Career & Technical (Workforce) Education

About Us

Career and Technical Education (also called Workforce) is designed to provide students with skills, knowledge, and upgraded abilities, leading to licensure/certification and immediate employment.


3100 Main St.,
Houston, TX 77002

Purpose Statement

Purpose Statement

The District Career and Technical Education office provides leadership and technical assistance to faculty, chairs and deans. The District office provides assistance in new programs and curriculum development, program revision, professional development and compliance with national and state institutional effectiveness measures and standards from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.


Degrees Awarded

Associate of Applied Science/Associate of Applied Arts Degrees

The degree options for a workforce education program are the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree and the Associate of Applied Arts (AAA) degree. Degrees must be limited to a total of 60-72 semester credit hours. Each workforce education program should have at least half of its coursework drawn from a common technical specialty identified by the four- or six-digit CIP code designated for the program. This ensures that each degree or certificate program has a clearly defined subject focus and will provide students with valid opportunities for employment and career advancement. These guidelines are not intended to establish an arbitrary number or percentage of specific courses that must be contained in a program; logical exceptions to the guidelines will be permitted.

An applied associate degree results in a formal award that indicates mastery of a prescribed series of competencies with defined employment outcomes. AAS and AAA degrees are technical or professional in nature and are usually identified with a broad designation (e.g., AAS in Electronics and AAA in Music Performance).

The technical specialty component of an AAS or AAA degree should constitute 50 percent to 75 percent of the course credits. These may include both WECM courses and academic courses that are directly related to the discipline. Except in the case of emerging disciplines, the use of WECM Special Topics and Local Need courses in the curriculum is limited to three courses (see Chapter Four for details). In certain cases, there are parallel courses listed in the Workforce Education Course Manual (WECM) and the Lower-Division Academic Course Guide Manual (ACGM). In these instances, the ACGM courses with WECM equivalents may count as part of the technical specialty component. The remaining 25 percent to 50 percent of an AAS or AAA degree should consist of related or support courses and general education courses. In recent years, new career fields such as Biotechnology have emerged that may require extensive academic preparation for a student to enter the workforce. Such cases may warrant an exception to the general policy that 50 percent of the course credit be in technical course work, especially if some of the required course work has no WECM equivalent courses. In cases where the program would require a preponderance of academic courses, the college must document that the additional academic course work was recommended by the program advisory committee and that it is directly related to the occupational field and/or to a Coordinating Board-approved Field of Study Curriculum.

Coordinating Board rules and guidelines are aligned with the Principles of Accreditation of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). To meet SACS guidelines, each degree must have a minimum of 15 semester hours in general education. The 15 hours of general education must include at

least one course in each of the following three areas: humanities/fine arts, social/behavioral sciences, and mathematics/natural sciences. Each college should work with its SACS representative concerning specific courses that will be acceptable to SACS. General education courses must be transferable courses found in the Lower- Division Academic Course Guide Manual (ACGM) or on the college’s approved academic unique need course inventory. Examples of acceptable general education disciplines are listed in Table 3-2, below.


Table 3-2. Examples of General Education Courses by Area

Humanities/ Fine Arts*  Social/ Behavioral Science Natural Science and Math
Cultural studies
Classical languages Ethics
College-level Math (must be academic, not applied)

*Note: Use of Speech or English Composition courses to satisfy the Humanities/Fine Arts requirement is not recommended. SACS teams have disapproved this practice at a number of colleges.

Each degree program must also contain math, computer, and communication competencies. These should be built into every course and program to the extent that they are applicable and relevant. If a college elects math, computer science, or communication courses as general education requirements, the courses must be academic transfer courses of collegiate level and of a general nature, not geared to a specific occupation—e.g., welders, electricians, or secretaries.

In contrast, applied competencies should be built into the program. In other words, math for electricians might be an acceptable program course, but it is not a general education course.

Further, if a college chooses math as a general education requirement, it need not be college algebra. Another acceptable course is College Mathematics, a course which may include algebra and geometry, with topics in sets, logic, number systems, number theory, functions, equivalence, congruence, measurement, other geometric concepts, and the introduction to probability and statistics.


AAS/AAA Program Options and Specialties

Program Option

A program option is a different AAS or AAA degree within the same four- or six-digit CIP code listed on the program inventory. A degree and one or more options (additional degrees) will only be approved in exceptional circumstances and must be justified by the requesting institution. Each option is listed on the CB inventory of awards.


