More Evidence Demonstrates How Postsecondary Credentials Can Help Learners Unlock Career Opportunities

June 11th, 2018

Earning a credential of value is still the surest path to success for American workers. A recent New America poll released last month finds that 80 percent of American adults believe there are more opportunities for those who pursue education after high school, compared to 14 percent who think it is better to enter the workforce right away.

For adult learners, the connection between education and careers is even more important. According to Public Agenda, 71 percent of adult prospective students — those who are actively working to go back to school — say that their primary motivation is either to get ahead in their current career or to get the skills they need to start a new career.

Studying the return on investment for credential earners can be quite an undertaking, however, considering the vast number and types of credentials on the market today. Credential Engine, a nonprofit dedicated to counting and cataloging every credential, estimated in April that there are more than 330,000 individual credentials available in the United States today, and only a fraction of them are available at four-year institutions. That count includes nearly 67,000 postsecondary certificates, 13,600 Registered Apprenticeships and 5,400 certifications.

It is well understood that a university education can improve career opportunities. But where to start? Does major matter? And what is the return on investment for other sub-baccalaureate credentials like associate degrees, postsecondary certificates and industry certifications?

More Advanced Credentials Lead to Higher Earnings, but Field of Study Matters

With so many credentials on the market, how can learners navigate the education marketplace and find the credential that best suits their career interests and economic goals?

New research out of the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce helps us begin to demystify the credential marketplace.

The report finds that, while median income rises with more advanced credentials, the field of study matters a lot. A bachelor’s degree in architecture and engineering, for example, will land you a median salary of $85,000, far above the $46,000 median salary for education majors. Further, less education can even lead to higher earnings, depending on the field of study. Associate degree holders who study science, technology, mathematics and engineering (STEM) earn a median salary $13,000 higher than workers with bachelor’s degrees in psychology & social work. Certainly, credentials help learners unlock career success and earn a family sustaining wage, but field of study is far more important than level of education.  

A separate Georgetown study puts a magnifying glass up to one particular type of credential,  postsecondary certifications, examining earnings for individuals who earned a certification at an Oregon community college. The study finds that, on average, certification earners experienced a 19 percent increase in earnings. And Pell students experience an even larger premium, more than 50 percent of their wages prior to enrollment, further demonstrating the power of short-term certifications to provide an on-ramp to a sustainable career.

How Can States Help Learners Navigate the Credential Environment?

As the universe of postsecondary credentials continues to grow, learners will need support and guidance to help determine which credentials to pursue and where to pursue them. Already, a number of states have developed protocols to review, verify and publish a list of high-quality, industry-recognized credentials for secondary and postsecondary students. A new 50-state scan from the Workforce Data Quality Campaign finds that 30 states identify or plan to identify credentials of value at the state level. However, only 23 states report that they analyze employment and earnings outcomes and only 21 seek regular employer input.

If credentials are going to deliver on their promise, the credentialing system must be transparent and learners must be able to know which credentials are valued in the marketplace and recognized by employers. It is important for states to set up systems to regularly gather and put to use employer input. The evidence is encouraging, but there is still a lot of work to do to help demystify the credentialing marketplace and empower learners to achieve their career goals.

To learn more about credentials of value or state strategies to promote high-quality credentials, visit the Learning that Works Resource Center.

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

Secretary DeVos Testifies at Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing, New Advance CTE Resource

June 8th, 2018

Congress is back in session this week and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies started off the week with a hearing on the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) Budget for the U.S. Department of Education. Read below to find out more about hearing, Advance CTE’s advocacy on the federal investment in Career Technical Education (CTE), remarks Secretary DeVos gave this week and a new fact sheet on the role of a State CTE Director.

