Getting to Know….Alaska

May 28th, 2020

Note: This is part of Advance CTE’s blog series, “Getting to Know…” We are using this series to help our readers learn more about specific states, State CTE Directors, partners and more. 

State Name: Alaska

State CTE Director: Deborah Riddle

Before becoming the State CTE Director for Alaska, Deborah Riddle was a teacher. She taught math, Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) and robotics in rural Montana. During her time as a teacher, she worked closely with high school teachers to create alignment between middle school and high school. After receiving an administrative certificate to become a principal, she decided to move back home to Alaska. Deborah became a School Improvement Title I Specialist before beginning her work in Career Technical Education (CTE).

About Alaska:

At the state level, CTE in Alaska is supported by a small but mighty team of five. The work of the state CTE office in Alaska is guided by the state’s commitment to address the education challenges in the state. A few years ago, the State Department of Education brought together a group of over 100 stakeholders, including legislators, educators and business and industry, to examine the educational challenges the state faces. From that gathering, Alaska’s Education Challenge was born. The initiative focuses on three commitments related to enabling student success, promoting the safety and wellbeing of students, and cultivating responsible and reflective learning.

Core to Alaska’s work is promoting access and equity for each learner. Alaska has a robust Native and rural population that can face unique challenges when trying to access high-quality CTE programs. Alaska has leveraged approaches such as virtual learning to meet the needs of learners. Additionally, Alaska has taken a culturally responsive approach to addressing equity and access issues for Native populations.

In the past, Native learners were removed from their communities and sent to boarding schools that failed to serve them equitably. This was done in part because of the lack of opportunities available in Native learners’ communities. Recognizing the importance of allowing Native learners the option to continue to reside in their communities for the majority of their time, Alaska created short-term residencies. During the short-term residencies, Native learners are able to travel to urban areas for short periods of time to participate in programs that require equipment not available in their communities and that allows them to earn credit or certifications. The short-term residencies allow learners to interact with business and industry and gain critical workplace skills.

Looking forward, Alaska plans to continue to focus on advancing equity and access in CTE and ensuring that each learner is on a path to obtain a high-skill, high-wage, in-demand career.

Brianna McCain, Policy Associate

How to Seek Funding to Support CTE Research Partnerships

May 28th, 2020

Over the past six months, Advance CTE and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) have worked together to highlight the power of Career Technical Education (CTE) research partnerships in improving quality and equity in CTE. In Michigan, years of close collaboration between the Department of Education and the University of Michigan has enabled state leaders to address critical policy questions like choosing a secondary CTE program quality performance indicator. South Dakota leveraged relationships in the research community to improve data quality and foster a data-driven culture at the state level. And in Massachusetts, state leaders are working alongside long-time research partners to identify critical access and opportunity gaps and build solutions that enable equitable access to high-quality CTE.

Partnerships like these provide measurable benefits by allowing state policymakers to make informed decisions that impact learner success and bolster state talent pipelines – but they do come at a cost. The partnerships highlighted in this series were supported via a combination of state, federal and foundation funds. Research grant funds are most often used to cover personnel time for work on the research project, both at the university or research organization and at the partner education agency. As many of the state agency interviewees mentioned, it is difficult to carve time out of their regular responsibilities to work on a research project. By securing dedicated funding to cover part or all of a person’s salary, a state agency can afford to spend time on a research project. In addition, research grant funds can be used to provide incentives for students, teachers and schools to participate in a research study, for the development and administration of surveys or classroom observation tools (to complement information available in administrative data systems), and for software and hardware to analyze and house the data.

With growing public support for CTE, fueled by urgent needs for skilled labor, CTE programs will be called upon to do even more. States should be prepared with a research and evaluation strategy to determine whether and which strategies are most effective (and cost-effective). So how should states go about establishing and funding new CTE research partnerships?

Options for Financing State CTE Research Partnerships

There are a number of avenues states can take to finance CTE research. Federal sources of funding for CTE-related research include the Department of Education, the Department of Labor and the National Science Foundation. Education research funding may also be available at other agencies, such as the Department of Agriculture. Private funding for CTE research projects is also available from foundations such as the ECMC Foundation[i], the Smith Richardson Foundation, and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

The National Center for Education Research (NCER) at IES launched a special CTE topic in its Education Research Grants program in 2017 to encourage researchers to study CTE. Funded grants under this topic have examined CTE-related issues such as industry certifications, applied-STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) CTE pathways and work-based learning. IES also funds CTE research under other programs and maintains a CTE Statistics webpage. In 2018, in partnership with the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE), IES formed a CTE Research Network to increase the amount and quality of causal research in CTE. CTE Research Network members have been studying the impact of various CTE programs and delivery models on student high school, postsecondary and labor market outcomes. The National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) began funding CTE research for students with disabilities in 2019.

