Student participation in career and technical education, or CTE, courses is growing in both Lewisville and Coppell ISDs.

CTE courses provide relevant technical knowledge and skills needed to prepare for further education and careers in existing or emerging professions, according to the Texas Education Agency. The state has 14 areas of CTE programs of study, including agriculture, food and natural resources; health science; and more.

Lewisville ISD has two career centers—Technology, Exploration and Career Center East; and Technology, Exploration and Career Center West—and students can also take CTE courses at LISD’s five main high school campuses.

“Very few [Texas school districts] have multiple standalone career centers,” LISD’s CTE Executive Director Jason Cooper said in an email. “We are very fortunate to have two state-of-the-art facilities.”

Coppell ISD does not have a career center. However, students can take CTE classes at Coppell High School or apply to enroll at nearby New Tech High School, which emphasizes a project-based learning model, CISD’s CTE Director Josh Howard said. Under this model, students use what they learned in class to create a final product.

LISD offers 14 programs of study, including architecture, information technology and manufacturing; CISD’s five programs include health science and arts, audio/video technology and communications. Both districts offer industry-based certifications that allow students to obtain workforce-ready skills by graduation.

Local businesses collaborate with the districts to help students get hands-on experience, officials said. For example, seniors enrolled in LISD’s automotive courses can shadow professionals at one of Avondale Group’s dealerships. By interning, students gain experience and determine their interest before investing in a trade school education, said Geoffrey Fisher, service manager at Mercedes-Benz of Grapevine.

“To really spark interest in these kids and show them what the business is like, I think it's invaluable,” he said.

CTE allows students to get real-world skills that are needed now, Howard said.

“All students are going to go into a career regardless of what their post-secondary path looks like,” he said. “CTE classes help determine what their interests are.”

Growing enrollment

Both school districts have seen an increase in CTE enrollment over the years.

Coppell ISD reported an 83% CTE enrollment increase from 2018-19 to 2022-23. More and more students are also attending LISD’s career centers—LISD reported a nearly 50% increase over the last five years.

Of CISD’s five programs, business, marketing and finance as well as health science are most popular, according to district officials. Health sciences is also a popular choice in LISD, as well as its cosmetology program, which is housed at both career centers due to its popularity, Cooper said.

Waitlists for in-demand programs have grown over the years, according to LISD’s district data. For example, the waitlist for Welding I and II was the district’s largest last year with 120 students.

“Nearly all of our career center programs are at maximum capacity due to student interest and popularity of the programs,” Cooper said. “At the main high school campuses, we have a high interest in our money matters and food science courses.”

Automotive technology saw the second-largest waitlist last year with 77 students. Meanwhile, the industry is experiencing a technician shortage, which could be attributed to the program’s absence in some school districts, said Kurt Vanous, Avondale Group’s talent acquisition manager.

“Not everybody has been as forward thinking as, for example, Lewisville [ISD],” he said. “A lot of students that might have wanted to be exposed to this as a potential occupation, they just didn't have the ability to try it out to see if it was for them or not.”

CTE courses have been widely discussed within the last decade partly due to TEA’s College, Career and Military Readiness initiative, Cooper said. Its purpose is to ensure all Texas high school students are adequately prepared for life after graduation.

“[It] has become more and more evident within the last five years of the need to train the next generation in the workforce,” he said.

Lewisville ISD accommodating demand

LISD is in the process of expanding TECC East because of demand, according to district officials. New programs are slated to launch in LISD as soon as this fall.

LISD’s energy program will be available in the 2023-24 school year—an addition making LISD one of few school districts to offer programs in all 14 TEA-approved programs of study, according to district officials.

A dental program and off-road diesel program is anticipated to launch by fall 2025, according to district officials. LISD officials continue to monitor the demand and desire for an aviation program, and are looking into the possibility of integrating a piloting or mechanic course, Cooper said.

Finally, the district is adding a second welding program and expanding its auto tech program due to growing waitlist numbers, Cooper said.

While LISD officials are constantly monitoring student interest and waitlists at its career centers, unfulfilled demand numbers will not always be something that can be eliminated, Cooper said.

“As programs continue to grow, ways that we can alleviate the waitlists are by looking at opportunities to move programs to the main high school campuses, or to help students identify programs that may be similar to the programs [that are over capacity],” he said.

Coppell ISD building a pipeline

One of CISD’s goals is to get students involved in CTE at an early age, according to district officials.

“I want them to start to get excited already in elementary school about the opportunities they'll have once they get to the high school level,” Howard said.

A new science, technology, engineering, arts and math, or STEAM, curriculum will launch at all of its elementary schools starting in the 2023-24 school year. The program will include coding, robotics and the engineering design process, according to a May news release. The program will be provided to students at all elementary schools as part of the weekly “specials” class rotation.

“This initiative cohesively aligns with the current STEAM pathways in CISD middle and high schools,” Superintendent Brad Hunt said in the news release. “It will allow CISD to continue its innovative approach to learning and focus even more on hands-on applications, design thinking and career exploration from an early age.”

CTE is also set for upgrades after CISD voters passed a $321.5 million bond package in May. One of the bond’s propositions features technology upgrades. Coppell High School will have a new space for CTE and additional equipment through the bond package.

“I am excited about the trajectory and where we're headed with CTE and Coppell," Howard said.