Secretary DeVos Testifies Before Senate Appropriations Subcommittee 

On June 5, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies held a hearing ,”Review of the FY2019 Budget Request for the Department of Education,” during which U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos testified. Members’ questions and comments focused on the level of investment for many federal grant programs and they discussed a number of topics including school safety, accountability, school choice and more. Several members asked about topics related to CTE, including how the Department’s FY19 Budget addresses the skills gap, supports apprenticeship and the need to expand eligibility for Pell Grants to short-term programs. Senator Baldwin (D-WI), co-chair of the Senate CTE Caucus, asked Secretary DeVos about the President’s FY19 Budget Request including flat-funding (at the level Congress provided for FY17) for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins). When Secretary DeVos emphasized that level-funding for programs means they are a “top priority” for the Administration, Senator Baldwin (D-WI) noted that this was “disappointing.”

Advance CTE Participates in Committee for Education Funding Advocacy Event

On June 5, the Committee for Education Funding hosted an event for Congressional staff to learn about and discuss the federal investment in the full continuum of education programs. Advance CTE participated in the event and shared resources on the need to increase the federal investment in Perkins with attendees. Looking for resources to share about the federal investment in CTE? Check them out on our website.

Secretary DeVos Speaks at International Congress on Vocational & Professional Training

On June 7, Secretary DeVos provided remarks at the International Congress on Vocational & Professional Training in Zurich, Switzerland. Secretary DeVos discussed the connection between education and the economy and the need to adapt over time, apprenticeships and more. She noted that, “students must be prepared to anticipate and adapt. They need to acquire and master broadly transferrable and versatile educational competencies like critical thinking. Collaboration. Communication. Creativity. Cultural intelligence.” You can find Secretary DeVos’ prepared remarks here.

New Resource: Getting to Know the State CTE Director Role

Advance CTE released a new fact sheet that highlights the responsibilities of the State CTE Director, what factors might impact this role and how this can promote cross-system collaboration.

Kathryn Zekus, Senior Associate, Federal Policy 

New Fact Sheet Highlights the Roles and Responsibilities of a State CTE Director

June 7th, 2018

We are excited to announce the release of a new fact sheet that highlights results from Advance CTE’s 2017 Perkins Implementation Survey. Responses to this survey demonstrated that State CTE Directors’ portfolios cover a range of responsibilities, and that there are additional factors to consider when understanding the variety of responsibilities that fall into the portfolio of a State Director.

Some findings include:

  • State Directors are often well positioned to promote collaboration across programs and systems because of their role in the implementation and administration of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins).
  • In all but 14 states, the Perkins Eligible Agency is the State Education Agency.
  • Some responsibilities, such as overseeing secondary CTE, are shared by most State Directors, but overall there is large variation in the State Director role.

Check out the full fact sheet to learn more about the responsibilities of the State Director, what factors might impact this role and how this can promote cross-system collaboration.

Now Recruiting for the Summer 2018 CTE Virtual Institute

June 4th, 2018

Last fall, Advance CTE launched the inaugural Career Technical Education (CTE) Virtual Institute, a web-based course designed to help new audiences become experts on CTE. Participants learned about the history of CTE, addressed common myths and recognized the role they play in supporting a high-quality CTE system.

By the end of the course, each participant also designed and delivered an individual project demonstrating and applying lessons learned. Personal projects included:

  • Developing brochures for guidance counselors that use research-based messages for recruiting students into CTE programs;
  • Publishing a blog post featuring Advance CTE Excellence in Action award winners;
  • Developing a curriculum for a 9th grade career exploration course; and
  • Submitting conference proposals for a statewide CTE conference.

The CTE Virtual Institute provided the space for professionals to come together and collectively unpack the core components of a high-quality CTE system.

Today, we are excited to announce that we are recruiting a second cohort to participate in the Summer 2018 CTE Virtual Institute. The summer course will begin in mid-July and conclude in early September. New this year, participants will be able to engage directly with the foremost thinkers in the field through a series of “brown bag” calls with CTE experts.

If you are interested in joining, please apply by June 15. Otherwise, consider passing this information along to your network and/or staff. Additional details are provided below.