New Opportunity to Apply for Federal Funding to Study CTE!

There is good news for state leaders and researchers interested in initiating CTE research partnerships. NCER has just released its Fiscal Year 2021 Request for Applications (RFA) for its Education Research Grants Program (CFDA 84.305A). This grants program, one of several in NCER, was established in 2002 to produce research that is scientifically rigorous and relevant to the needs of education practitioners and decisionmakers. NCER welcomes CTE-related research proposals under the CTE topic or under other topics (such as STEM, Improving Education Systems, and Postsecondary and Adult Education). NCSER has a separate RFA for its special education research grants program (CFDA 84.324A) and welcomes applications to study CTE for students with disabilities.

Research grant applications are due at midnight (Eastern time) on August 20, 2020. Letters of intent (not required but encouraged) are due on June 11, 2020. Each of the open RFAs, as well as archived webinars for applicants about the IES grant process, are available on the IES funding opportunities page.

Applicants should start early to make sure they have everything they need. In addition to viewing on-demand webinars, applicants should be sure to read the RFA closely and pay attention not only to the application requirements but also to the IES recommendations for a strong application. For example, applicants should describe their theory of change and any prior research on the issue; align their research methods to the research questions; describe measures and data source; and make sure the sample size offers adequate statistical power. This grants program is very competitive, and peer reviewers will be paying attention to whether applicants follow the recommendations. Everyone involved in the submission process should also familiarize themselves with the IES submission guide, which details the steps necessary to successfully submit an application online.

We are eager to hear any and all ideas! Corinne Alfeld (Corinne.alfeld@ed.gov) and Austin Estes (aestes@careertech.org) would be happy to discuss them, and Corinne can also provide technical assistance in writing research grant application to IES. She can be reached by email to set up a phone call to discuss project ideas.

This final blog post wraps up our series aimed at increasing state CTE research partnerships by highlighting ways to seek research funding. Corinne Alfeld, Research Analyst at IES and Austin Estes, Manager of Data & Research at Advance CTE, collaborated to create this blog series in the hopes that more state agencies would partner with researchers to examine research questions related to CTE using state data.

[i] The ECMC Foundation is a funder of Advance CTE’s work.

Navigating CTE During COVID-19: Principles for Supporting Work-Based Learning in COVID-19

May 27th, 2020

COVID-19 (coronavirus) has brought many challenges to Career Technical Education (CTE) over the past few months. One of the most persistent challenges has been providing work-based learning experiences – which offers an opportunity to reinforce and deepen classroom learning in a real-world setting – to learners amidst a health pandemic that has shut down much of the nation’s economy. With their doors closed, many businesses have had to cancel or indefinitely postpone any work-based learning programs. 

Amid these challenges, the response by schools, colleges, employers and work-based learning intermediaries has been largely ad-hoc. In some cases, employers have been able to maintain their summer internship commitments by onboarding and supporting interns remotely, just as if they were part of their staff who are already working from home. Certain industry engagement opportunities can be sustained virtually through video conferencing platforms. However, such piecemeal solutions can exacerbate inequities and further contribute to learning loss. 

As states address work to ramp up work-based learning and scale remote opportunities, they should consider the following principles:  Quality, Equity, Mentorship and Breadth. These principles should help establish a clear statewide vision for what work-based learning can look like in times of continuous disruption with a set of common expectations and resources for those managing work-based learning experiences on the ground. 

Reaffirm Quality: Learners should continue to be engaged in real work experiences that are aligned to their program of study and have opportunities to interact with colleagues and learn from professionals in the field. States can leverage intermediaries and build their capacity to support this principle. To ensure work-based learning experiences remain high-quality, states should maintain the high expectations they set for work-based learning experiences and:

  • Ensure that all work-based learning experiences require a strong training plan that focuses on technical and employability skill development. The learner, their instructor and employer should have clear expectations of what that training plan is. 
  • Encourage strategies for building relationships such as:
    • Assigning projects that can be completed remotely
    • Creating opportunities for regular check-in calls
    • Setting up opportunities for regular feedback. Feedback should not only support learner technical competency development but also employability skills- communication, teamwork, etc. 
    • Arranging virtual networking opportunities 
  • Develop and/or maintain a systems- and student-level approach to assessing equitable access, student participation and learning, and the overall quality of remote work-based learning programs. This includes assessing and disaggregating student and industry participation, student learning and attainment of knowledge and skills. Given the challenge of staying engaged in a distant environment, it may also be important to consider additional measurements such as tracking the number of engagements an employer has with the learner. 

