CTE courses inspire career exploration – Berkeley High Jacket

Throughout the history of Berkeley High School (BHS), a wide variety of courses have been offered to students of all grades and from small schools. Recently, however, there has been a downward trend in student enrollment in Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes. Despite this trend, students and teachers continue to champion the value of CTE courses as a viable option.

CTE courses are designed to help students become more engaged in careers outside of the specific academic sector.

Klea Bajala, a BHS teacher who currently teaches Introduction to Carpentry and Digital Design and Fabrication, two CTE classes, expressed her opinion on the value of these courses.

“In your basic studies, you learn a lot of theory. For example, you discover the Pythagorean theorem. You understand what it is, but you don’t understand why you need [it]. In carpentry, you use this theorem to build a roof. In any CTE program, you take that knowledge and apply it to the world,” she said.

For Bajala, these classes are very important in the professional development of students beyond high school. She mentioned that “not everyone will be able to pay for their college education [and] not everyone goes to university,” so these courses offer opportunities in different job fields.

In California, there are approximately 1,634,562 students enrolled in CTE courses, according to Advance CTE. Among them, 53.6% are men and 46.4% are women. Bajala said she saw gender bias in her CTE classes. She said a lot of her students didn’t “see much room for [themselves] in this class” and saw themselves taking more of an “academic path because of personal biases against these types of jobs.

Neveah Angel Escario, an Academic Choice (AC) junior who has taken digital design and manufacturing, has spoken about her thoughts on the matter. “I really think there is a gender bias, especially in this class. To be one of the few women in this class is definitely telling,” Escario said.

Escario also mentioned the advantage of being able to have a woman as a teacher. “It’s empowering to see women like me doing things usually taught by a man,” she said.

A trend at BHS has shown students dropping out of CTE courses as the year progresses. According to Bajala, the construction industry has been stigmatized and looked down upon as not requiring a significant skill set, so many students choose to drop the course, viewing it as something unimportant.

“[We] grow up thinking that [jobs in the construction industry] are not good jobs,” Bajala said. “If you’re not a doctor or a lawyer, or if you’re not going to college, it’s kind of looked down upon.”

Despite this mentality, there are “30 million jobs in the United States that don’t require a bachelor’s degree and earn median earnings of $55,000 or more,” according to the US Department of Education.

Andrew Walton, a junior in AC, said his perspective on CTE courses changed when he started carpentry. He now sees himself following a CTE path professionally. “When you complete a project, you get a sense of satisfaction,” Walton said.