(WHTM) — A new program from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) gives career and technical schools a curriculum to train students to become teachers. PDE said this is just one part of a workforce development plan to address a teacher shortage by putting future educators on that path earlier.

“We’re just trying to kind of utilize all of the resources at our disposal,” communications director Casey Smith said.

PDE is trying to address the statewide problem of not having enough teachers.

“About 10 years ago, Pennsylvania had about 20,000 new teachers entering the workforce each year. Nowadays that number’s more like around 6,000,” Smith said.

The department created a workforce strategy, beginning to roll it out in the summer of 2022. Smith said part of that plan is targeting career and technical schools to reach future educators *younger.

“It enables more students to take advantage of these CTE pathways, but it also enables them to get exposed to becoming a teacher,” she said.

The department has approved a curriculum career and technical schools across the state can use. Implementing that curriculum also opens schools up to more money.

“It’s aligned to federal standards, so that means schools can now get federal money,” Smith said.

Smith said completing this program does not mean students get their teacher certification right away.

“When a student graduates from this program, they’ll receive some sort of credential, maybe a micro-credential or a certification,” she explained.

That credential gives them the qualifications they need to move forward with their education.

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“Maybe it’s to a community college, to get a 4-year degree, maybe it’s to a 4-year institution,” Smith said.

The department hopes this will spark students’ interest and grow more future teachers.

“Being an educator is a noble career, it’s a worthy career and it’s something that you should pursue going into,” Smith said.

Career and technical schools that are interested can apply on PDE’s website. Schools could implement this program as early as next school year.