Join the Summer 2018 CTE Virtual Institute

  • Application window: June 4-June 15
  • Where to apply:
  • Who should apply: Individuals new to the world of CTE or with limited backgrounds, including practitioners, policymakers, researchers and more.
  • Other details: The course will begin on July 12 and conclude by September 7, 2018. The course will be hosted on Advance CTE’s Moodle site. Click here to view a copy of the course syllabus.

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

Four Lessons for School Leaders from STEM School Principals

June 1st, 2018

Our friends at Bellwether Education Partners provide some tips for education leaders from two of our Excellence in Action award winning schools. Thank you to Kirsten Schmitz who wrote the article below! 

Career Technical Education (CTE) is having something of a moment. An October Brookings report found that media mentions of the term, which commonly refers to programs teaching specific career-oriented and technical skills, have quadrupled in the past four years, and in 2015, 39 states instituted new CTE-related policies, many of which increased program funding.

While researching high-performing CTE programs, I was able to connect with two school leaders: Earl Moore, principal of Highlands, New Jersey’s Marine Academy of Science and Technology (M.A.S.T), and Jeff Brown, principal of Strathmore, California’s Harmony Magnet Academy. Both schools have a STEM focus, and while the institutions have their differences, four shared lessons emerged:

1. Career Technical Education isn’t what it used to be — we’ve come a long way

When I think about vocational programs, I immediately visualize my own eighth grade shop class. It was a six week crash course — a literal crash, we hung drywall and then smashed it to patch it — and while I took away some foundational hammering and sanding skills, the background wasn’t connected to my eventual career aspirations.

But that’s not what many of today’s CTE programs look like, and it’s certainly not the case at M.A.S.T. or Harmony. In recent years, Harmony has added a student-run enterprise program, courses in biomedicine, and a summer coding camp targeting young women. Brown spoke to Harmony’s engineering program’s constant innovation cycle: “We’re always pushing the envelope to develop new opportunities for students; we’re constantly working to find a new way to make it more real.” Moore credited his school’s success to its ability to reinvent itself: “M.A.S.T. today is not what it was in 1981…the key to a successful CTE program is the ability to change with the times.”

2. Get you a program that does both — combining an academic core with STEM-centered courses prepares students for high-value jobs after college graduation

Both M.A.S.T. and Harmony pair traditional academic core classes with CTE-specific coursework. Both leaders found integrating a technical curriculum with a college prep foundation to be especially powerful. “Teaching academic subjects through a technical lens provides immediate opportunities for application, and students really learn at a higher level. We can’t be just a school,” says Brown. M.A.S.T. also combines CTE-specific experiences with traditional academies. All students take four years of Math, English, Social Studies, and Naval Science, but they also have the opportunity to learn on a 65-foot research vessel called the “Blue Sea.” In addition, all M.A.S.T. students participate in the Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.

3. Teacher preparation and professional development matter more than ever

Just as CTE has changed over time, how we teach it has changed, too. It’s critical for teacher preparation and development to evolve with the field. Moore links his staff’s ability to prepare M.A.S.T. students appropriately to an increase in ongoing professional development offered at the school and an awareness of the constantly changing skills and knowledge industry leaders are prioritizing, which are reinforced through partnerships with local businesses. “It’s an investment in money and resources,” he says, “but you need to give educators the professional development they need to achieve the goals of the program.”

4. It takes a village — and also local businesses — to get it right

No school is an island — not even a marine sciences academy. Both Brown and Moore underscored the support of local industry and community partners, from college professors to government officials, in developing their curriculum to align with workforce needs. Says Moore, “Vocational schools really need to be in tune with their local businesses.”

Region-specific programs can foster mutually beneficial relationships. Student interns are both learning and contributing to their community.

Researchers found high school CTE participants are more likely to graduate on time and less likely to drop out than students who do not take CTE courses. At the same time, some policymakers voice concerns around equity and access, as well as wide variation in CTE program quality. There’s a lot to unpack, but programs like M.A.S.T. and Harmony show positive student outcomes using hybrid vocational and academic curriculum are possible.

