CTE Students Describe Benefits of Earning Certifications in High School
STUDENTS | July 15, 2021
CTE Students Describe Benefits of Earning Certifications in High School

Ashley still has a year to go at Von Steuben High School, and she’s already earned industry-recognized certifications in two programming languages: Python and JavaScript. Though she hasn’t fully cemented the career path she wants to pursue, she explains that a potential career involving technology excites her because of its limitless possibilities. 

“It’s very interesting to be able to create what you want and have your work be very adaptive to what you want it to be,” she said. “I realized that there’s so much more you can do with technology and coding that I never realized was there before.” 

Even if she doesn’t end up pursuing an IT-focused career, Ashley believes her two years of game programming courses have taught her problem-solving skills that can be applied in a variety of different contexts. And her certifications certainly have numerous benefits, even potential college credit. 

This past year, CPS students in business and information technology (IT) CTE programs earned a total of 575 certifications. Roshaan, a recent graduate of Mather High School, presumes this impressive number comes from the fact that earning certifications is a collaborative, rather than competitive process among students. 

He recalls that the first time his class took the Photoshop certification exam, only he and one other student in the class passed. Instead of keeping his knowledge to himself, he was eager to help his friends improve their skills so they could take the exam again and pass. 

The six certifications that he graduated with—HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Microsoft Office,  Photoshop, and Introduction to Cybersecurity—are a running start toward his career goal of becoming a software engineer. He also thinks the school culture at Mather taught him additional soft skills that will be used in the workplace on a daily basis.

“I learned that when you work together, you can accomplish things faster and easier, and that it’s important to have a supportive community where everyone succeeds,” he said. “In 15 or 20 years, I hope to start my own company or work at Google, Amazon, or Microsoft.” 

Communication is another soft skill that fellow Mather graduate Harrison will take away from his CTE classes. He believes that learning from home this past school year centralized communication with his peers and teachers as an even more crucial piece of succeeding in his classes and earning his certifications than it already was at school. 

“CTE classes are fun to do because it really feels like you’re trying to get something done in a working environment, and collaborating with my friends always went really smoothly,” he said. “At the same time, communicating with others is really important because, in this setting, you’re on a computer and need to be able to convey what you’re doing and what areas you need help with.” 

His classmate Gea notes that, on top of the skills she learned, one of the best parts of being able to earn certifications through her CTE classes was the confidence boost she got each time she passed a new exam. After a challenging school year, having a way to test her skills and prove her capabilities was a welcome way to close out her time as a high school student. 

As an incoming business and political science major, she knows that the versatile certifications she earned—such as the IC3 Digital Literacy Master Certification and Communication Skills for Business Certification—will help her succeed in the future. They’re already a symbol of the success she and students across Chicago have achieved through determination and resilience. 

“All the students who earned certifications this year show us that nothing is going to stop us. Even if there’s a terrible pandemic going on, if there’s a will, there’s still a way,” she said. “If you really want to succeed, you’ll go for it, and you won’t need anyone else to guide you or hold your hand through everything.” 

This is the second part of a three-part series about the incredible achievements of CTE students and teachers this past school year. Click here to read part one and make sure to check the CPS blog next week for a new CTE story.