It’s the day you and your parents have been waiting for your entire life, it is time to put on your cap and gown, walk across that stage and receive your college degree. You take several pictures to capture the moment and celebrate with family and close friends, ready to conquer the world and start your career.

Months go by and you are now working as a sales associate listening to the problems of angry customers as you patiently wait to hear back from employers. After submitting several applications, you find yourself in a rut and realize that your dream is not becoming your reality. Now you are stuck with thousands of dollars in student loans, no experience in your major and a piece of paper that doesn’t come with a salary raise.

Unfortunately, many Millennial college graduates are facing this harsh reality and nearly half are working dead-end jobs due to lack of experience [1]. Meanwhile, sixty percent of employers in the U.S. that are in need of skilled workers and jobs remain unfilled, but how do we fill these jobs [2]? How do we bridge the gap between going to college and enrolling in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs?

CTE offers hands-on opportunities that help prepare individuals for careers in a variety of industries like Aviation, Automotive Trades, Construction, Energy, Medical Support Careers, and Technology. What do all of these industries have in common? They are all in high-demand and jobs are opening faster than they can be filled.

The aviation industry alone is expecting to open over 600,000 pilot jobs and almost 700,000 jobs for aviation technician positions in the U.S. through the next 20 years, according to Boeing [3]. After the 2009 recession, the construction field is having a hard time bridging the skills gap in states across the nation.

The negative stigma that surrounds CTE is creating the assumption that it is setting up young people for failure to work blue-collar jobs that are going to disappear in the next decade, but universities receive all of the glory even though a lot of students are left in debt without decent employment.

The pessimistic stereotypes that revolve around hands-on programs like these are false and there are a lot of benefits to taking courses in CTE that provide certifications. With industries booming, adults have an opportunity to learn a skill and work in a field where they can gain experience all while furthering their education.

In some states across the country schools like Great Oaks in Ohio and Western Maricopa Education Center (West-MEC) in Arizona provide programs in high-demand industries within their state to high school students, so they are able to contribute the economy and work in an industry that they are passionate about. Both of these schools also provide opportunities to adults that are looking to expand their skills and are looking for a new career.

Former CTE student Kiandra Mitchell is a nursing major in college and knows first-hand how taking advantage of one of these programs can be beneficial to her future. In high school, she enrolled in a CNA program where she earned her certification and has been working in this field for three years.

“CTE helped me experience the medical field early in life. It was great to learn what I’m getting myself into before pursuing a career in nursing,” Mitchell states.

Currently, Kiandra works for several registries in Arizona as a CNA while taking classes to pursue her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. CTE gave her a jumpstart into her career and has been a stepping stone in achieving her goal of becoming a nurse.

A degree and a certification can work hand in hand because a certification can be one’s ticket into the door of a booming industry and a degree can help boost the chances for individuals to move up in their career.

We have all heard the saying “you can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience without a job.” Merging CTE with college degrees can help you get experience and get the job at a livable wage pursuing the career of your dreams. If you want to have your cake and eat it too, then sign-up for a CTE program, work for a company that will assist in paying for your degree and find a career that makes you happy.


[1] Market Watch.

[2] The Hill.

[3] AIN Online.