Communicating CTE: Utah’s Tools to Sell CTE and Build Local Champions

January 12th, 2021

As the nation heads into a year of difficult fiscal environments and budgetary shortfalls across all levels of government, it is more important than ever that Career Technical Education (CTE) stakeholders are equipped with effective tools to sell CTE to key stakeholders. 

Empowering leaders to tell and understand the benefits of CTE has been Utah State CTE Director Thalea Longhurst’s mission since entering her leadership role in 2014. “In so many instances, I find that it is not that our policymakers don’t want to invest in CTE, it is that they don’t have all the pieces to connect the dots of how the system works, what the jargon means, and what the outcomes are. That has serious consequences for policy, and we wanted to fix that”, said Longhurst. 

One of the first initiatives Longhurst pursued was advocacy training programs for local CTE educators and advocates. The state conducted workshops lead by advocacy experts to help CTE supporters explain and market CTE programs and outcomes to policymakers and administrators. 

Another goal of the Utah CTE Department was to create a ‘one stop shop’ for data-based outcomes about CTE program enrollment, completion, work-based learning and attainment. As a result, each year the state office creates an At-A-Glance fact sheet with colorful graphics and statistics to help advocates and policymakers understand the benefits of CTE in Utah. Two things that make Utah’s fact sheets unique is that individual fact sheets are created for the state and regional level as well as each locality, and the inclusion of definitions for common CTE terms such as concentrator, certification and work-based learning that those outside of the CTE field may not be familiar with to ensure stakeholders can connect the outcomes to the education system as a whole. 

Now on its fourth version, the fact sheets are used by the Governor’s Office, legislators, and employers, and many advocates have come to rely on this resource. “I just had an administrator call me last week asking when the new local fact sheets would be available because they wanted to use them in a school board presentation saying ‘We really need them’, shares Longhurst. “Our resource has a little bit for everyone that is involved in CTE, and it is gratifying to see that data and transparency is valued.” She hopes that as the state’s CTE data system capabilities expand that a dashboard and additional data points will be available to identify more successes and areas for growth. 

Finally, the team identified that CTE recruitment is a priority for educators, but one they often do not have time to plan for. As part of Utah’s participation in Advance CTE’s grant, Strategies for Attracting Students to High-Quality CTE, a Recruitment Guide was created with basic steps to develop a marketing plan, tips for industry engagement and social media campaigns, and ready-made recruitment events that can easily be adapted to meet local audiences. 










As CTE advocates and educators face more challenges than ever to execute high-quality and equitable CTE programs, we hope these tools are helpful templates to building knowledgeable CTE policymakers and champions in your state. 

Communicating CTE is a new series where Advance CTE is exploring how states are leading the way in communicating about the value and benefit of CTE to key stakeholders. Read the first posting in the series here

Stacy Whitehouse, Senior Associate Communications and State Engagement 

Communicating CTE: The Get There Florida Initiative

November 24th, 2020

This post is the first in a series that will highlight innovative efforts by states to communicate the benefits of Career Technical Education (CTE) to key stakeholders including learners, families, policymakers and employers. Today’s post will dive into the Get There Florida campaign that launched in September 2020. 

Changing the CTE Narrative 

The Get There Florida initiative strives to increase enrollment in Florida’s 48 technical schools and 28 state colleges, specifically in high-value, short-term CTE programs that lead to a meaningful credential. The initiative is a statewide marketing campaign through earned, paid, and organic digital media led by the Florida Department of Education focused on changing the narrative on how students view state and technical colleges, and illustrating the quality and value of Florida’s short-term CTE programs for sustainable career pathways. The campaign is funded in part by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER) grants through the CARES Act, aiming to assist postsecondary institutions in helping students enroll in and complete high-value, short-term CTE programs. 

Statewide and Personalized Approach 

Get There takes a two-pronged approach to enhance the CTE brand statewide while also providing students easy access to information at the institution level. The two main elements of the campaign are a customizable communications toolkit and a targeted digital campaign. 

Prior to the campaign launch, the Florida Department of Education established a working group of marketing and communications professionals from 12 technical and state colleges throughout the state to ensure messages and tools met the needs of their target audiences. 

The Get There communications toolkit provides a variety of materials produced by the Florida Department of Education that are ready-made for postsecondary institutions, but also provides files that allow institutions to customize the materials to meet their unique needs. The toolkit was made with small schools in mind that may not have the staff or resources to develop a large-scale marketing campaign. The full toolkit includes social media graphics, 15 and 30 second video clips, fliers and one pagers, press release and presentation templates, and logo files personalized for each school. 

On a statewide level, the Department is executing a hyper-targeted digital campaign targeted to prospective learners in areas close to a technical or state college. The Get There website serves as a central hub for users to explore Florida’s 17 Career ClustersⓇ, read student testimonials, and locate a convenient school on an interactive statewide map. 

A System-Wide Partnership 

One of the priorities of the Get There campaign is to connect with a population where the need for reskilling and upskilling is highest – displaced workers. Department staff developed a strong partnership with CareerSource Florida, the state’s workforce development agency that launched a Help is Here campaign in the spring focused on connecting displaced workers to career counseling and workforce training programs. The partnership has allowed the two campaigns to complement each other and provide much-needed support for students to overcome traditional barriers to accessing and completing postsecondary education. 

Henry Mack, Chancellor, Division of Career, Technical and Adult Education at the Florida Department of Education, believes Get There breaks new ground as a system-wide media campaign to advance shared goals. “Perhaps the most novel thing about the Get There Florida campaign is that it has never been done before, namely, there has never been a time where the state of Florida attempted a system-wide, integrated digital media outreach and recruitment campaign, said Mack. “Additionally, the development of a statewide resource toolkit, designed to provide materials to ALL colleges, has really transformed the way the state looks at marketing CTE, because for the first time we have a consistent brand and message that everyone has access to.” 

An Eye Towards Equity and Transformative Change 

While increasing enrollment at community and technical colleges is the primary goal, Get There is also the first step of a larger movement to raise awareness and build more connective pathways among K-12 programs, credentialing, apprenticeships and postsecondary institutions. 

Subsequent campaign phases launching this winter will focus on reaching more targeted audiences through toolkits with messages and materials that meet the unique needs of traditionally underserved populations, particularly individuals with disabilities and veterans. These toolkits were developed through partnerships with Florida’s Division of Blind Services, Agency for Persons with Disabilities, employU, Veterans Florida, and others. 

For more information, visit . If your state is interested in being featured in a future post, please contact Senior Associate for Communications and State Engagement Stacy Whitehouse.

Stacy Whitehouse, Senior Associate for Communications and State Engagement