Career and Technical Education (CTE)

As more students with intellectual disability seek out meaningful postsecondary education opportunities that lead to paid employment, it is important that the available options include career and technical education (CTE). This page shares resources on postsecondary career and technical education, including examples of how students with intellectual disability are accessing these programs to earn credentials in a variety of career and technical areas.  It also shares resources for CTE postsecondary programs on how to increase access and success for students with ID.


News & Features

Career and Technical Education Student Profiles
Here is a story about Quintin Davis, a young adult achieving his career goals in the culinary field through participation in a postsecondary CTE program. ...Read more
Students with intellectual disability have a lot of options after high school... 2 or 4 year college, dual enrollment, and career & technical education (CTE) are a few. Learn more about the benefits of CTE.  ...Read more
Career and Technical Education Student Profiles
Here are just a few stories of young adults who are achieving their career goals in the culinary field through participation in a postsecondary CTE program. ...Read more

Frequently Asked Questions

What is career and technical education?

Career and technical education programs specialize in the skilled trades, applied sciences, modern technologies, and career preparation. They offer both academic and career-oriented courses, and many provide students with the opportunity to gain work experience through internships, job shadowing, on-the-job training, and industry-certification opportunities.

What are the benefits of career and technical education (CTE) for students with ID?

Career and technical education offers a postsecondary credential in a specific career pathway in a shorter amount of time than other postsecondary programs. Students with intellectual disability have the opportunity to earn meaningful credentials that will communicate to employers that they have specific skills in a career cluster and which may help them to gain employment in a career of their choice.

How can students prepare in middle and high school to enter postsecondary career and technical education?

There are currently more secondary CTE opportunities available for students in middle and high school than ever before. When students with intellectual disability participate in secondary CTE programs, they gain knowledge in specific career clusters which prepares them to enter postsecondary CTE programs with valuable prior knowledge and possible stackable credentials. According to a recent study, students with disabilities who are exposed to CTE during secondary education, “are more likely to graduate from high school, enroll in a two-year college, be employed, and earn higher wages” (Dougherty, 2016, p. 1)

What are some examples of concentrations and/or credentials students with intellectual disability have earned?

Students in CTE Programs have earned credentials in:
- 3-D Animation
- Administrative Office Specialist
- Automotive Collision
- Baking and Pastry Arts
- Chef’s Apprentice Certificate
- Commercial Art
- Digital Design
- Food and Beverage Management Specialist
- Food Safety
- Guest Services Specialist Certificate
- Major Appliance and Refrigeration
- Rooms Division Specialist
- ServSafe Manager

How can students with intellectual disability be supported to take CTE coursework and earn credentials?

Student support in CTE varies from program to program and is based on students' needs. Some programs have peer mentors that support students in class, others have additional instructional support in the classroom. Programs often provide tutoring and skill practice time to support student success. Students can also be provided with disability accommodations. These will vary based on the industry certification exam. Some programs allow few allowable accommodations while others allow more. It is critical that students’ strengths, interests, and needs are considered prior to program placement, while in the program, when planning for program assessments, and job placement.

Which post secondary education programs currently support students with intellectual disability in CTE programs?

Check out our College Search using the “Technical/Trade School” filter for the current list.

How can faculty support students with ID in the classroom?

Incorporating Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an evidence-based practice that improves learning for all in a classroom. It may be helpful to share UDL resources and support with CTE instructors, especially as most instructors do not have an education background but are professionals from a specific field.
Many resources, including the basics of the UDL framework and guidelines, are available on the CAST website.