Equity: Technology is the most obvious way to offer remote experiences along the work-based learning continuum. However, technology is not easily applicable to most career pathways and not all students have reliable access to broadband connections. Also, technology may not always be adaptable for students with special needs. States can promote equity by:

  • Examining demographic data to see which learners are getting access to remote internship and youth apprenticeship opportunities
  • Encouraging work that can be done remotely, without internet access.
  • Regularly checking in with local districts to help build capacity, if necessary (with an intentional focus on rural and urban districts)
  • Encouraging employers to continue offering paid internship and youth apprenticeship experiences or ensuring learners can earn academic credit as compensation for their work. To encourage compensation and relieve financial pressures put on employers to hire and compensate learners, states could:
    • Maintain employer incentives for offering work-based learning opportunities through tax credits or related policy levers.
    • Align existing summer youth employment programs with work-based learning activities.

Mentorship: Building relationships and networking is one of the most valuable experiences of any work-based learning opportunity. For economically disadvantaged learners, these relationships help build invaluable social capital that they can leverage throughout their careers.  As best as possible, states should promote these in-person networking experiences that a learner might receive in a traditional setting by:

  • Developing guidelines and templates for remote mentorship, including  mentor agreements that define the roles of the student, mentor and instructor
  • Identifying and making available technology that allows for virtual networking
  • Partnering with the state workforce agency, chambers of commerce and other industry associations to build remote micro-industry engagement opportunities such as virtual lunches and staff meet and greets at scale

Breadth: Some CTE programs of study, such as those in the Information Technology Career ClusterⓇ, are easier than others to transition to remote or virtual learning. While attending to all programs of study, states should address work-based learning experiences in the industry sectors that are more difficult to deliver in a remote or virtual environment. Intentional collaboration with industry experts, local businesses and chambers of commerce representing these priority CTE programs of study is one way to address this gap. Some approaches to expanding remote or virtual work-based learning opportunities to other Career Clusters include:

  • Investing in simulated work-based learning. West Virginia’s simulated workplace program has demonstrated strong outcomes, and many programs have weathered the transition to remote learning through creative solutions. 
  • Investing in virtual reality equipment or at-home laboratories to provide students with hands-on experiences.

These principles are intended to guide states in setting a vision for what work-based learning can look like in light of continuous economic and academic disruption. Given that these challenges are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, states have to rethink the way they deliver work-based learning. There must be intentionality behind providing remote work-based learning programs that maintain the same high standards as a traditional experience and extend opportunity to all students across geography or socioeconomic status. These principles are proposed to be the floor, not the ceiling, to what is possible during these novel times. States can build on these principles to create a policy environment that supports the needs of industry and puts learners to work. 

Brian Robinson, Policy Associate

Check out this resource from Advance CTE, Connecting Classrooms to Careers: A Comprehensive Guide to the State’s Role in Work-Based Learning, to learn more about setting a statewide vision for work-based learning in your state!

Legislative Update: New Guidance on CARES Act Higher Education Funds

May 26th, 2020

New guidance was shared by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) about eligibility of higher education funding through COVID-19 (Coronavirus) stimulus grants. Read below to learn more about this update, as well as the 2020 Presidential Scholar announcement. 

ED Puts Out Statement on Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund

The U.S. Department of Education released a statement about the guidance for the distribution of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.The original guidance stated that only students eligible to receive Title IV funds under the Higher Education Act would be able to receive the HEERF grant. In the announcement, ED stated that it “will not initiate any enforcement action based solely on these statements because they lack the force and effect of law.” The department also shared that it is continuing to review HEERF eligibility and “intends to take further action shortly.” Advance CTE had concerns about the original eligibility requirements announced by ED in April, and responded to the department in partnership with the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE). 

DeVosAnnounces 2020 Presidential Scholars

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced the Presidential Scholars Class of 2020. Each year, the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects students based on factors such as academic standing, artistic and technical excellence and community service. This year, over 5,300 students were qualified for the Presidential Scholar award. In addition to the traditional scholars, the award also includes 20 scholars for Career Technical Education (CTE) and 20 scholars in the arts. CTE scholars were selected from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Virginia and Washington.  The full list of 2020 Presidential Scholars can be found here.

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate 

Getting to Know….West Virginia

May 21st, 2020

Note: This is part of Advance CTE’s blog series, “Getting to Know…” We are using this series to help our readers learn more about specific states, State CTE Directors, partners and more.

