On the afternoon of their certificate ceremony from the Seacoast School of Technology in Exeter, New Hampshire, a couple hundred soon-to-be Career and Technical Education (CTE) graduates from my high school as well as some of the surrounding high schools filed into the school cafeteria for what they thought was a pizza party and a raffle drawing for a new pair of workboots from the local Timberland corporate office.

This was a follow-up to the survey that Timberland gave students a month earlier where they asked for their shoe sizes. What happened next shocked not only the students, but also the teachers and administrators of the CTE school.

As reported in this area news story, Timberland executives praised all of the students for their decision to pursue a high school certificate in a CTE field. The school has 12 programs in animal and plant science, automotive, biomedical science, building construction, careers in education, computer science, culinary arts, digital media arts, health sciences, marketing, pre-engineering, and welding.

Executives then announced that all of the graduates were receiving a new pair of work shoes/boots, courtesy of Timberland, to jump-start their career.

To put it in perspective, a quality pair of workboots from Timberland retaisl for over $200. Students and staff were in shock and disbelief, but were very appreciate for the tremendous gift.

In this ASCD In-Service blog article from last August, teacher Kelisa Wing talked about the importance of CTE in today’s schools, and how we as educators need to debunk the myth that college is the preferred option for high school graduates. As she was growing up, this was a message that was regularly delivered to her by both her family and her school.

Wing offers three ways that schools can promote CTE:

1. Expose students to multiple pathways to success.

At my 650-student high school, we do this by providing our students opportunities to research various careers through engagement in career speaker sessions, participation in job shadows and industry tours, and even the opportunity to complete credit-bearing internships as part of their school day.

We partner with nearly 100 different businesses and organizations each year on these initiatives for this reason.

2. Debunk the myth that every child must go to college.

Some of my teachers were recently inspired by this news story that described one Virginia school’s plan to host a “Career and Technical Letter of Intent Signing Day.”

The school created this day, as one administrator was quoted as saying, to “recognize their (the students) hard work and the value of the career-preparation training they’ve received.” We are hopeful that this event may offer our school a similar outcome when we attempt it next year.

3. Guide students toward their passion.

Expanding on some of the initiatives I noted above, our school has found success in providing students with the time and the place to dive deep into their career passions. Each year, nearly 50 of my students opt to do a semester or year-long internship in a career field of their choosing.

Opportunities are endless. We partner with just about everyone, including firefighters, teachers, dental assistants, insurance agents, archaeologists, plumbers, physical therapists, and manufacturing engineers for example.

This year, our five-year-old internship reached a milestone as one of our first internship graduates who completed an early childhood program finished college and was hired by our school district as a third-grade teacher. We have found that when students have the opportunity to explore something they are passionate about, they excel.

Our success with the hiring of our former student as a third-grade teacher brings up another point. CTE can offer a solution for the education field, in an age where the need to fill the teacher pipeline is great.

In this recent ASCD article, author Whitney Wilson described her role in the development of a high school CTE course in education.

She wrote, "Students who take a course like this in high school are getting prime observation hours and hands-on experience working in the classroom. This helps them decide if a career in education is going to be a good fit for them or not. That's important, because we want students to have a solid plan for life after high school. With CTE instruction, students can get the experience they need early on to figure out if they want to pursue a teaching career."

In an age where the needs of our economy and market are changing each day and the majority of jobs that our students will hold haven’t even been invented yet, the best thing we can do is promote the opportunities that exist for our students through CTE programs.