How does one effectively market career and technical education (CTE) programs? This is a question many of us who work as administrators and public relations and marketing professionals in CTE deal with on a daily basis. The way we obtain our information concerning how our audiences learn about us is vital to how we successfully market ourselves.
In the article, "Positive Student Attitudes Toward CTE," in the November/December 2005 issue of Techniques, the authors said, "Of primary concern is student enrollment in CTE programs. Unlike mathematics, English and science, CTE programs are electives within the high school curriculum. If students choose not to elect CTE programs, then enrollment declines, and if that erosion continues, those affected programs are ultimately discontinued."
This is an important point. In the case of the CTE Center at the Oneida-Herkimer-Madison (OHM) BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) in New Hartford, New York, without student enrollment the center would not exist. The opportunity for CTE would not be there for the students in the 12 component districts it serves.
But, in the case of the OHM BOCES CTE Center, it has seen enrollments increase almost 17 percent in the past four years. With the addition of new programs and our overall marketing, we thought we were doing a decent job of getting our word out; however, we're always looking at ways to improve. We conducted a survey of perceptions, similar to one conducted by the Wexford Missaukee Area Career Technical Center (WMACTC) in Cadillac, Michigan, which was highlighted in the aforementioned article.
The goal was to find out what students know about CTE, their attitudes toward it, who had an influence on their perceptions, and how they receive their information regarding CTE. Because we are strictly dealing with how to market CTE, this article will deal with the findings of overall student perceptions and how students receive their information. After the findings, I will also discuss what the OHM BOCES CTE Center plans to do to change and update its marketing strategies.
Asking the Questions
In this study, conducted late last spring, all high school students (both those attending CTE programs and those not) from the 12 BOCES component districts, varying in sizes from rural to city, were surveyed. Overall, 889 students responded to the survey, of which 76 students were enrolled in a CTE program, and 796 were not participating in a CTE program.
Borrowing from the survey conducted by the WMACTC, students were asked to identify whom they believed the CTE center was designed to serve. The categories were: for those who plan to go to college immediately after high school; those who plan to go to work immediately after high school; those who plan to join the military immediately after high school; those who don't perform well in a traditional classroom setting; those who are discipline problems; and those of all ability levels. Overall, the image of CTE was favorable. Sixty percent of all students agreed that the CTE Center was designed to serve students who plan to attend college right after high school. More than 70 percent of all students agree that it serves students of all ability levels.
One of the more interesting findings from the survey was what influenced students when making a decision to attend. Of students attending a CTE program, friends were a major influence, with 44 percent having an influence. Those same students said the opportunity to meet new people was also a major factor, with 49 percent saying this was an influence.
The OHM BOCES CTE Center presented the extensive results of the survey to its advisory council, which is made up of local business leaders, to get their feedback and ideas of where to go next. …