State Name: West Virginia

State CTE Director: Dr. Sarah Tucker, Chancellor, West Virginia Community and Technical College

Before becoming the Chancellor of West Virginia’s Community and Technical College System (WVCTCS), Dr. Tucker was a self-proclaimed “data geek” who worked in policy and planning. Dr. Tucker analyzed data that examined who was attending college, who wasn’t and what happened to students once they arrived at college. From that work, Dr. Tucker soon realized that West Virginia’s state workforce needs would not be met if low graduation rates persisted. Dr. Tucker applied for and received a grant that allowed her to play a role in revamping the state’s approach to development education, which resulted in a full scale corequisite redesign of remedial education. As Chancellor of the of the WVCTCS, and now Interim Chancellor of the state’s four-year system of higher education, Dr. Tucker has played a key role in promoting high-quality Career Technical Education (CTE) programs.

About West Virginia: CTE in West Virginia is delivered through secondary institutions, nine community and technical colleges, 24 CTE centers and seven multicounty centers. Historically, CTE in West Virginia functioned separately at the secondary and postsecondary levels. One of the priorities for Dr. Tucker when she became Chancellor was to address this lack of alignment, which she did through working with the State Superintendent of Schools at the West Virginia Department of Education.

In addition to secondary and postsecondary alignment, the quality of CTE programs in the state are bolstered by strong industry partnerships. West Virginia has longstanding, strong relationships with partners, particularly at community colleges. The community colleges in West Virginia work with more than 700 companies across the state. Colleges take a sector based approach to workforce development, meeting with industry sectors throughout the year to get buy-in from companies and to ensure programs align with employer needs.

The state recognized that core to quality programs is ensuring access and equity. West Virginia has a high poverty rate, with 17.8 percent of the population experiencing poverty. To address socioeconomic gaps, in 2019, the State Legislature passed legislation to create West Virginia Invests, which is a last-dollar-in grant program that covers the cost of tuition and associated fees for a certificate or associate degree programs aligned with high-demand fields at public two-year or four-year institutions. Notably, enrollment of first-time freshmen in the state’s nine community and technical colleges increased 9.9 percent from fall 2018 to fall 2019 after the creation of West Virginia Invests.

Brianna McCain, Policy Associate

Navigating CTE During COVID-19: How New Hampshire is Addressing Access Gaps

May 19th, 2020

The homework gap refers to the potential inequality in access to broadband infrastructure and internet-accessible devices that can affect low-income and rural students disproportionately. The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has highlighted and deepened the digital divide.

According to a report by the Pew Research Center, roughly 63 percent of Americans in rural settings have broadband internet access at home, 12 percent less than the national average. Rural learners are less likely to have internet-accessible devices besides a smartphone. The ability to provide equitable access and deliver content to all learners is an issue that if they weren’t already, rural schools and districts are grappling with now in light of all instruction taking place online. 

New Hampshire has created innovative approaches to address internet access and online instruction, with one of the greatest successes involving opening up lines of communication with new stakeholders. Early in the Coronavirus pandemic, a few large internet service providers, such as Xfinity, removed the subscriber requirement for access to their wifi hotspots. However, in rural northern New Hampshire, these hotspots didn’t exist and smaller local companies and local service providers filled this role with similar products. Direct outreach by the state’s Commissioner of Education to local companies and service providers resulted in a 95 percent success rate in either opening wifi access or lifting previous download limits. Additionally, through the Commissioner’s outreach, eligibility for Xfinity’s program for free or reduced-cost internet for low-income individuals was expanded, and users with previous outstanding bills that were formally ineligible for this program could now have access.

Having internet access alone isn’t helpful if learners and their families don’t have a device that can access content, so New Hampshire has been distributing Chromebooks to students throughout the state. Some charter schools had surplus computer equipment, and opening up a dialogue between education systems that might not normally take place resulted in additional devices available for the public school system. For some Career Technical Education (CTE) programs that required specialized hardware, desktop computers and monitors were distributed to students. 

A change in the successful delivery of educational content also relies on professional development for teachers to adapt to new pedagogical challenges. New Hampshire created professional development resources and instruction for teachers to assist in successfully transitioning to remote learning.

“With additional funding, we would be able to expand simulation technology for CTE, including virtual reality technologies,” says Eric Frauwirth, New Hampshire’s State CTE Director and State Administrator with the New Hampshire Department of Education. Students in programs that have hands-on requirements for clinical hours, like welding or nursing, could use this simulation technology to achieve program and licensure requirements. Rather than have these located at the scattered technical centers within the state, this new technology could be distributed to local sending high schools with reserved time for students to use these technologies.

