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Career and Technical Student Organizations: Extending Employment Preparation Beyond the Classroom

Middle and high school kids have opportunities for guidance, mentoring, and peer interaction.

By Rebecca B. Evers, Ed.D.

The ten Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) described below are funded through federal legislation by the U. S. Department of Education. These organizations, which are designed to enhance career and technical education programs at public middle and high schools, provide career and leadership development through peer interactions, adult mentoring, and contests and competitions based on knowledge and skills learned in the classroom.

The first article in this two-part series, "Career and Technical Education: Diverse Options for Your Teen," provides an overview of career and technical education programs offered nationally through public schools and adult education programs.

A School-Based Option

A school-based program instructor coordinates curriculum-oriented CTSO activities that:

  • extend classroom learning
  • build student confidence for using their knowledge and skills
  • provide social and travel opportunities for members

Generally, participation in a student organization is voluntary and your teen can elect to participate. However, in some instances, teachers may require participation in the student organization as part of classroom activities.

Benefits to Your Teen

When you're helping your teenager with learning disabilities plan for transition to post-high school education and/or employment, encourage her to participate in a CTSO. These student organizations can supplement career and technical skills she learns in the classroom. CTSOs also offer opportunities for your child to interact with peers and teachers in a less formal and more social atmosphere, and promote career exploration by allowing her to visit and shadow in local businesses and industries. These activities allow your teen to make more realistic and informed decisions about her career.1 Further, after-school meetings allow teachers additional time and opportunities to teach, counsel, guide, and mentor your child.

Support and encouragement from the instructor and peers are the key components in building important employment skills such as self-confidence, decision making, and problem solving. In addition, these clubs offer low-risk environments for:

  • attempting new challenges
  • learning generic job-related skills
  • meeting and working with peers who have similar interests
  • using social skills that are important in the workplace
  • networking and making connections with local business people
  • having opportunities to travel

National Events

At their annual national conferences, CTSOs offer students many opportunities to meet peers from around the country, talk with adults who work in their chosen career area, and enter competitions to hone and demonstrate their career-related skills. Perhaps most important, these clubs and their conference activities can bolster your teenager's career-related goals, motivation, and confidence.

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