For many of us, one of the best days of our lives is when we welcome our children into the world. As the new little human gazes upward taking in the world, we stare down into the face of possibilities. As they grow up, we tell them that they can be anything they want—a doctor, lawyer, teacher, CEO, professional athlete, or even the President of the United States. The truth is, most of these beautiful children will not be doctors, lawyers, or professional athletes but they will lead very successful and productive lives as electricians, plumbers, construction workers, IT servicemen, healthcare technicians, and legal assistants. 

The Vocational Educational Act of 1963 recognized that millions of secondary school youth needed workforce skills training to fill high-demand, high-wage jobs and mandated that secondary schools provide a balanced education for the millions of youth who will enter the workforce. However, by the 1980s, vocational education lost its luster and legislators gave in to the concept that all children should obtain a college degree.

To its peril, Black America bought into the myth that all children should go to college and pursue a baccalaureate degree. The outcomes of this decision have led to the most recent outcry for education reform and revisiting the concept of career and technology education programs in secondary schools.

Across America and particularly in the State of Texas CTE programs have proven to be quite effective in reducing the dropout rates, increasing graduation rates and closing the skilled workforce gaps. According to the Department of Education, students who take two or more courses in a sequence or program of study are more likely to graduate from high school on time, enroll in postsecondary education, become employed full time, and earn more than their peers.

Middle-skill jobs, which require education beyond high school but not a four-year degree, make up the larger part of America’s and Texas’ labor market. According to the National Skills Coalition, the State of Texas has a 14% jobs gap, meaning key industries in Texas are unable to find enough sufficiently trained workers to fill these jobs. Despite the employment disruption brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, these and other technical, industrialized skills will remain a requirement to supply the Texas workforce needs.

Unemployment in the Black community remains significantly high. This serves as a precursor to poverty. Impoverished conditions create an environment which fosters crime, poor mental and physical health, and destroys the family unit. The Booker T. Washington Initiative (BTWI) is building bridges by developing coalitions to find innovative solutions, strengthen businesses and create jobs. Our goal is to establish clear and sustainable pathways from poverty to p