Increasing Demographic Diversity in CTE Leadership

Career Technical Education (CTE) prepares students for rewarding careers and strengthening our workforce. Through the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins V*) CTE programs around the country continue to work towards building equitable access for every learner. 

However, it is essential to acknowledge that the representation of Black leadership in CTE programs has been disproportionately low – just 13% of CTE leaders identify as non-white. Without Limits: A Shared Vision for the Future of Career Technical Education (CTE Without Limits) states that learners should feel welcome and supported in their career preparation ecosystem. Part of creating this environment is ensuring that learners can see themselves represented in their CTE leaders. 

How can we increase the demographic diversity, specifically of Black leadership, in CTE? This deep-level work will require states to confront and dismantle biases and systemic barriers that currently hinder career advancement for Black professionals. State lawmakers must be encouraged to allocate resources for research and initiatives focused on increasing Black leadership. Collectively, lawmakers and educational leaders will need to publicly support the implementation of policies that address racial disparities in education and foster an environment where Black professionals can thrive. Hiring practices should be assessed and revised in order to attract a diverse pool of qualified candidates with intentionality while ensuring the selection process is transparent and unbiased.

Mentorship and sponsorship programs can have a significant, positive impact on the career trajectories of educators and professionals in CTE, especially aspiring Black leaders. The creation of formal mentorship programs that pair aspiring leaders with experienced mentors who can offer guidance, support and networking opportunities can help overcome some systemic barriers that hinder career advancement for historically marginalized populations. Black professionals need senior leaders in CTE to become their sponsors and to actively advocate for their career advancement. Fellowships, such as The Postsecondary State Career Technical Education Leaders Fellowship at Advance CTE – Sponsored by ECMC Foundation, serve as additional pathways to train and elevate aspiring leaders.

State Directors in CTE, hold the power to affect meaningful change and create an inclusive and diverse landscape for all learners and professionals. By addressing biases, implementing mentorship programs, providing professional development opportunities and advocating for policy changes, states can uplift and empower Black leadership in CTE. Together, we can foster an environment that recognizes and values the talents and contributions of all individuals, regardless of their race or background. Commitment to this endeavor benefits all learners, communities, and the future workforce.

For more information on creating a leadership pipeline that reflects the diverse demographics of learners, see the Advancing Equity in CTE blog series:

Blog 1: Advancing Equity in CTE: Making the Case for Diverse Leadership Pipelines in Career Technical Education

Blog 2: Advancing Equity in CTE: A Review on the Current State of CTE Leadership Programs

Blog 3: Advancing Equity in CTE: The Equity-Minded Leadership Framework

Blog 4: Advancing Equity in CTE: Administrative Policy Review an Equitable Practices Assessment [COMING SOON]

*As amended by the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act

Brice Thomas, Former Policy Associate

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