Program Specialty

A program specialty is a variation within one AAS or AAA degree allowing students to take different courses. A specialty does not result in a different AAS or AAA degree and is not listed on the CB inventory, but may result in a different certificate award. The specialty should match the program CIP code of the approved award and should share a significant number of its technical courses. As a rule of thumb, specialties in the same program should have 50 percent of the technical courses in common. Program specialties may be approved as revisions to the original degree. Colleges interested in program specialties should work closely with Coordinating Board staff advisors. Examples of specialties include: AAS in hospitality administration/management with specialties in 1) hotel management and 2) tourism, or AAS in Computer Information Technology with specialties in 1) information systems security and 2) webmaster.

If a college has both an AAS or AAA and a shortened track to the degree, only the final award is listed on the CB inventory. For example, if a college has both an AAS in nursing and a licensed vocational nursing to associate degree nursing (LVN-ADN) transition track, the final award - the AAS - would appear on the inventory. When there are two tracks to the same award, they need not be of the same length; however, any credit given for previous learning must be tied to specific courses. For example, the college’s associate degree in nursing program may require 72 SCH for students who have not completed the LVN program and only a total of 60 SCH for LVN transition students (e.g., 45 SCH of course work and 15 SCH transferred from the LVN program).


CTE Course and Program Offerings

Enhanced Skills Certificates

An enhanced skills certificate is a certificate associated with an AAS or AAA degree program. The associated AAS or AAA must be a prerequisite for the enhanced skills certificate. The certificate must be well focused, clearly related to the program, and justifiable. It must consist of at least six and no more than 15 SCH and may extend an AAS or AAA award to an overall total that shall not exceed 87 semester hours. This award shall be identified on the CBM-009 as CERT3. The award must not be used to circumvent the 72 SCH cap for degrees. It is intended to provide skills beyond career entry or where external mandates make it impossible for specified programs to meet the 72 SCH limit.


Advanced Technical Certificate

An advanced technical certificate is a certificate that has a defined associate or baccalaureate degree (or, in some circumstances, junior-level standing in a baccalaureate degree program) as a prerequisite for admission into the certificate program. It must consist of at least 16 and no more than 50 SCH. It must be focused, clearly related to the prerequisite degree, and justifiable to meet industry or external agency requirements. As a rule, the curriculum for an advanced technical certificate is limited to no more than three Special Topics or Local Need courses.


Marketable Skills Achievement Award

A marketable skills achievement award may be a sequence of credit courses totaling 9-14 SCH or workforce continuing education courses of 144-359 contact hours. These awards meet the minimum standard for program length specified in the federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) but are too short to qualify as certificate programs on the Coordinating Board program inventory.

Marketable skills achievement awards are TSI-waived if they meet the following criteria:

  1. The content of the award must have been recommended by an external workforce advisory committee or appear on the Local Workforce Development Board’s Demand Occupations list;
  2. In most cases, the award should be composed of WECM courses only. However, academic courses may be used occasionally if recommended by the external committee and if appropriate for a TSI-waived program;
  3. If the award does not have at least 50 percent of its course work in a CIP code area in which the college has an approved program on the program inventory, the college must comply with the Single Course Delivery guidelines for WECM courses listed in Chapter Four of this manual; and
  4. The college should document that the marketable skills achievement award prepares students for employment in accordance with guidelines for the Workforce Investment Act.

Marketable skills achievement awards do not require prior approval from the Coordinating Board staff and will not appear on the college’s program inventory. However, students who complete the awards may be reported as completers on the CBM-00M report (refer to the Coordinating Board Reporting and Procedures Manual for more details).


Institutional Awards

In addition to Coordinating Board-recognized awards, colleges may offer institutional awards of fewer than 15 SCH or 360 continuing education contact hours reflecting a course or series of courses which:

  1. represent achievement of an identifiable skill proficiency, or
  2. meet a student's self-defined educational objective.

Institutional awards shall be based on existing WECM courses or courses that are part of the institution’s approved Local Need inventory. Institutional awards shall not be part of the Coordinating Board-maintained Program Inventory.


Continuing Education Certificate Programs

A coherent sequence of continuing education courses which total 360 or more contact hours must be approved as a workforce education certificate program. Courses may be considered part of a coherent sequence if they:

  1. include required and/or recommended prerequisites or co- requisites or
  2. lead to an external credential (license, certification, or registration) or
  3. are taken by a majority of students in sequence to meet occupational qualifications

These certificate programs may award continuing education units (CEU) according to the Guidelines in this chapter and WECM (Workforce Education Course Manual—see Chapter Four). All Continuing Education certificate programs must be listed on the college’s approved inventory of programs and must be transcripted. Workforce education programs of 780 contact hours or more must be offered for SCH only. An exception is made for Emergency Medical Technology/Paramedic continuing education programs, CIP 51.0904, which may have a maximum of 800 contact hours.

