Leveraging Career and Technical Education to Prepare Students for College and Career Success

Across the country, state and local leaders, postsecondary institutions, and employers are investing in career and technical education (CTE) as a critical strategy for preparing youth and adults for future education and employment opportunities. Through a purposeful combination of academic content learning and real-world experiences, CTE can develop crucial academic, technical, and employability skills for high-wage and high-demand careers.

AIR is committed to ensuring that CTE programs are informed by the most current research and evidence-based technical assistance strategies. As a national leader in CTE research, evaluation, and technical assistance, AIR is working at all levels of education to strengthen CTE policy, programs, and student outcomes.

Highlights of AIR's Work

Career and Technical Education Research Network (CTE Network) 

AIR leads the CTE Research Network, a federally funded network designed to increase the evidence base on CTE, with a particular focus on causal research. The network includes six impact studies that will provide new data on the effectiveness of CTE. The Network engages stakeholders to share information, build new knowledge, and assist in strengthening CTE policies and programs to improve student outcomes.

National Evaluation of CTE under Perkins V (NECTEP)

This Congressionally-mandated evaluation is examining the implementation of the 2018 Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, known as Perkins V, which introduced some important changes in federal support for the design, administration, and measurement of CTE. Key tasks for the project include developing and fielding surveys of state and local CTE administrators, publishing an evidence review focused on career development and counseling, and analyzing extant data to describe CTE participation and student outcomes.

Improving Equity in CTE

AIR is collaborating with the Ohio Department of Education to develop professional development trainings that support participants in embedding equity practices throughout the CTE system. Key activities include designing and delivering six professional development sessions for ODE staff, two sessions for district equity ambassadors, and creating equity-focused online materials and data stories.

Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) Education and Workforce Alignment

AIR is working with the KCTCS to develop a web-based mapping application that braids education and workforce trends with other germane social factors. The application provides a data-driven focus for cross-agency collaboration and alignment throughout Kentucky’s education to workforce continuum. In addition to building the map, project activities include developing communications to share key insights and professional development to support state and local leaders in using the map.

Career and Technical Education Policy Exchange (CTEx)

AIR participates in CTEx, which provides policymakers with direct and actionable evidence to inform the future of CTE in U.S. high schools. CTEx pairs academic researchers with state education decision makers to understand the impact of CTE enrollment, quality, and delivery on both individual students and the broader economy. In its first three years, CTEx impacted program development and informed policy implementation in three states.

CTE Teachers and Long-Term Outcomes for Students with Disabilities

Recent research suggests that some teacher characteristics are differentially associated with improved outcomes for students with disabilities. This project, funded by the National Center for Special Education Research at the U.S. Department of Education, explores the relationships between career and technical education teacher certification, pathways, and preservice experiences and long-term outcomes for students with disabilities.

An Experimental Evaluation of the Efficacy of Virtual Enterprises

Incorporating work-based learning into the curriculum as part of a career and technical education program may improve students’ readiness for college and careers. As part of the CTE Research Network, this study will provide the first causal evidence on the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of Virtual Enterprises, a year-long course in which students run a virtual firm. 

Additional Resources

AIR Services in Career and Technical Education

AIR offers expertise in CTE research, evaluation, and technical assistance. Through our partnerships we support federal, state, postsecondary, and workforce leaders in designing, implementing, and continuously improving CTE programs.

  • We conduct national research and evaluations on CTE programs and outcomes.
  • We collaborate with states, districts, and educators to use evidence-based technical assistance strategies that promote effective CTE programs.
  • We support state and local teams in designing and implementing quality work-based learning programs.
  • We employ innovative methods and tools to support the alignment of CTE programs with labor market needs.
  • We support state and local leaders in exploring how state and local CTE policies and programs promote equitable access to, engagement in, and completion of CTE pathways in high-wage and high-demand careers.
Image of Ellen Cushing
Principal TA Consultant