Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How New Occupation Data Might Impact the Designation of Nontraditional Courses

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Most of Virginia's Career and Technical Education courses are designated "nontraditional for females" or "nontraditional for males" (see a list) and Perkins funds are partially contingent on increasing the number of nontraditional student enrolled in these courses. Courses are designated nontraditional through negotiations between the Virginia Department of Education and the federal Office of Vocational and Adult Education, which distributes Perkins funds. Courses receive this designation if it is determined that they prepare students for nontraditional occupations — those employing fewer than 25 percent females or 25 percent males.

CTE courses are reevaluated periodically using Census Bureau employment data to decide whether they should still be considered nontraditional. The graphs below illustrate employment by gender in a selection of occupations in each career cluster based on data from the Census Bureau's most recent Equal Employment Opportunity tables. They should help us to see how CTE courses might be redesignated next time.


Click on a cluster name to jump to its graph


The Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources Cluster includes some male-dominated occupations, some that are relatively evenly balanced, and one female-dominated occupation,  Veterinary Assistants and Lab Animal Caretakers. For the most part the designations of CTE courses in this cluster are appropriate and unlikely to change in the near future. However, it would be appropriate to remove the "Nontraditional for Females" designation from the Veterinary Science course because about 60 percent of veterinarians are now women.

Virginia's CTE curriculum includes over a dozen courses preparing students for occupations in the Architecture and Construction Cluster  — courses ranging from Architectural Drawing and Design to Utility/Heavy Construction Technology. All of these courses are currently designated nontraditional for females. This is unlikely to change any time soon, since, as the graph above shows, employment in Architecture and Construction occupations remains almost exclusively male.

The Bureau of Labor Statistic's (BLS) data about occupations in the Arts, A/V Technology, and Communications Cluster is not very helpful for evaluating CTE's Arts-related courses. The BLS does not track the technology-related Arts occupations, such as Web Designers or Visualization Specialists, that we prepare students for in CTE courses. Based on the scant evidence in the graph above, I don't see the need to change the designation of any of the current courses.

Office administration occupations, such as Secretaries, Administrative Assistants, and Word Processors remain female dominated. As a result, CTE courses such as Office Administration, and Office Specialist will probably continue to be designated Nontraditional for Males. Financial and management occupations have a much more nearly equal balance of genders. CTE courses preparing students for these areas are not currently designated nontraditional, and this is unlikely to change.

Women dominate teaching jobs in middle schools and lower grades while secondary and postsecondary teaching jobs are more evenly balanced. CTE's Early Childhood Education courses will, therefore, probably remain Nontraditional for Males. Since students in Virginia Teachers for Tomorrow could be headed for upper or lower grade teaching jobs, the Nontraditional for Males designation could be removed, but the change isn't necessary.


Some Finance occupations are female dominated, but most have a relatively even gender balance. Consequently, I think we could remove the Nontraditional designation from most of the Finance courses that now have it. In particular, Financial Services Marketing should not remain Nontraditional for Females, since the gender balance is relatively equal in all the occupations related to this course.

The Bureau of Labor Statistic's (BLS) data about occupations in the Government Cluster is not very helpful for evaluating CTE's Government-related courses. Most of these courses prepare students for construction, technology, and financial jobs for which government employment is an option rather than for any of the strictly government occupations in the graph above.


Most Health Science occupations are female dominated, and the upper level jobs, such Physicians, Pharmacists, and Physicians Assistants, are all employing increasing numbers of women. Most of CTE's Health Science courses are designated Nontraditional for Males and it seems appropriate to keep them that way.

Most of the Hospitality and Tourism jobs tracked by the BLS are relatively gender balanced. On the other hand, most CTE courses in this area are designated either Nontraditional for Males or Nontraditional for Females. Because these courses provide a general background for entry into hospitality and are not specific to any of the three highly imbalanced occupations, I don't think that any of them need to retain a nontraditional designation.

Most of the CTE courses in the Human Services cluster are currently designated nontraditional. This is appropriate for the personal service courses like Cosmetology and Barbering, but courses that introduce students to higher level occupations in counseling and social services could have that designation removed.

All of the Information Technology occupations tracked by the BLS are majority male, but only four are so disproportionately male that they qualify as nontraditional for females. Consequently, it may not be necessary to keep designating all of the programming-based CTE courses as Nontraditional for Females. The Computer Networking courses are probably the only ones that should retain this designation.


Police and Firefighters are predominantly male, so CTE's Criminal Justice, Public Safety, and Firefighting courses can appropriately remain Nontraditional for Females. 

All of the CTE Manufacturing courses are currently designated Nontraditional for Females. This is probably appropriate because those courses are aimed at the technological side of manufacturing, which is itself overwhelmingly male. Virginia does not currently have courses focused specifically on the less technological side of manufacturing, such as production planning or quality control, where employment is more evenly balanced.

Most Marketing occupations have a relatively even gender balance and are not considered nontraditional for males or females. Most CTE courses that focus specifically on marketing are appropriately not designated nontraditional, with the exception of Fashion Marketing courses.


All the engineering and occupations tracked by the BLS are overwhelmingly male, so it is appropriate for CTE pre-engineering courses to be designated Nontraditional for Females. STEM occupations in biology, chemistry and agriculture are majority, but not predominantly, male, and courses pertaining to these fields could drop nontraditional probably designations.

Technically-oriented Transportation occupations are male-dominated, so it is appropriate for CTE courses in these fields to remain Nontraditional for Females.