When we’re talking about “non-traditional” CTE students, think about your current roster. Does your program attract a certain student? Is it diverse? Would you like to change this?

A non-traditional career is any in which women or men comprise less than 25 percent of the workforce.

Examples include women in automotive, electronics, or welding careers. Likewise, men in education, nursing, or cosmetology careers.

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Suggestions for Recruiting Non-Traditional CTE Students

I taught engineering. Therefore, I taught primarily male students.

I thought that because I was female, I would attract more female students. Not the case. When I got strategic about my recruiting and marketing is when I was able to recruit more females to my program.

Here’s what you can do to recruit more non-traditional students:

Make sure that your recruitment materials such as photos/posts/videos reflect a diverse representation of students, including gender, race, and disabilities.

Will you have to work harder to get these photos? You bet. 

Will there be times when the same student was in a lot of your materials? Yep.

It’s not enough to take photos. Choose to use photos that have these students actually doing the work, not watching.

Include pictures with individuals in the class to reduce stereotypes by displaying elements of their personality or identity that are not work-related. 

By doing this, you can help counter biases like those that claim women in non-traditional jobs lose their femininity or that men working in non-traditional careers are not masculine.

Consider using testimonials from your current students that not only talk about how much they enjoy your course but other interests. Got a student-athlete who also loves culinary arts? Get a testimonial from them.

Educate your counselors and faculty on bias, both personal and institutional, and ensure they understand the barriers for students seeking non-traditional careers.

There’s nothing worse than putting in a lot of effort to recruit and realize that a counselor has been giving contrary advice. Because of gender bias. 

While this shouldn’t be an issue, bias does unfortunately still exist. Some may not be aware they are contributing to it. 

It may take some effort to show these stakeholders that these biases are outdated. 

Try showcasing successful current and former students. Bring in guest speakers and invite counselors to attend.

Don’t assume that your audience knows what non-traditional careers are.

Use common language instead of industry-specific terms. In your captions and writing, explain what you are doing in simple terms. Like you are explaining a concept or project to a five-year-old.

Going Beyond Social Media to Recruit Non-Traditional CTE Students

In many cases, social media and photos aren’t going to be enough to recruit non-traditional students. They need to see that they will enjoy and be successful in your class. This is true, especially for female students you may be wanting to recruit.

Think about how you might be able to allow them to “experience” success. 

You can host a field trip or event where you invite girls to learn how to code. You can also collaborate with other CTSOs and plan an event where participants experience success in other areas. Do a service project where all students need to assemble toys in the woodshop, take photos, or use the plasma cutter.

Work with your fellow CTE teachers and CTSO advisors here. Remember, they may want the same help in recruiting non-traditional students.

In Summary

Feelings of overwhelm and burnout are unavoidable, but we can cut their effects by

There are some special considerations to make when you are recruiting non-traditional CTE students. When you are creating marketing materials, make sure that all genders, races, and disabilities are shown working and enjoying your classes. Highlight student interests outside of class so future students will relate. 

Educate your counselors and faculty to eliminate bias. Marketing alone may not recruit future students, find ways for future students to experience success in your classes before they sign up.

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