College of Education

Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL)

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CTE Gateway to Equity

This project has been completed and is no longer active.
However, we hope you are able to utilize its resources.

Although Career and Technical Education (CTE) programming has the potential to improve one’s career, economic, and overall life circumstances, there are still groups who remain relatively underrepresented and underserved in terms of accessing these opportunities. There are apparent inequities in terms of who gets access to certain fields and the requisite CTE training that leads to economic and lifelong advancement. In the state of Illinois approximately 32% of those participating in postsecondary CTE programs are members of a racial minority group, and between 2010 and 2014 there was a slight increase in CTE participation and completion across all racial minority groups, with the exception of Pacific Islander (ICCB, underrepresented report). However, nationally Black and Latinx workers are still more likely to be situated in low-paying fields such as community services and arts, and food and personal services, whereas, White and Asian workers are more likely to work in higher-paying, growth sectors like STEM and healthcare and technical occupations (Carnevale et al., 2012). CTE can be a gateway to achieving equity, but there are still gaps in opportunity that hinder pursuing this goal nationally and at the state level. Hence, OCCRL is conducting an exploratory case study of CTE programs that are making noticeable gains in supporting underrepresented and underserved students and what structures and practices they have implemented in order to strive for equity.


The purpose of this study is to:

  1. Identify community college career and technical education programs that have made noticeable gains for students traditionally underrepresented/underserved in terms of
    1. Program recruitment, retention, and completion, and
    2. Assisting students in securing gainful employment in their field of study.
  2. Examine within these specific CTE programs what key structures and practices are culturally responsive and effective in supporting students who are traditionally underrepresented/underserved.

Research Questions

The CTE as a Gateway to Equity research study is designed to provide answers to the following guiding research questions:

  1. How was data used to identify inequities in CTE program recruitment, retention and completion, as well as student matriculation into employment?         
  2. How are the programmatic structures and practices more culturally responsive to students traditionally underrepresented and underserved in their programs?

COVID-19 and the New Normal: 
Resources for Addressing Challenges in the CTE Classroom and Workforce

Many students in career and technical education will find that careers in industries they have been training for are now considered to be at-risk occupations due to the pandemic, with food services, retail, and hospitality among the most vulnerable. Discover the challenges community colleges are facing in delivering quality CTE programming amid COVID-19, and learn how institutions can navigate these challenges. Finally, see how certain programs of study and industries are faring, and read about critical student equity issues and access concerns that community colleges must consider during the pandemic. Read more.

Voices & Viewpoints

Advancing Racial Equity in Career and Technical Education: Examples from the Field

This webinar is for those who support career and technical education (CTE) in secondary and postsecondary educational contexts. Learn from leaders in education who are increasing opportunities for and ensuring the success of racially minoritized groups in CTE. Hear from the following expert panelists on how to advance racial equity in CTE, and view their bios below.


Amanda Bergson-Shilcock
Senior Fellow, National Skills Coalition

Dr. Melissa N. Gonzalez
President, Houston Community College - Southeast

Dhyia Thompson-Phillips
Executive Director of Workforce Equity, Olive-Harvey College