Engaging Families and Learners

A father and daugther looking at a map on a kitchen table.

Engaging Families and Learners

Advance CTE, with support from the Siemens Foundation, supports states and communities across the country in their efforts to attract and recruit learners into high-quality Career Technical Education programs of study.

Advance CTE, with support from the  Siemens Foundation, embarked on an initiative to help state and local leaders communicate effectively with learners and their families. Enrollment in Career Technical Education (CTE) programs has remained stagnant over the last decade despite its importance to our nation's economy and workforce, in part because of outdated perceptions and lack of understanding of CTE programs. Developing effective, equitable recruitment practices that fully empower and inform learners about the value and benefits of CTE is critical to increasing recruitment into CTE programs. Since 2017, Advance CTE has conducted two rounds of national research to find out the messages and themes that most resonate with learners and their families, and piloted the communications research with 11 states with a new state cohort to begin in summer 2021. Find the research, tools and resources and state work below.

Research: Advance CTE commissioned a national survey to test messages for attracting students and families to CTE to determine what matters most to families in their education, and measure message resilience in the midst of significant learning and economic upheaval. The new research was conducted with an equity lens through an oversampling of Black, Latinx and families experiencing low income to more accurately measure message emphasis and impact by race, ethnicity and income level. 

Advance CTE’s research is one of the only national surveys that tests specific education-focused messages for families, and aims to build off of previous research focusing on the aspects and goals families find most important in their education. 

In Communicating Career Technical Education: Learner-centered Messages for Effective Program Recruitment,  Advance CTE found that many of the 2017 findings remained relevant and new nuances emerged, including :

  • Participation in CTE increases satisfaction for families across all aspects of their education, but equity gaps exist in the levels of satisfaction reached in some aspects of CTE by historically marginalized groups.  

  • Families both participating in and considering CTE highly value an education experience that allows learners to explore careers and gain real-world skills, but the amount of emphasis families place on these aspects depends on the level of exposure to CTE. 

  • The vast majority of parents and learners (78 of prospective families and 85 percent of current families ) continue to value college as the post-high school aspiration, but are more open to paths other than a four-year degree.

  • Across the board, CTE programs are most valued and attractive for their ability to provide real-world skills within the education system, offering concrete and tangible benefits that lead to college and career success. 

  • Equally important to families is the ability for CTE experiences to help learners find their career passion. 

  • While teachers, school counselors and CTE learners and alumni continue to be the sources most utilized by parents/guardians and learners for information about CTE, online sources also emerged as an important access point.

Read the full report.

This work builds on Advance CTE’s previous messaging research released in 2017.

Case Studies: Advance CTE has developed a number of resources to help you communicate about the value of CTE. Supported by the Siemens Foundation, Advance CTE worked with states to pilot innovative and effective models to communicate about CTE with key stakeholders, students and their families, to guarantee career success for each learner. Learn about model strategies and approaches in three new case studies:

It is important that state and local leaders begin to use this research to better promote CTE programs, and offer recruitment activities that encourage learners and parents to consider CTE as an option for education. The tools below can help guide this work.  

UPDATED Communicating Career Technical Education PowerPoint and Talking Points (Word, PDF): A set of slides, with talking points, that can be used to explain the research and train others around it.

UPDATED Making a Winning Case for CTE: How State Leaders Can Put This Research to Work: A tool for state leaders on how to begin to build their internal and external communications and recruitment strategy. 

UPDATED Increasing Learner Enrollment in CTE Programs: Parent/Guardian Engagement Tool: A tool to help state and local leaders leverage ambassadors and develop an effective strategy to engage parents and guardians.

Core Messages for Attracting Learners to CTE: A description of the message triangle - or core motivators - that should be at the center of any communications effort with secondary messages for populations historically marginalized from participation in CTE. 

Do's and Don'ts for Engaging Learners and Families around CTE: A simple, easy-to-follow resource on how to put the research into action. 

The Value and Promise of Career Technical Education Fact Sheet: A brief overview of top-line findings to be used as an advocacy tool.

CTE Advocacy 101: An overview of how to advocate for CTE issues.

NEW Fast Facts Digital Graphics: Ready-made graphics sharing data points and topline messages on the satisfaction of families participating in CTE programs. These graphics are for use by states on webpages and in presentations.

UPDATED Career Technical Education Delivers for Families messaging card with fast facts. 

UPDATED Promoting Career Technical Education Social Media Guide: Advance CTE’s updated social media guide breaks down commonly used platforms, provides tips to make the most of your social media campaign, and shares promising practices on how to integrate the research into a larger communications campaign.

Templates to use with students and families (released in 2017):

Tips for using the templates:

  • You must have Adobe Indesign (.INDD) to edit these templates
  • Substitute photos from your school or program. You can also find free stock photos here(Advance CTE does not endorse this website.)
  • Collect testimonials from students, families, employers, administrators, educators or more to include 
  • Use the Learning that Works logo from your state. Download the logo here
CTE Posters and Postcards: These materials, created by the New Jersey Department of Education, explain the benefits for learners participating in CTE programs while integrating the messages we know resonate with parents and learners.
Focus Group Discussion Guide (Word, PDF): Learn firsthand what families and learners think about CTE by conducting focus group discussions. This simple, easy-to-follow resource provides you with questions for the moderator, icebreaker activities, and a pre-event homework assignment for attendees. By assessing your community you can determine the best ways to communicate about CTE.
These videos were produced as part of grant-supported work conducted with states to implement the findings of the 2017 research.
CTE 101 Video: This video provides a basic overview of CTE targeted to students and their families. 
Using Video to Promote CTE in Your State (Scroll to the bottom of the page): The Washington Workforce Training & Education Coordinating Board developed a series of videos highlighting CTE across the state and a video toolkit to help local schools, instructors, and learners develop their own videos promoting CTE in their communities. The guide provides technical tips for setting up shots, capturing sound, and conducting interviews. The toolkit also links to the sample videos so learners can learn, step by step.
Turning Dreams into Careers video series by the Utah State Board of Education x
Colorado Community College System (CCCS) developed a series of videos targeted towards learners, families, school counselors and the general public.