Career Clusters

Career and Technical Student Organizations and Career Clusters

As outlined the The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) and in United States Department of Education policy, Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) are an integral component of CTE instruction. SkillsUSA and other CTSOs have worked diligently to crosswalk programs and activities to the Career Cluster Model.

Specific examples of this work include the following:

Competitive Events

SkillsUSA’s national standards for competitive events have been developed by teams of industry subject matter experts who have defined rigorous standards and learning outcomes that can be demonstrated through hands-on activities. SkillsUSA students and advisors come from CTE programs that touch 14 of the 16 career clusters. These programs span 131 diverse career areas from Automated Manufacturing Technology to Entrepreneurship to Culinary Arts. To download a list of SkillsUSA competitive events and how they are distributed into industry sectors.


SkillsUSA has identified the need to develop rigorous, academically aligned standards and authentic assessments that document core learning delivered to students through CTE instruction and the career clusters model. The assessments were created by industry to ensure relevance to entry level skills, meet Perkins IV accountability requirements, and provide credentials to students who achieve industry defined scores.

For every assessment, there is a blueprint that outlines the standards and competencies evaluated in that assessment. To view the blueprints, go to the following link: www.careeressentials.org/assessments/assessment-areas/.

To learn more about the assessments, take a demo or purchase the assessments go to: www.careeressentials.org/assessments/.

Showcasing Career Pathways

One of SkillsUSA’s premier national competitive events is the Career Pathway Showcase that provides opportunities for students to compete in any of the 16 career clusters with projects that showcase their technical, academic and employability skills. This contest recognizes outstanding career cluster students for their ability to present, through the design and construction of a display, the application of skills and education brought about through career training. In this competition, students perform a professional team presentation applying the appropriate technology associated with their career cluster program. The project is planned, designed and completed in cooperation with business and industry partners in the SkillsUSA chapter’s local community.

Alignment of student membership with Career Clusters

Through the SkillsUSA membership database, the number of students in specific programs has been aligned to career clusters. To download a report on student membership counts by career cluster go to this link.

Employability Skills Curriculum and Assessment

All students need employability skills and employability knowledge and skills standards have been identified for each cluster and pathway. Teaching those skills is a challenge faced by academic and career-training instructors, guidance counselors and college professors. SkillsUSA has developed two premier employability skills curricula – SkillsUSA Career Essentials: Experiences for high school students. Competencies in SkillsUSA Career Essentials: Experiences align with the Career Cluster Foundation Level Knowledge and Skills. You can learn more and see a demo of these curricula at www.careeressentials.org.

SkillsUSA Career Essentials: Assessments has an employability skill assessment that aligns with both curricula. To view the blueprint for this assessment go to this link.