Connecting Rural Learners to the World of Work in Livingston, Montana

May 30th, 2018

Livingston, Montana is a small ranching community of about 7,000, just north of Yellowstone National Park. Most of the town’s economic activity revolves around agriculture and tourism — being so close to Yellowstone brings in lots of travelers. Bozeman, which is about 30 miles away hosts a growing manufacturing and photonics industry. Despite these opportunities, students at nearby Park High School don’t always interact with industry leaders in the area, limiting their ability to explore different career options and weakening the talent pool for local business owners.

Last year Meagan Lannan, then manager at the Livingston, Montana Job Service office, along with several community leaders, decided to step in and ask educators how best to support a new work-based learning program to help close the gap and connect young learners with industry mentors. After studying states like Tennessee, Washington and California for inspiration and strategies, she built a coalition of key partners to launch a work-based learning program and engage more than 260 high school students in their first year.

So how did Lannan mobilize her town to go all in on work-based learning?

She started by securing buy in and support — including funding — from key business and education leaders in Livingston. After getting commitment from the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, the Montana State University Park County Extension, and Park High School, Lannan established a memorandum of understanding to clarify the roles of each partner. She also secured an agreement from the Arthur Blank Foundation, the charitable organization of Home Depot founder and philanthropist Arthur Blank, for four years of funding for a work-based learning facilitator pilot program.

Leveraging the relationships she cultivated at the job service office, Lannan was able to mobilize a network of Livingston business leaders to drive and provide work-based learning opportunities for high school students. It took a lot of time and effort to build and nurture these relationships, but Lannan’s hard work paid off. Once the community recognized the value and critical role in connecting learning with work, business leaders were on board.

In total, more than 260 work-based learning experiences were brokered through the first year of the pilot program. Experiences ranged from low-touch engagements such as guest speaking to more intensive internships, apprenticeships and more. Some employers even came into the classroom to teach a few classes under the teacher of record before leading students on a tour of their facilities. While several work-based learning experiences were in industries like agriculture or manufacturing that are considered high-demand in the Livingston area, students had the opportunity explore a variety of different careers. One student learned about wolf tracking in Yellowstone National Park. Another partnered with a local business to learn about sound wave engineering.

Providing work-based learning opportunities can be a challenge in rural communities, which often have a small employer base and limited industry presence. But, as Livingston, Montana discovered, a successful work-based learning program hinges on the support and buy-in of the community. Rural business leaders are often ready and willing to roll up their sleeves and, as Lannan puts it, help “raise the barn.” It just takes a thoughtful, coordinated strategy to generate buy in, secure sustainable funding and connect learners with the world of work.

To help state and local leaders develop a comprehensive plan to improve access to high-quality work-based learning and career pathways in rural areas, Advance CTE developed and released a rural strategy guide earlier this year. The guide, part of the CTE on the Frontier series, provides five strategies for rural leaders to replicate Livingston’s approach:

  • Secure buy-in and commitment for new or ongoing reform
  • Leverage regional, cross-sector partnerships
  • Use data strategically to understand access gaps and assess impact
  • Use technology to expand access and reach
  • Invest resources to spark innovation

Ensuring access to high-quality career pathways in rural areas is a persistent challenge facing state and local leaders — but communities like Livingston, Montana defy the odds, recognizing the value of work-based learning and committing to expanding opportunities for students.

Thanks to Meagan Lannan, Work-Based Learning Facilitator Lead, for providing input into this story.

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

Welcome Wayde Sick, North Dakota’s New State CTE Director!

May 29th, 2018

Wayde Sick may have less than a month on the job in his new role as North Dakota’s State CTE Director, but he’s already setting some ambitious goals for Career Technical Education (CTE) in his home state.

Among them, he’s setting out to raise the profile and awareness of CTE in North Dakota so that it is a first-choice for students while in education – including those who plan to attend a four-year university after high school – and be recognized source of workforce talent by employers.

