Career Technical Education or CTE is not exactly a new concept, but the growth of this pathway over the years has been exponential. The goal of these programs is to provide students of any age with the skills and knowledge to succeed in future professional endeavors. From automotive to nursing programs, these courses provide training that can be utilized on the job market and continued education settings.

"Times change and we need different things, our students need different things and our industry says we need new things," McPherson High School Assistant Principal Brandi McWilliams said. "Not being stagnant is important."

According to the Kansas Department of Education, CTE's evolution over the past few decades has led to a more diverse offering of courses. CTE is no longer limited to traditional vocational education. This transformation has led to an integration of some of these subjects into regular academic courses. CTE is now a state and national priority and for McPherson High School this is nothing new.

"This year at McPherson High school we have added biochemistry and engineering," McWilliams said. "We want to move towards more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathmatics) in our classrooms."

When Mac High leadership sent out a survey to parents asking what was needed in the school, the results showed a staggering majority felt that real-life skills was a necessity. This included social skills, personal finance, life skills or in other words "adulting." This led to the creation of classes that relate to exactly those issues. One class created with these priorities in mind is consumer automotive. This course deals with the basics of car ownership like how to get a loan how to check fluids, changing a tire and auto upkeep.

"Consumer auto is really a hands on class. We really got the idea for that from the parents and kids who wanted more real-life experience," McWilliams explained. "Our drive was the community saying what they saw we needed, our advisory board as well as students and staff."

In addition, even more classes have been created that focus on subjects students wanted to pursue full-time. Career Connections is a program that gives upper classmen the opportunity to gain work experience outside of the traditional classroom. Students make arrangements with businesses for internships and receive academic credit for their experience.

"We've doubled our internships in the past two years. It's a great shout out to our community. We have so many partnerships within the community and that is great," McWilliams said. "They are making great partnerships and connections."

More courses have been approved to add to the curriculum like sports and entertainment marketing and cabinet-making. The result--seniors who are more prepared for what life throws at them after high school and have a little more knowledge about what they want to pursue as a livelihood.

"My internship at McPherson Hospital has helped me narrow down the area in medicine I want to work in and reassured me that nursing is what I want to do for a living," Kate Hemenway, former student of McPherson High School said.

A recent addition to McPherson High's curriculum is Forensic Science. The course looks at the scientific process to forensic analysis, procedures and principles of crime scene investigation, physical and trace evidence, as well as the perspective of legal and courtroom proceedings from that of a forensic scientist. This includes online lessons, laboratories and analysis of crime scenes. The prerequisite for this course is biology and chemistry is also recommended for any junior or senior wanting to enroll in this course.

"We want to introduce kids to new different things and build upon their passions and introduce them to new passions," McWilliams said.

Studies have shown that successful CTE programs can boost both academics and wages of students. The average national graduation from high school among the average student is 86.4% with a state average of 86.5%. The graduation rate of students who pursue CTE brings those averages up to 93%.

"I think CTE classes are why a lot of kids like coming to school. We want to keep things relevant. We know there are students that won't go off to college right away and there is a need for that," McWilliams said. "And this isn't to push them in to anything it's to give them opportunities."

CTE continues to grow and expand across the nation and McPherson High School will continue to move with the times. They are constantly working on new approaches to education and working to reach students through their passions.

"I think we have always been great," McWilliams said. "What's better is that we continue to improve and look for ways to get even greater."