Afterschool Focus: Supporting Career and Technical Education in Afterschool

Career and technical education (CTE) programs help young people acquire the academic, technical, and employability skills they need to succeed in postsecondary training or higher education and ultimately in the workforce.1 Activities can include specific career-oriented classes, internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing, and courses that foster employability skills.2 CTE programming is more academically rigorous than vocational training programming and may lead students to a range of paths after high school, including a four-year college degree, other types of postsecondary course work, or a professional certification.3

Funding for CTE Programming

Much of the funding for CTE programming comes from the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins V), which was reauthorized in 2018. For the first time, the law explicitly identifies partnerships with community-based and youth-serving organizations as eligible uses of local funds. This change aligns closely with many of the areas of importance to the afterschool community, such as employability skills, middle school career exposure, state planning, and working with nonprofits that connect students with opportunities. The new emphasis on community partnerships and employability skills in CTE offers additional opportunities for afterschool programs to help students prepare for the workforce.4

Your 21st CCLC leadership will want to be familiar with the law so that you can partner with the secondary schools and community colleges to which the Perkins V funds are allocated to leverage your program’s strengths to support existing efforts instead of creating a new program. In addition, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) is asking local organizations that receive Perkins V funds to engage stakeholders as they develop new plans under the law. Afterschool programs are important community stakeholders, and we encourage you to give your feedback to local organizations that are involved in the planning process. You can learn more about the stakeholder engagement process from  ISBE’s Rethink CTE brochure.

Afterschool and CTE

Through their own programming and in partnership with other organizations, afterschool programs are well positioned to prepare students for the workforce. Below we offer some strategies for supporting CTE in your 21st CCLC program.

Incorporate employability skills. Increasingly, employers are saying that they are looking for job candidates who can work effectively on teams, communicate, and resolve conflicts. Moreover, many employers say that they struggle to find candidates who have these skills.5 Afterschool programs looking to provide programming and supports that will prepare students for employment might consider the following three domains of employability skills:

  • Applied knowledge, which includes using academic skills and knowledge and critical thinking
  • Interpersonal skills, including team work, leadership, conflict resolution, the ability to work independently, and a positive attitude and sense of self-worth
  • Workplace skills, such as time and resource management, written and verbal communication, and the use of technology6

Regardless of the age of your 21st CCLC students, these are skills that you are likely already fostering among them. The interpersonal skills associated with employability skills are closely aligned with social and emotional competencies. Expanded learning programs that offer social and emotional learning (SEL) activities can support students in developing SEL competencies, which can then contribute to the development of employability skills.7

Provide opportunities for career exploration and workforce experiences. Expanded learning programs are also well positioned to help students explore career interests and gain workforce skills and experience. Career exploration activities can include

  • having students complete a skill and interest survey and research career paths;
  • bringing speakers from the community to talk about their careers;
  • arranging for mentors and job shadowing;
  • planning field trips that allow students (and their parents) to visit businesses in high-demand fields, nearby colleges, and postsecondary education programs;
  • providing afterschool enrichment activities that align with students’ career interests;
  • partnering with or even starting a career and technical student organization like Future Business Leaders of America or Illinois Health Occupations Students of America;
  • connecting students with internships and apprenticeships; and
  • providing time and support for them to work on resumes, interviewing skills, and portfolios.

See this newsletter’s Program Profile for some examples of how these activities might be implemented.

Align work with other CTE efforts. As we do with all afterschool programming, we encourage you to communicate and collaborate with school day staff and other institutions that offer CTE programming so that you can align efforts instead of duplicating them. For example, if students complete a career interest survey at school, your 21st CCLC can help students learn more about the career paths that interest them, talk to people who work in that field, and start learning skills in that area. You can also contact your ISBE consultant if you would like guidance on how to use 21st CCLC funds in a way that supplements existing CTE efforts but does not supplant them.

CTE Resources


1 Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Association for Career and Technical Education, & National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium, 2010.

2 Jacobs, 2017.

3 Gewertz, 2018.

4 Afterschool Alliance, n.d.

5 Business Roundtable, 2017.

6 U.S. Department of Education, n.d.

7 Moroney & Devaney, 2015.


Afterschool Alliance. (n.d.) Preparing tomorrow's workforce: Afterschool and summer programs partner across communities to introduce students to their passions, develop their employability skills and set them on pathways into 21st  Century careers. Washington, DC: author. Retrieved from

Business Roundtable. (2017). Work in progress. How CEOs are helping close America’s Skills Gap. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from

Gewertz, C. (2018, July 31). What is career and technical education, anyway? Education Week. Retrieved from

Jacob, B. A. (2017). What we know about Career and Technical Education in high school. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution. Retrieved from

Moroney, D., & Devaney, E. (2015). Ready for work? How afterschool programs can support employability through social and emotional learning. Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research. Retrieved from