The COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably changed every aspect of life. Specifically in the world of work, how, where, when, and even who we work for looks quite different than it did pre-pandemic – opening opportunities for alternative career pathways.

Shifts in Education & Training

Along with these shifts in the workforce, education and training has also changed. Children and youth have experienced online learning, a medium of learning that was typically offered to adults at the post-secondary or graduate level. As post-secondary enrollment levels decline, exploring different pathways of how youth are being prepared to enter the workforce is necessary to ensure individual success and a thriving workforce.

In any career, education and training are required, however the way in which it has been taught has changed over the decades and will continue as new jobs are created. When the Smith-Hughes National Vocational Education Act was signed in 1917, it established the federal government’s investment in career and technical education.

To continually reflect the needs of the workforce and its demands, the Act was changed to Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act in 2006, retiring the word vocational training and focusing on Career and Technical Education (CTE). The emphasis of receiving hands-on-training that was associated with vocational training serves as one of the principles of CTE. With CTE, apprenticeships, and programs such as JobsCorps and YouthBuild that provide on-the-job training and industry credentials, many youth, including 75% of Generation Z, understand that college is not the only path to a gratifying career.

CTE offers youth and adults the chance to learn both academic and technical skills for a specific career. In Ohio, CTE is made available to all students registered in public schools. According to the Association for Career and Technical Education, the 2018 high school graduation rate for students enrolled in career and technical education was 94%, compared to a national average of 85%. 

Illustrated by the graphic below, CTE provides In-school-youth (ISY) with the opportunity to explore and focus on specialized skills to prepare for further education at a post-secondary institution or through an apprenticeship.

Career & Technical Education Program Options

Post-secondary CTE programs offer youth and adults the opportunity (if desired) for higher education without a traditional bachelor’s degree. According to STEM Jobs, the following jobs do not require a bachelor’s degree. Moreover, the jobs listed below can also be found within the career clusters of CTE and the skill set for several is connected to ‘in-demand’ jobs. 

  • Electrical Technician 
  • Dental Hygienist 
  • Graphic Designer 
  • Registered Nurse 
  • Air Traffic Controller 
  • Radiologic Technologist 
  • Computer Support Specialist 
  • Nuclear Technician

Butler Tech is one of Ohio’s largest career technical schools serving 18,000 students daily with high school and adult education courses. Great Oaks, another career and technical school, has four campuses throughout Ohio focused on providing career exploration to all of its students.

For employers, CTE creates discovery and opportunity for ‘in-demand’ jobs and can assist in filling the skills gap as well as unfilled jobs. For organizations and employers who can, removing the required bachelor’s degree from job postings can yield a more diverse list of applicants. By partnering with high school and post-secondary institutions, employers can create direct talent pipelines from education or training to employment. Here are CTE resources for those in Indiana and Kentucky: 

Apprenticeships have a proven track record of providing education and training to meet the needs of the workforce. Recently, the Department of Labor (DOL) invested over $80 million to continue the expansion and development of apprenticeships, including the industries of advanced manufacturing, health care, and IT to reflect workforce needs. Apprenticeships, when under the DOL as a Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP), ensure the following characteristics are met: 

  • Paid job – from the start, apprentices are paid by an employer 
  • Work-based learning – structured on-the-job learning 
  • Mentorship – apprentices are trained by a skilled mentor 
  • Classroom learning – foundational knowledge and curriculum specific to industry 
  • Credentials – apprentices earn a transferrable, nationally-recognized credential within the industry

Pre-apprenticeship programs are designed to prepare individuals to enter into an RAP, however it is not mandatory that an apprentice completes a pre-apprenticeship. Apprenticeships, as well as pre-apprenticeships can serve ISYs and Out-of-school youth (OSY), however some programs require that youth be in school. Youth who pursue an apprenticeship open a world of discovery and opportunity without accumulating college debt. Upon graduation, apprentices are certified and able to enter the workforce with sought after industry-specific skill.

Check out the following apprenticeship programs in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana: 

Federally Funded Technical Training Programs

Job Corps and YouthBuild are federally funded programs that offer career technical training to youth. Job Corps is a free residential program that has been in existence for more than 50 years. The program is dedicated to serving youth ages 16 to 24 years old to either complete their high school education or train for a career. Job Corps also provides support services such as employment, housing, childcare, and transportation. Participants typically live on campus and are provided a bi-weekly living allowance that increases as their training advances. Unique to Job Corps, students learn at their own pace with most participants dedicating 18 months to the program. Upon graduating, many students continue on to a post-secondary institution, begin a new career, or join the miliary. 

YouthBuild similarly serves 16 to 24 year-olds, however focusing on OSYs. Through the pre-apprenticeship model, communities provide education and training for youth interested in construction, health care, information technology, and hospitality. YouthBuild places emphasis on the pursuit of an education, preparing for individuals for the future and fostering them into community leaders. Through these three areas of focus, communities are able to create programs that reflect the needs of their youth and local workforce. For example, the program, Tree Trust YouthBuild in Minnesota created a Pre-Apprentice Tree Care track, partnering with local forest industries where participants receive on-the-job training and contribute to their community.  

Alternative Career Pathways are Welcomed by Generation Z 

The days of college being the one and only path to a career does not reflect the current workforce or the interests of Generation Z. As the Great Resignation continues, employers need jobs filled and talent pipelines.

CTE, apprenticeships, Job Corps and YouthBuild are alternative pathways to providing education and training that foster discovery, incorporate industry standards, and through partnerships with employers, ensure that youth are appropriately educated and trained to enter the workforce.


About the Author:


Rabina Anand
Independent Consultant
With over 10 years of experience developing partnerships within the education and non-profit industry, Rabina is passionate about bringing community together for positive change. Beginning her career as an educator in Toronto, Canada, Rabina quickly learned the value and importance of education in creating community impact, which led her to pursue a graduate degree in Adult Education and Community Development.

In recent years, Rabina has focused her skills on training new talent within the workforce, specifically through developing internships and building mentor relationships. Rabina also brings a strong foundation and knowledge base in program development and management. Supported by her education, professional experience, and community focus, Rabina is excited to help companies reach their goals.