The modern global economy increasingly requires highly qualified professionals with specialized skills. And yet, too often, there is not enough skilled talent to meet the growing need in these emerging industries. One answer to this challenge could be high-quality career and technical education (CTE) like the IB Career-related Programme (CP). The CP combines the academic rigour that IB programmes are known for with valuable career-related studies. The programme aims to prepare graduates for multiple pathways, including further and higher education, employment and apprenticeships. A new exploratory study investigates the experiences, post-secondary destinations and outcomes of CP graduates to begin to assess whether the CP is meeting its goals.
Satisfaction with the CP
CP alumni highlighted four main reasons why they chose to enroll in the CP: an interest in subjects offered through the CP, a perceived edge for university admissions, advice from teachers and a belief that the CP would advance their career goals. Overall, the majority of CP alumni were satisfied with the programme as well as the reputation of the CP and said they would choose to undertake the CP again. As one student remarked: “For me, the CP was probably the most enjoyable two years that I had in my entire academic history. It brought out the best in me in the way that it gave me a lot of freedom.” Another student found the CP’s combination of academic and practical learning exciting: “The equipment and the teaching . . . [were] really amazing because basically it was more practical learning than theoretical. So at the first week we got a camera in our hand and at the end of the week we have produced short films, so it was really nice to learn it this way.”
In terms of the content and organization of the CP, graduates were happy with the course flexibility, workload and the content of the programme, although some felt that the CP could be more challenging academically. Alumni also appreciated having work experiences in different fields, and said these experiences contributed to their communication and job-searching skills. Students who were unsure about their career path were able to use the CP to try out various options, while those with firm career plans could work towards pursuing these goals.
The reflective project, part of the CP “core”, was seen by study participants as a demanding task, but was also rated by the majority of students as a valuable component of the CP. As one student explained: “It was definitely one of the more challenging things that I did. I did mine on global engineering, about products designed in America and sent to Africa. […] It was good to go through it even though it was hard because it was a different way of researching. It helped kids in my class find an area of engineering we wanted to focus on in the future. It just opened our eyes to what engineering can be.”
Skills gained from the CP
Survey participants were asked to assess the extent to which they had gained a range of skills from the CP, including skills for higher education, skills for employment within a particular field and skills for general employment. The majority of respondents felt they had gained skills that would be useful for higher education (77%), a particular field of employment (57%) or general employment (71%). In the student interviews, one alumna explained how the CP had positioned her well for completing university assignments: “In college our longest paper is 1,000 words, many of my classmates complain, oh 1,000 words, but [in the CP] I had to write on-demand essays of 1,000 words! Just having the confidence and the skill to sit down and write those is great. Thanks to it, I’m really comfortable with technical writing, so I got the upper hand on technical writing.”
Finally, the CP also made a positive impact on students’ personal and professional skills. Students explained how the CP had influenced personal attitudes, such as professionalism and respect, and how they had gained self-confidence, particularly in public speaking. The career-related study had also helped some students to acquire a strong work ethic and to develop collaborative skills.
Higher education and future career pathways
About half of the students in this study (53%) enrolled in formal higher education after completing the CP. Most students (75%) felt that the CP had prepared them well for their university courses, with 83% reporting that they were performing well in their studies. DP subjects were perceived as especially helpful for higher education with 77% of survey respondents noting that the knowledge and research skills gained from DP subject had helped them in their university studies. Additionally, more than half of all students were optimistic that the CP would have positive implications for their future.
Based on the study, the researchers made some recommendations to support and enhance CP implementation.
- Recruitment of CP students: teachers need to be fully informed about the programme and its potential outcomes to provide comprehensive advice to students and parents when initially recommending the CP.
- Communication to potential students: it is important to continue to improve communication about course requirements, course organization and assessment as well as how the CP generally, and DP subjects specifically, are recognized by universities.
- Reputation of the CP: it is vital that the CP is seen within schools as similarly challenging as the DP. It should be understood that both the DP and the CP are IB programmes, offering everything that the IB stands for.
What’s been your experience with the CP as teachers, coordinators or students? We’d love to hear from you!