Magazine article Texas Library Journal

The ROLE of LIBRARIES in Career & Technical Education

Magazine article Texas Library Journal

The ROLE of LIBRARIES in Career & Technical Education

Article excerpt

Career and technical education (CTE), often referred to as vocational education, is a sector in higher education that prepares students to work in specific career fields. Courses focus on teaching industry-specific skills. Programs in CTE are essential for training masses of students to enter the 21st century job market. With jobs in traditional economic sectors decreasing rapidly, people with marketable technical skills are needed more than ever to support the U.S. economy. Opportunities are increasing in fields such as alternative energy, information technology, mobile communications, and healthcare.

Students and faculty at CTE schools need high quality library services to support the curricula, ensure successful learning outcomes, and develop lifelong learners. This article describes some unique qualities of CTE institutions, illuminate the need for further study of this growing area of higher education, and discuss how libraries may serve these learning communities.


CTE institutions range from community colleges and public technical colleges to for-profit schools. They are the leaders in awarding degrees in career and technical education. Many CTE programs culminate in an associate's degree; however, bachelor's degrees are commonly available. Graduates are prepared for entry-level positions in fields such as allied health, information technology, and criminal justice.

Students who attend CTE institutions form a different demographic than students at traditional four-year colleges. CTE students often fit in to the category of "non-traditional" students. These students are likely to be older than the average college age, have children of their own, be the first in their families to attend college, work full-time, or have a significant number of years since their last academic experience. Also, a large percentage of these students are from minority groups that are underrepresented in the U.S. college population. Therefore, there is much diversity in students' life experiences and academic skills. These factors contribute to the challenge of educating such a heterogeneous group of students. Many CTE programs employ concepts of andragogy, which focuses on the specific needs and learning styles of adult learners. These learners need to understand the reason for learning a concept, learn by applying knowledge in various ways, and know that concepts are relevant to their careers or personal lives (Merriam 2001, 5).

Also, the faculty of CTE institutions differs from their four-year university counterparts. A high percentage of CTE teachers are part-time employees or adjunct professors. These adjuncts often work full-time in their industry. They are subject experts and are highly qualified to teach students who will be entering their field. They are generally not involved in scholarly research, which allows them to focus on teaching and guiding learning outcomes.


LIS literature devoted specifically to career and technical education is virtually nonexistent. The literature that does exist tends to focus on vocational education programs in high schools and is often published before the proliferation of electronic information sources. While there is much written about the general workings of community college libraries, the literature does not focus on services for CTE or workforce training. There is even less literature that illuminates the information needs of students at technical colleges. Anyone who is interested in this topic must find applicable information within articles about community college libraries, distance education, and adult education.

Branch and Gilchrist's (1996) article provides an excellent overview of the information literacy efforts of community and technical college libraries. This article explains the varied roles of community college and technical libraries. …

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