CTE Classes: Middle school proposal deserves consideration

Career and technical education — called CTE by some school officials — is an on-again, off-again emphasis in many West Virginia counties.

Three state legislators — Delegates Lisa Zukoff, D-Marshall, Andrew Robinson, D-Kanawha, and Sen. Glenn Jeffries, D-Kanawha — think CTE offerings need to be improved at the middle school level.

Full-fledged CTE classes may have to wait until high school. But exposing middle school students to career and technical opportunities — allowing them to set the groundwork early — is a good idea.

“I’m here to tell you that it works,” Zukoff said of middle school CTE initiatives in her county. “Our students are exposed to the workforce, the need, the different kinds of jobs that they would have available through our CTE programs.”

Other counties have launched similar initiatives — but many have not. Cost is one reason why.

At the heart of what the three legislators want to accomplish is more state funding for middle-school CTE programs. The draft of a Senate bill on the matter includes $5 million in such funding.

Lawmakers should consider the idea, perhaps through a pilot program for a few years. If that approach is taken, it will be important not to adopt a funding formula intended to distribute state money equally. Better for a few counties to get meaningful state support in an effort to determine how well middle-school CTE works than for everyone to get a few dollars that would not accomplish much.

We know CTE is an excellent career path for many Mountain State students. Those trained in some fields can get entry-level jobs paying more than most college graduates earn. Interested young students should not have to wait until they enter high school to get started in CTE.