APEX, N.C. (WTVD) -- The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction reported North Carolina high school students earned more than 325,000 Career and Technical Education (CTE) credentials during the 2022-2023 school year, the highest figure since data was first collected 13 years ago.
"These are industry recognized credentials that our students can take while they're in high school," said State Superintendent Catherine Truitt.
CTE courses include things like masonry, culinary arts, automotive repair, welding, IT, computer software, amongst other subjects.
"(These) credentials that really allow a student to either stack those credentials into a community college degree after high school or to go and get a job," said Truitt.
Amy Crump has been an educator for 25 years, and teaches drafting at Apex High School.
"We're always building structures or we're designing things to be manufactured and that never ends, like that doesn't go out of style. Now it's all on computers and we're doing 3-D solid modeling and we're doing building information modeling. So it's just moving along with how technology moves along," explained Crump.
Inside her classroom, she's displayed both 2-D and 3-D work of her students.
"There's always a need for this job and it's moving with technology. Students need to be on top of that technology and they need to come out prepared," Crump explained.
"Technology is becoming more and more prominent in society today. I think it's necessary to have foundational knowledge and skills regarding just computers and software and whatnot and just know how to handle them and troubleshoot them," said sophomore Joon Kasey, who attends Apex High School.
Kasey is studying both computer engineering and culinary arts, and notices increased enthusiasm in CTE courses.
"I definitely think there's more passion and more involvement in the class. I think students are a lot more open, and we tend to have more conversations just because we're also interested in the curriculum. And we tend to bond over what we're learning," said Kasey.
"They're always to max capacity, and the students are excited about the program I teach," Crump noted.
Kasey, who participates on a robotics team, explained some of the skills she's attained.
"We learned like the components of a motherboard and how to assemble a PC, and then we learned how to troubleshoot networks and computers," Kasey explained.
The General Assembly appropriates money each year to cover exam fees. Recently, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction received about $400,000 to award grants toward districts to purchase equipment for these courses.
"We're talking about jobs that require I.T. mechatronics, all kinds of skill sets that are good, high paying jobs that you can support a family on that you don't need to go into debt to get a four-year degree to do," said Truitt.
This week, NCDPI and NC Chamber are participating in an event where they are releasing a toolkit to highlight ways to align education with workforce needs.
"In this area, you can't drive a quarter of a mile without running into a new neighborhood, right? My students see those construction projects underway and they get excited about what they're seeing as well," said Crump.
According to NCDPI, CTE students achieved a 41% credential attainment rate last school year, an improvement from a 28% rate in 2021-2022. Further, the graduation rate for CTE concentrators is 98%, compared to the statewide rate of 86.5%.