President John F. Kennedy, in 1962, proclaimed May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which it falls as Police Week.
In 2017, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is proud to once again celebrate Police Week and to especially thank the police who help keep schools safe. In addition, ED recognizes the important role that career and technical education (CTE) plays in preparing people for a law enforcement career.
CTE, which is led in ED by the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, is a program that combines technical and academic knowledge. Today’s – and tomorrow’s – law enforcement professional must know physics, mathematics and computer science as well as technical problem-solving.
And just as our laws protect the structure of our society, CTE is a cornerstone for preparing the people who will enforce these laws. Police officer, correctional officer, information security specialist, rescue worker and immigration and customs inspector are among the high-demand careers in our nation’s high school and college CTE programs.
Officer Xavier Leake of Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department knows the value of combining technical and academic education first-hand through the district’s Cadet program. “Being in the Cadet program helped me get the knowledge and field experience I needed to be successful,” Leake said. “I learned policy and procedure, but I also learned how to develop as a good person and a great officer.”
High school CTE programs have grown in popularity for young people who want to follow in the path of Officer Leake and his law enforcement colleagues throughout the country. In high school CTE programs, student participation in law, public safety and security courses has increased at a nearly double-digit rate, from 99,041 students in 2014 to 108,776 in 2015. At the college level, student participation in these programs has remained steady between 2014 and 2015 at just over 182,000. These high school and college programs, taken together, represent the third-largest career category (behind health care and business) chosen by students participating in CTE programs.
States also have tools and resources to help individuals prepare for, and advance, in law enforcement careers. For example, Washington state offers Career Bridge, an award-winning website featuring over 6,500 of the state’s education programs, state labor-market data, a career quiz for students to assess their interests, and, when data are available, performance results for thousands of education programs – including participation, completion, entry into the workforce and earnings.
CTE educators look forward to continuing to play a role behind the scenes in preparing law enforcement professionals for their careers. And this week, the people of ED express deep gratitude to all police officers as they step up to serve, protect, and defend us all.
Kim R. Ford is a Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education.
Joe Barison is a public affairs specialist in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach.
Photo at the top is the White House illuminated blue in honor of Police Officers Memorial Day and Police Week.