The State’s Role in Communicating About CTE

On Thursday, September 20, 2018, Advance CTE hosted a webinar to highlight the important role the state plays in communicating about Career Technical Education (CTE) and programs of study available for learners. This webinar is part of the four-part Communicating about CTE Webinar Series.

As CTE continues to gain popularity in the media and even the election campaign trail. However, there is a still a challenge to both communicate what CTE is and the benefits of CTE programs of study. In a survey of State CTE Directors and leaders, 74 percent reported the greatest challenge in promoting CTE is navigating the public’s perception. To offer a solution we spearheaded a research initiative.

Advance CTE, with support from the Siemens Foundation, commissioned focus groups and a national survey to explore the attitudes of parents and students currently involved in CTE, as well as prospective CTE parents and students. The survey revealed that school counselors, instructors and alumni of prospective parents and students are the best messengers to share the CTE story. It also revealed that only 47 percent of prospective parents and learners have heard of CTE, indicating that there is much work to be done to educate stakeholders about CTE.

In this webinar, Dwight Johnson, CTE State Administrator, Idaho Division of Career and Technical Education and Caty Solace, Outreach and Communications Manager, Idaho Workforce Development Council, shared the communications tactics they used to improve the image of CTE.

They provided some key takeaways including:

  • Defining the objective: They developed three messages, at least one of which would resonate with all of their intended audiences.
  • Determine target audiences and focus areas:
    • Audience: Idaho Career and Technical Education employees, learners, families, teachers, administrators, counselors and the general public.
    • Focus areas: create communications tools, find ambassadors with influence within the state, utilize media and create a cohesive brand.
  • Rebranding creates an opportunity to reinvent yourself: They their name from the Idaho Division of Professional-Technical Education to Idaho Career & Technical Education and updated the logo, developed a new mission that focused on preparing learners for high-skill, high-wage, in-demand careers and created value statements to share the value of CTE;
  • Include storytelling elements: Idaho Career and Technical Education uses storytelling as a major component of their communications strategy. They have developed videos highlighting learner success throughout the state, developed a partnership with Idaho Public Television to showcase the videos to the general public and conducted photoshoots to show learners in school and workplace environments;
  • Outreach is key in communications work that includes a limited budget: Find ways to share your message in collaboration with others. Solace learned that stakeholder such as school counselors and administrators are hungry for relevant information and materials they can hand out to families and learners. Statewide tours, partnerships with employers and the community are key ways to get the message out.

Idaho Career and Technical Education’s increased focus on communications has  resulted in a 23 percent increase in state CTE general fund budget after decades of being stagnant.

Overall, the advice shared was to be sure that communications is not an afterthought. Create goals, make a plan, establish branding, share real stories and get out into the field to spread the word. Hear the full webinar here. Join us for our next webinar in this series, discussing Engaging the Media, on October 10, 2018 at noon EST. Register here.

Nicole Howard, Communications Associate 


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