Giving skilled learners a “skills advantage”
A study of more than 27,000 Career and Technical Education (CTE) students in the US has shown that those who are members of SkillsUSA are more likely to make a success of their careers thanks to the training they have had.
The research, carried out by the independent Student Research Foundation in November 2022, is one of the most compelling data sets to date to show clear evidence that SkillsUSA members enjoy significant benefits over students who aren’t members of any Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO). It is what the report defines as a “SkillsUSA Advantage”.
Against eight specific benefit areas, SkillsUSA members scored highest across the board. Not only do SkillsUSA students enjoy school more and have better attainment than students who aren’t members of any CTSO, but they also feel more confident and clearer about their career choices and pathways and believe they are better equipped to meet future employers.
SkillsUSA members are:
- 29% more likely to earn a license or certification (79% SkillsUSA member vs 50% non-CTO member)
- 21% more likely to meet potential employers (58% vs 37%)
- 17% more likely to feel excited about the chosen career (83% vs 66%)
- 19% more likely to get first-hand work experience (82% vs 63%)
- 14% more likely to understand the work environment (88% vs 74%)
- 13% more likely to feel excited about school (78% vs 65%)
- 11% more likely to connect school learning to the real world (82% vs 71%)
- 28% more likely to have clarity and persist in their chosen career (63% vs 35%)
Thomas Kercheval, Communications Director at SkillsUSA, says the study provides robust evidence that their approach is working. He reflects, “One of the reasons that our industry partners are so passionate about our training programmes is because these students come to them not just with technical skills alone, but with strong personal and workplace skills, too. That combination really sets them apart as career-ready leaders in any company they end up in. This research proves our student members really do have that advantage.”
The report comes as the US government turns its attention to the need to boost students’ industry preparation, with its Raise the Bar: Unlocking Career Success initiative. The scheme seeks to promote and provide funding for work-based learning opportunities across K-12 schools and help close the ever-growing skills gap in America. This report shows how aligned the work of SkillsUSA is to this new government strategy and how successful it is proving.
So, why are SkillsUSA members so prepared when they start their careers? Largely, the SkillsUSA team believes it is thanks to their curriculum and Experts being so focused on skills for the real world. Unlike more theoretical pathways based on abstract concepts, SkillsUSA students are exposed to training and lessons built around practical industry insights. Their SkillsUSA Framework — which is integrated into classroom curriculum — teaches students life skills, such as communications, teamwork, conflict resolution, and professionalism, as well as essential technical skills grounded in academics, helping them step into fast-changing working environments with confidence.
Thomas reflects, “Often high school students will be discouraged by career advisers from taking a Career and Technical Education (CTE) path and instead be directed down the four-year college route, which isn’t for everyone. Increasingly, CTE students are those who can best integrate themselves into the work environment, and inherently understand the needs of the companies they go on to join.”
What is particularly encouraging about the research for SkillsUSA, is that this advantage is felt across members, regardless of gender, race, and school socioeconomics. However, the report suggests that the greatest threat to equity among CTE students could be uneven access to membership of CTSOs like SkillsUSA.
This is where SkillsUSA’s focus now lies. Thomas concludes, “We know we still have work to do here. We are partnering with other CTSOs to see how we can create more equitable access to membership so all CTE students can enter the labour market with these advantages. For SkillsUSA, we are putting renewed efforts into reaching students from traditionally underserved communities, including members from Title I schools, with the goal of helping them feel more positive about school. We believe if they can experience a positive start to their skills journey, they can go on to unlock many more benefits in their lives, both personally and professionally.”