Today’s cutting-edge and relevant Career and Technical Education, or CTE, programs prepare students for a wide range of high-wage, high-skill and high-demand careers.

Cody High School offers a variety of CTE programs, which help students prepare to join the workforce after graduation.

“I had a student who left and went straight into the industry,” said Erika Quick, Cody High’s broadcast journalism teacher.

Quick said that CTE is what led to her teaching career. Taking broadcast journalism classes in high school prompted an interest in college.

“I really knew I’d found my niche,” Quick said.

There are a variety of ways students can explore different career paths at CHS through courses in business, personal finance, journalism, computer-aided design, woodshop, agriculture, coding, food services, power and energy.

Agriculture teacher Troy Wiant said when the ag program started in 1927, it was mostly centered on preparing students for work on the family farm. Today the ag field is still about 17 percent of the workforce, however only 2 percent are production farmers and ranchers. Ag classes now incorporate more science, sales and service training, and leadership courses.

“I take a lot of pride in kids in ag classes developing a lot of leadership [students] can use no matter what field they go into – public speaking, anything,” Wiant said.

In personal finance classes taught by Scott Shaffer, students are prepped on real-world financial scenarios such as buying a car, managing credit and thinking about security deposits for rent.

“We get them to think about things they haven’t thought about, so they’re ready to be citizens in our world [and] ready to do their part,” Shaffer said. “The burden of society is going to be on them.”

He also teaches a coding class, which is new this year. The class helps students determine if they have the aptitude for coding.

“Once you’ve sat down for 90 minutes to make a circle appear, you may realize it’s not for you,” Shaffer said.

For students these classes can be some of the most important they take in high school, said junior Alicia Kain. Kain has taken three journalism classes, as well as consumer economics.

“I realize that math, English and science are all important too, but CTE classes prepare you for the world outside of high school,” she said.

This can be especially beneficial for students who aren’t planning on attending college.

“I have learned so much in broadcast journalism, and even if I don’t pursue a career in journalism, I will certainly use what I’ve learned for the rest of my life,” Kain said.

At CHS and statewide, students who complete a full CTE program have higher graduation rates than non-CTE students or students who only take one CTE course, Career Center Coordinator Alan Shotts said. Students also stay more engaged in their studies and are less likely to drop out.

“They have a plan or can see something in their future that they want to do,” he said.

CTE classes are beneficial for those planning to attend college as well, since the classes often have dual enrollment and scholarship opportunities.

Wyoming community colleges have scholarships specifically for CTE students to utilize their skills, Shotts said.

With looming budget cuts the future of CTE classes is uncertain, but journalism teacher Mike Riley said CTE should be one of the last programs to be considered for elimination.

Shotts agreed that these courses serve an important service in guiding students, especially on career paths.

“If they cut a math class, kids can still take other math classes,” Shotts said. “If they cut journalism, we won’t have journalism anymore.”

(Cassandra Sturos can be reached at cassandra@codyenterprise.com.)

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