“I believe in the importance of CTE – not only for education but for fulfilling [the state’s] workforce needs,” Sick said. “I want to tell everybody what CTE is and the opportunities it can lead to.”

Sick knows he has big shoes to fill, as the previous State Director held this position for 15 years, but is confident that his background and experience will be an asset to help him develop creative, effective partnerships to advance high-quality CTE.

Born and raised in North Dakota, Sick attended Minot State University and graduated with a degree to teach social studies. Soon after graduation, he accepted a position teaching high school history and coaching football and track. A few years later, he had the opportunity to move to the Burdick Job Corps Center in Minot and continue teaching as an academic instructor. It was here that he first connected with CTE. By the end of his eight-year tenure at the center, Sick served as the manager of all CTE programs and even rose to be deputy director.

After a short stint helping to turn around a local Montessori preschool, Sick joined the North Dakota Department of Commerce, where he helped establish a unique partnership with the state’s Society of Human Resource Managers to co-host a Governor’s Workforce and Human Resources Conference to help employers and state leaders work collaboratively on workforce solutions.

Another point of pride for Sick was establishing a workforce development grant program with the state’s tribal colleges to align with in-demand industries and help lower the unemployment rate for the state’s native populations.

Serving as the director of the state’s workforce development programs also allowed Sick to interact with the state CTE office. Though he had no plans to leave his post at Commerce, when the job of State CTE Director became available, Sick jumped at the opportunity.

Sick said he is settling into his new role and excited about the work ahead.

Andrea Zimmermann, Senior Associate for Member Engagement and Leadership Development

Secretary DeVos Testifies in House Hearing, OCTAE Announces New Grant

May 25th, 2018

Career Technical Education (CTE) has been getting a lot of attention in Washington, D.C., with news about CTE from Congress, the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) at the Department of Education and the Administration. Read below to learn more about these items and check out a new video from Advance CTE.

Secretary DeVos Testifies Before House Committee on Education and the Workforce

On May 22, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing, “Examining the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Education,” during which U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos testified. Members’ questions and comments focused on a variety of topics including school safety, accountability, school choice and more. Several members discussed CTE and asked Secretary DeVos about the need to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins). Secretary DeVos emphasized the need for the Senate to take up reauthorization quickly and to keep the law flexible.

OCTAE Announces New Grant Focused on STEM Apprenticeship 

On May 18, a notice in the Federal Register announced a new grant program to be administered by OCTAE, “Pathways to STEM Apprenticeships for High School CTE Students.” The notice notes that the grants “will fund State-level efforts that support local or regional approaches to establishing Apprenticeship programs for high school CTE Students or that support efforts to implement or expand coordinated Apprenticeship programming for high school CTE Students.” OCTAE expects to award approximately five three-year grants ranging from $500,000-$750,000 each. Find more information about the grants, including a webinar for prospective applicants and deadlines for submissions on the Perkins Collaborative Resource Network website.

In Case You Missed It: President Trump Nominates Scott Stump for Assistant Secretary for OCTAE 

On May, 14, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Scott Stump to serve as the Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education. Stump boasts a long and distinguished career in education. He served as a national CTE leader, serving as President on the Advance CTE Board of Directors in 2014-15. Advance CTE is proud to fully endorse his nomination.

Advance CTE Releases New Video 

Advance CTE just released a new video that provides an overview of how CTE prepares learners for their futures while closing the skills gap for employers across the country. Use this video to help you make the case for CTE and demonstrate the benefits of today’s CTE!

Kathryn Zekus, Senior Associate for Federal Policy 

Spotlighting Jones County Junior College, Emergency Medical Technology for EMS Week

May 25th, 2018

It is the 44th annual National Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Week which was authorized by President Gerald Ford in 1974, to celebrate the important work of EMS practitioners. In honor of EMS Week, we are highlighting a high-quality Career Technical Education (CTE) program of study, which provides learners with rigorous coursework and the work-based learning experiences they need to be a successful healthcare professional. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics is projected to increase 15 percent from 2016 to 2026.

