A bill introduced in the North Carolina House aims to overhaul the way teachers are licensed for Career and Technical Education instruction in high schools across the state. Sponsors say the measure — House Bill 991, “Alternative Licensure Pathway/CTE High School” — would lay the groundwork for creating a more streamlined and effective pathway to certification.

HB 991 would allocate $10,000 to the Department of Public Instruction to conduct an in-depth study on the current licensure requirements for CTE teachers. DPI would then make recommendations on an alternative or modified path to licensure based on the study.

Introduction of the measure follows a series of legislative efforts aimed at bolstering vocational education in North Carolina. In 2023, a bipartisan coalition of state legislators passed a law requiring students to complete a career development plan by the end of seventh grade, with revisions by the end of 10th grade. This initiative allows students to begin vocational classes as early as middle school, and by high school, many students engage in internships, mentorships, and apprenticeships.

CTE programs have been gaining traction, with millions in state grants allocated to public schools for career-ready programs. Additionally, NC saw a record year for technical accreditations among high school students during the 2022-2023 school year.

Currently, one of the most significant challenges facing CTE in North Carolina is the shortage of qualified instructors. Traditional licensure pathways can be lengthy and cumbersome, deterring many potential educators, according to supporters.

In North Carolina and much of the country, demand for skilled trade jobs is experiencing double digit growth as an aging workforce moves toward retirement while market needs for skilled workers continue to grow. Manufacturing and construction have faced hiring crunches nationwide for skilled workers such as carpenters, electricians, welders, and plumbers.

Social attitudes are changing, too, with interest in vocational trades programs increasing exponentially since 2020. Career earnings for the trades are attractive, too, with salaries often climbing with demand into the six-figures, while traditional liberal arts degrees hold less weight in the job market versus specific skill sets.

The bill studying licensure requirements for CTE teachers is assigned to the House Education Committee.