McLemore said that the COVID-19 pandemic has created “a ton of social change,” and that now more than ever before, “people view workforce and skilled labor force in a very different way than they used to.”

While parents and families of high school students are still being directed to universities to get four-year degrees, there is great satisfaction for many in career technical education.

“At the end of the day, you can only stay in school for so long,” McLemore said. “Sooner or later, you’re going to have to do something. That’s why career ed focuses on things at the beginning. Community colleges are working toward building curriculum that meets you where you’re at.”

Changing the view of education from “a scary negative place to be because you’re being told what you are going to be” versus entering the education experience “and being asked what you want to study, asked what you want to do” is where workforce development shines, McLemore said. “We are engaging students in what’s possible, which is their decision, not ours.”