CTE Definitions

Below are definitions and descriptions for the most commonly used terms in CTE.

Organized educational activities that offer a sequence of courses that provides individuals with rigorous academic content and relevant technical knowledge and skills needed to prepare for further education and careers in current or emerging professions.

A career cluster is an organizing structure of career areas with similar skills or common themes based on industry groupings at all educational levels. Sixteen career clusters areas exist within the Nebraska Career Education model.

Six broad groupings of 16 different career cluster areas based on commonalities among clusters.

Secondary: A secondary student who, in grades 9-12, has earned credit in at least two courses in a single career cluster program at the intermediate or capstone level.
(Introductory courses will not count towards a student being identified as a CTE Concentrator.)

Postsecondary: A postsecondary student who has, in the reporting year, earned twelve (12) credits in a single CTE program OR completed a CTE program if that program encompasses fewer than twelve (12) credits.

Secondary: A CTE participant is defined as an individual at the secondary level who completes at least one CTE course in a CTE program or program of study. Students may participate in more than one career area.

Postsecondary: At the postsecondary level, a CTE participant who completes at least one CTE course in a CTE program or program of study.

Strengthening Career & Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) affords states and local communities the opportunity to implement a vision for CTE that uniquely supports the range of educational needs of students, encourages exploration through career preparation, and balances those student needs with the current and emerging needs of the economy.

The Performance Indicator framework was developed by the United States Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE), in cooperation with the United States Department of Labor and stakeholder organizations to achieve two major objectives:  (1) to create a common reference format to discuss the components of Perkins accountability and, (2) to establish performance measurement approaches for the Performance Indicators. Learn more about these indicators, including goals, outcome performance, and measurement approaches.

Postsecondary CTE generally refers to any CTE programs or courses after high school, including both two- and four-year programs.

A program of study is a sequence of at least three (3) semester-long career education courses in a given career cluster that prepares students for postsecondary education and entry into a career area of personal choice. For more information about Nebraska’s State Model Programs of Study, please visit our Career Education Standards website.

Secondary CTE generally refers to CTE programs in middle and high school.

Work-based learning – sustained interactions with industry or community professionals in real workplace settings where possible, but includes simulated environments as well. Under the definition, work-based learning must foster in-depth, first-hand engagement with the tasks required of a given career field and be aligned to curriculum and instruction. Visit this page for more information.

Special Populations are defined as:

  • individuals with disabilities;
  • individuals from economically disadvantaged families, including low-income youth and adults;
  • individuals preparing for (gender) non-traditional fields;
  • single parents, including single pregnant women;
  • out-of-workforce individuals
  • English learners
  • homeless individuals
  • youth who are in, or have aged out of, the foster care system, and
  • youth with parents on active duty in the armed forces
  • The term ‘individual with a disability’ means an individual with any disability (as defined in section 3 of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 12102).
  • Individuals with disabilities. -The term ‘individuals with disabilities’ means more than 1 individual with a disability
  • An individual whose family income is at or below the national poverty level
  • The individual or the individual’s family receives public assistance
  • The individual qualifies for the free or reduced school lunch program
  • The individual participates in a federally or state funded program of economically disadvantaged youth
  • The individual lives in a “foster home”
  • Eligible for free and reduced lunch, including direct certification
  • An individual preparing for a non-traditional field is a student who is enrolled in a program in an occupational field that is non-traditional for his or her gender. Perkins V defines non-traditional fields as “occupations or fields of work, including careers in computer science, technology, and other current and emerging high skill occupations, for which individuals from one gender comprise less than 25 percent of the individuals employed in each such occupation or field of work” (Perkins V section 3(33)).
  • At the secondary level, a single parent, including single pregnant woman, means an individual who meets all of the following criteria:
  • age 19 or below
  • without a high school diploma
  • unmarried or legally separated from their spouse
  • pregnant or has a minor child or children for which the parent has custody or joint custody
  • At the postsecondary level, a single parent, including single pregnant woman, means an individual who is:
  • unmarried
  • legally separated from a spouse
  • Has a minor child or children for which the parent has either custody or joint custody


  • an individual who is a displaced homemaker, as defined in section 3 of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (29 U.S.C. 3102)
  • an individual who has worked primarily without remuneration to care for a home and family, and for that reason has diminished marketable skills
  • is a parent whose youngest dependent child will become ineligible to receive assistance under part A of title IV of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 601 et seq.) not later than 2 years after the date on which the parent applies for assistance under such title
  • is unemployed or underemployed and is experiencing difficulty in obtaining or upgrading employment
  • a secondary school student is an English learner, as defined in section 8101 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965
  • an adult or an out-of-school youth who has limited ability in speaking, reading, writing, or understanding the English language
  • an adult or an out- of school youth whose native language is a language other than English or who lives in a family environment or community in which a language other than English is the dominant language
  • individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence (within the meaning of section 103(a)(1)).
  • children and youths who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or are awaiting foster care placement
  • children and youths who have primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings (within the meaning of section 103(a)(2)(C)).
  • children and youths who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings
  • migratory children (as such term is defined in section 1309 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965) who qualify as homeless for the purposes of this subtitle because the children are living in circumstances described in clauses under section 1309 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965
  • Youth ‘in foster care’ means 24-hour substitute care for children placed away from their parents or guardians and for whom the State agency has placement and care responsibility. This includes, but is not limited to:
  • placements in foster family homes
  • foster homes of relatives
  • group homes
  • emergency shelters
  • residential facilities
  • childcare institutions and pre-adoptive homes.
  • The term ‘age out’ of Foster Care refers to: the time frame after which a foster care child is eligible for state services. Eligibility for state services varies depending on the state in which the child resides. Transitioning out of the child welfare system may occur as early as 18 or as late as age 23
  • Children or Youth with an active-duty parent enlisted in the following armed forces: Army; Navy; Air Force; Marine Corps; and Coastal Guard
  • Active Duty means full-time duty in the active military service of the United States. Such term includes full-time training duty, annual training duty, and attendance, while in the active military service, at a school designated as a service school by law or by the Secretary of the military department concerned. Such term does not include full-time National Guard duty
Updated May 18, 2022 8:06am