In 2017, the Jones County Junior College Emergency Medical Technology Education (JCJC EMTE) program of study in Ellisville, Mississippi received the annual Excellence in Action award in the Health Science Career Cluster®. The program trains EMTs and paramedics to become knowledgeable health care providers in a rural community that is in great need of qualified and skilled employees.

In addition to a robust curriculum, all EMTE students must complete clinical internships in the field earning 500-plus hours of training. One of their many impressive student success outcomes is a 90 percent first-time pass rate on the National Registry of EMTs, compared to a national average of 60 percent. In 2016, JCJC learners clocked 1,400 hours of classroom instruction, had opportunities to earn over seven industry-recognized credentials and had a 100 percent job placement rate.

Since winning the award in 2017, the program has continued to increase enrollment. The current 2017-2018 paramedic cohort is one of the largest that they’ve ever seated. In addition to growing their program, JCJC has been asked to take an active role in EMS within the state of Mississippi. Their Program Director serves as the President of the EMS Educators group within the state and JCJC was instrumental in rewriting the circuirculm for future paramedic classes. Furthermore, they have assisted several other smaller paramedic programs grow and helped establish another paramedic program in an underrepresented part of the state.

Eric Williams, MS, NR-P, the Assistant Director of the CTE program of study believes that the visibility and understanding of this career is evolving.

“We were once seen as “Ambulance Drivers”. The public now realizes that there is so much more to the job. The changing tide of information on what it is that EMTs and Paramedics do in the back of the ambulance has led to increased pay, additional responsibilities and greater interest in the profession.“

To keep this positive momentum going, JCJC is making tremendous efforts in ensuring youth are aware of this career path through partnerships with several area preschools, middle schools and high schools to allow younger learners to explore the program. This early career exploration is helping learners find out what they love, while also increasing enrollment into the EMT program of study. 

“Our hope is to continue being a leading force in EMS education and research for the future.”

Read more about this Excellence in Action recipient here.

Nicole Howard, Communications Associate

The New Fact Sheet on the Role of CTE in Statewide Attainment Goals

May 24th, 2018

More than 40 states have set statewide attainment goals for the percentage of adults holding postsecondary degrees or credentials by a certain year. These efforts have been sparked by Lumina Foundation’s 2025 national credential attainment goal – 60 percent of Americans holding a credential beyond a high school diploma by 2025.

Some states have involved Career Technical Education (CTE) from the onset and others are now looking to ensure CTE is part of their overall strategy. The new fact sheet released by Advance CTE explains why and how CTE can be a major driver of postsecondary attainment across the country.


What States Should Do

  • Count ALL Credentials of Value towards Attainment While many learners in CTE programs do go on to earn two- and four-year degrees, many others earn industry-recognized credentials, many of which have great labor market value. States should recognize these credentials in their attainment targets.

  • Leverage Secondary CTE to Meet Statewide Attainment Goals: Increasingly, high school students taking a concentration of CTE are just as likely to go on to postsecondary education as their non-CTE peers – and are more likely to enter with workplace experiences and/or industry-recognized credentials. States should include the expansion of CTE pathways and meaningful college and career advising systems as part of their attainment strategy.

  • Support Postsecondary CTE as a Platform for Credential and Degree Attainment: Postsecondary students enrolled in CTE programs have an average attainment rate of 56.8 percent (counting credentials, certificates and degrees at two-year institutions), well above the average graduation rate for two-year institutions.

  • Bring CTE to the Table as a Partner: A statewide attainment goal can and should serve as the driver of a state’s economic and workforce vision, of which CTE must be a part.

Read more about how Oklahoma, New Jersey and Tennessee have connected the dots between CTE and statewide attainment goals in the new fact sheet.

Kate Kreamer, Deputy Executive Director