Is Career Technical Education (CTE) Working? A Narrative Inquiry on the Lived Experiences of CTE Concentrators.

The purpose of this dissertation was to explore the lived experiences of Career Technical Education (CTE) concentrators. In order to accomplish this, the study utilized a narrative inquiry design to understand the experiences of CTE concentrators from the perspective of the students themselves. The objective was to fill a large gap in the existing empirical research surrounding CTE. This dissertation utilized a semi-structured interview protocol and solicited the input of 13 study participants at one traditional high school in Southern California. Each participant was a high school 12th grade student enrolled in the final course of their CTE Program of Study (POS). Students were asked questions regarding how they arrived in their CTE-POS, what their academic and social experiences were, and how their POS has influenced their future career aspirations. Students were asked a series of 30 questions investigating the intrinsic and external factors that contributed to the participant’s actions of enrolling and maintaining their commitment through their CTE POS. The data were reduced down to four major themes representing the significant findings of the study: External Factors that Drive Student Connections, Intrinsic Motivators, Curricular Relevancy, and Self-Assessment. Additional findings included a significant lack of early and sustained career counseling, a focus on college entrance eligibility requirements versus career counseling, and 100% of participants being on track to graduate high school. Furthermore, each participant had a positive connection to their CTE teacher, their school, and other students due to their experiences in CTE. Unfortunately, there were very little academic connections from one class to the next. Participants had a difficult time seeing the relevance of their non-CTE classes and many of them looked forward to attending their CTE classes because of a strong desire to learn something new in a course they chose. These findings resulted in a need for CTE teachers and academic teachers to collaborate in order to establish relevant academic courses that directly relate to student’s career interests. Additionally, the need for high quality CTE-POS was established. Schools that strive to connect their students academically and socially would benefit greatly from making CTE-POS available to all students.