two different approaches to career training.

When students graduate high school, they know about the benefits of a college degree but not career training. Students who get some career and technical education (CTE) in high school can develop job skills and prepare for their future career without a college degree.

How states design their CTE programs, however, determines how useful this education is to students.

Kentucky, for example, embraces local business involvement in CTE much more than Missouri. Getting local industries and businesses involved matters because the partnerships help school officials identify in-demand skills and prepare students for a well-paid job.

In the long term, Kentucky could offer a better economic future for its young people than Missouri thanks to more engagement with local industries.

Kentucky’s TRACK (Tech Ready Apprentices for Careers in Kentucky) program connects high school students with businesses, letting them gain paid work experience in local industries such as business, marketing, manufacturing, construction, and welding. TRACK prepares students for non-college alternatives such as apprenticeship programs and helps them fulfill registered apprenticeship requirements along the way. Students still get an education and develop their skills, but they aren’t all shoehorned into a traditional college route.