Conroe ISD’s career and technical education program will see expansion in the 2022-23 school year to continue providing students with real-world experience in the workforce in response to growing demand, according to school officials. This includes $210 million in investments at two district high schools in CTE programs and facilities.

CTE Director Tally Stout said as of June, 22,305—around 70%— of seventh- through 12th-grade students were enrolled in a CTE program in the district, and 4,758 students had received certifications for their field of study.

Among The Woodlands-area high schools, 62.27% of students were in CTE as of 2019-20, according to data from the Texas Education Agency.

“We’ve seen a really exciting, intriguing, dynamic change in career technical education ... we are seeing focused, skilled, industry-standard needs in our communities,” Stout said.

The Texas Workforce Commission projects by 2028, the demand for workers in many industries will increase. It also projects the demand for nursing assistants to increase by 16.1%; pharmacy technicians to increase by 18.3%; automotive service technicians and mechanics to increase by 7.7%; and heating, ventilation and air conditioning mechanics and installers to increase by 19.6%.

CISD has 29 programs of study in 13 different career clusters, including agriculture, arts, business, health science and other areas. Stout said the district is working to move more programs to the junior high level in hopes that students will be able to participate in the entire program of study and get further in higher-level skills.

Both Conroe High School and Oak Ridge High School are undergoing renovations in part to expand their CTE programs.

Conroe High School will see a physical update to add more industry equipment, such as welding and automotive bases, a culinary facility, and animation and graphic design labs. Oak Ridge High School will add an automotive program to its campus.The $145 million project on Conroe High School’s campus is projected to continue through 2025.

Oak Ridge High School’s $65 million overhaul is scheduled to be wrapped up before the beginning of the 2023-24 school year. The projects are funded through the 2019 bond referendum.

A new drone program has also been approved for CISD in the upcoming school year, Stout said. Stout said students cultivate their skills in a capstone, which can be a paid or unpaid internship or externship.

“Industry-based certification from the high school standpoint is in demand,” she said.

In addition to industry-based certifications, Stout said the school pushes students in academic rigor to ensure they can succeed if they pursue a college degree.

Regional schools

Educators in Tomball and Magnolia ISDs are also expanding opportunities for CTE students.

“It is so nice that there’s several areas where our students can leave high school with a certification, like for instance a certified [nursing] assistant, [and] go directly into the workforce,” MISD CTE Director Foy Campbell said.

TEA data shows the number of CTE students in each district’s two traditional high schools has increased in Tomball and Magnolia ISDs by 56.62% and 15.81%, respectively, from the 2014-15 school year to 2019-20, the most recent year available.

Campbell said additional CTE pathways are being considered in MISD, and TISD announced in December plans to launch four new CTE pathways in the 2022-23 school year: aviation, cybersecurity, law enforcement and legal studies.

Anna Lotz contributed to this report.