A college wishing to convert CEU previously awarded to students to SCH must follow SACS guidelines. If the college converts CEU to SCH, it must maintain documentation that the continuing education courses have met the same objectives, rigor, evaluation process, and faculty qualifications as the analogous credit courses. The documentation must show that individual continuing education students have met the same competencies as the successful credit students prior to granting SCH retroactively for courses taken as continuing education.


Exemplary Programs

HCC's commitment to quality education in career and technology education was validated during the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) site visit in April, 2005. The THECB rigorously examined the HCC Career & Technology Education programs using statewide measures and standards for program effectiveness.

Based on enrollment, graduates, placement of completers, industry involvement and quality of instruction, the following career and technology programs were rated “exemplary,” the highest rating possible:

Audio Recording/Video Production
Automotive Technology
Broadcast Technology
Business Administration
Business Technology
Child Development
Computer Information Sciences
Computer Programming
Criminal Justice
Drafting and Design Engineering Technology
Emergency Medical Services
Fashion Design
Fashion Merchandising
Finance (Banking)
Fire Protection Technology
Fire Science/Firefighting
Interior Design Marketing, Management and Research
Medical Assistant
Nuclear Medicine Technology
Pharmacy Technician
Physical Therapist Assistant
Real Estate
Respiratory Therapist
Technical Communication


Cooperative Education at Houston Community College

“Co-op” is the term used to represent Cooperative Education in relation to the state approved program of on-the-job, hands-on training. Such training is funded by the state when it meets guidelines set forth by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB).

Cooperative Education: A method of Workforce/Academic instruction for individuals who, through written co-operative arrangements between the school and sponsors, receive instruction, including required academic courses and related vocational instruction, by alternating study in school with a job in any occupational field. The two experiences must be planned and supervised by the school and sponsors so that each contributes to the student’s education and employability. Work periods and school attendance may be alternate between half days, full days, weeks, or other periods of time in fulfilling the cooperative education program.

“Co-op” at HCC, is that part of a workforce or academic program consisting of one or more approved courses. These courses carry the workforce program or academic area name and number. Each workforce course consists of 16 lecture hours per semester and a minimum of 20 hours per week of “hands on” job experience in a 3 semester hour course. Actual use of the credit hours toward degree requirements is specified on the degree plan or at the discretion of the instructional dean, within college rules and regulations.

Each course must have its own course prefix and course reference number. Training must be delivered, supervised and coordinated by a “qualified instructor” to satisfy the THECB requirements. The instructor and the program receive 21 contact hours per week, per student, per 3 or 4 semester hour course for a total of 336 contact hours per semester, per student. The program area is responsible for requesting course approval, student counseling, student registration and supervising the training, just as with any other course in the program curriculum.

The Cooperative Education Office was established to promote Cooperative Education, to assist and train workforce programs in procedures for conducting Cooperative Education courses, to assist the workforce programs in setting up job sites, to keep a coordinated system of Cooperative Education records and to function as an intermediary between the workforce programs and the Coordinating Board.'

Cooperative Education & Intership Guidelines (pdf)


Certificates Awarded

Level One Certificates

A level one certificate can be completed by a student in one calendar year or less. It must consist of at least 15 and no more that 42 semester credit hours. Students in level one certificate programs are not required to take a test for purposes of the Texas Success Initiative (TSI) as long as they take no more than 6 SCH outside the curriculum for the certificate program; nevertheless, all certificate programs should provide for local assessment and remediation of students.

Programs in professions requiring external program accreditation and licensure or certification examinations for practitioners (e.g., Licensed Vocational Nursing, LVN); and which exceed the credit hour limit may be approved by the Coordinating Board staff as TSI-waived if the program can be completed in one year or less, have a maximum of 48 SCH for the program including all admissions and course prerequisites, and have a maximum of 18 SCH per semester. These awards shall be identified on the CBM-009 (graduate/completer report) as CERT1. Approval for TSI waiver may only be obtained by written request to the Director of Instructional Programs, Community and Technical Colleges Division.


Level Two Certificates

A level two certificate must consist of at least 43 and no more than 59 semester credit hours. Students in all level two certificates shall be subject to the requirements of the TSI. This award shall be identified on the CBM-009 as CERT2. As a rule, the curriculum for a level two certificate is limited to no more than two Special Topics or Local Need courses.


Employment and Education Outcomes