A report released Wednesday by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute shows mismatches between the career-related courses that high school students are taking and the fields that offer a lot of good-paying jobs.

How Aligned is Career and Technical Education to Local Labor Markets?, co-authored by Pepperdine University associate professor Cameron Sublett and Fordham Institute senior research and policy associate David Griffith, examines whether students in high school CTE programs are more likely to take courses in high-demand and/or high-wage industries, both nationally and locally. By linking CTE course-taking data from the High School Longitudinal Survey to employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it seeks to answer three central research questions:

  • To what extent do national CTE course-taking patterns at the high school level reflect the current distribution of jobs across fields and industries?
  • To what extent is CTE course-taking in high school linked to local employment and industry wages?
  • How do patterns of CTE course-taking differ by student race and gender?

Looking across the national landscape, the Fordham research team found that even though business management/administration, hospitality/tourism, marketing, and manufacturing account for half the country's jobs, those fields make up only one-quarter of the career-tech-ed classes students take.

The Fordham researchers found a different dynamic, though, when they looked at links between the wages of local jobs and career-tech-ed classes. Students were actually less likely to take CTE classes in fields where local wages were higher. For example, a $1,000 increase in the wages of local information-technology jobs was associated with a 13.6 percentage-point decrease in the probability students would take one or more IT courses.