States and local leaders have taken necessary steps to ensure each learner has access to virtual education, however, there needs to be much more support to scale innovative solutions. Advance CTE has called for a strong investment in CTE funding in order to lessen the digital divide, and the Relaunching America’s Workforce Act includes $1 billion for CTE funding, which could be used to expand the infrastructure necessary to support these programs. In addition, the Emergency Educational Connections Act of 2020, which Advance CTE supports, introduced by Senate Ed Markey (D-MA) would authorize $4 billion to help close the homework gap.

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate

Navigating CTE during COVID-19: States Must Maintain Quality In the Face of Flexibility

May 13th, 2020

 

The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has created unprecedented circumstances for all learners, as outlined in the first blog in this series. A key tenet of equity is flexibility, meeting each learner where they are at and providing the supports needed to help that learner be successful. However, this flexibility must always be offered with a persistent commitment to access and quality. During the crisis facing our nation, understandably, the response to these challenges of massive school and college closures and rapid scaling of distance learning has been to provide significant flexibility to states and educational institutions. For example, many postsecondary institutions have made classes pass/fail, the U.S. Department of Education is granting waivers to states who are unable to assess students during the pandemic, some states are waiving graduation requirements, and some states have taken action to waive licensure requirements

When leveraging the flexibility provided, states must ensure that the actions they are taking do not disproportionately negatively affect historically marginalized populations or lead to widening or new equity gaps. Quality should not be sacrificed in the name of flexibility. 

Equality vs. Equity. Retrieved from Shorter-Gooden Consulting (n.d.). https://www.shorter-goodenconsulting.com

The decisions that state leaders make today can have significant long-term consequences. For instance, some postsecondary institutions have made classes mandatory pass/fail to address equity concerns. Institutions recognize that students’ current environments may not be conducive to learning and therefore the letter or numerical grades they receive may not be a true reflection of their abilities or their peers whose lives have not been as disrupted by the pandemic may have an unfair advantage. However, making classes pass/fail can have long-term consequences for grade point average calculation for scholarships and the transferability of credits. There must be intentional alignment across systems and institutions to ensure that learners are equipped with the skills, knowledge and experiences needed to succeed. Pass/fail grading constructs do not provide enough information, regarding the skills and knowledge a learned acquired, thus having long-term consequences to future educational and career progression. Further, pass/fail courses often do not transfer. Therefore, institutions must provide transparency about whether they will waive credit transfer requirements and allow students to receive credit for pass/fail classes to promote seamless transitions and prevent exacerbated equity gaps.   

As we experience continued periods of disruption, state leaders must be prepared to make difficult decisions to prioritize equity to ensure that each learner is able to access and thrive in CTE programs.

This is the second blog in a series of blogs that will map out how state leaders can continue to advance equity, quality and access during the Coronavirus pandemic. Read the first blog in the series here. To learn more about Advance CTE’s commitment to advancing equity in CTE, click here. To access resources related to equity and the Coronavirus, click here.

Brianna McCain, Policy Associate

This Week in CTE

May 8th, 2020

We have compiled a list of highlights in Career Technical Education (CTE) from this week to share with you.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

This week we celebrate the expertise and skill of our educators nationwide. Follow @CTEWorks on Twitter and Follow us on Facebook for our messages of gratitude to all the CTE educators providing academic knowledge and real-world skills to learners, especially during this difficult time.

Students from the state of Utah have shared their words of appreciation for CTE educators. Read them here, in the latest CTE Directions Newsletter.

Twitter Chat of the Week

The ECMC Foundation hosted a Twitter chat on Thursday, to discuss with national partners what is needed to support students during COVID-19 (Coronavirus). Their conversation also covered what is needed to ensure the future of postsecondary is more equitable once we return from the current pandemic. If you missed the highlights, you can view the hashtag #ECMCFchat on Twitter.

Work-Based Learning Activity of the Week

Direct engagement with employers has presented its challenges during the current pandemic. However, the state of Wisconsin has partnered with organizations and local businesses to offer online job shadowing to CTE students. View the list of sessions they are offering in May!

Federal Policy of the Week

On Thursday, advocates took to Twitter to address the homework gap during the E-Rate Day of Action asking Congress to provide at least $4 billion in funding for home internet access through E-rate. This day of advocacy was led by the Alliance for Excellent Education. Follow these hashtags on Twitter to join the advocacy: #HomeworkGap and #Erate.

Resource of the Week

Advance CTE and Association for Career and Technical Education have released the Middle Grades CTE repository of resources. State and local leaders can leverage this repository as they begin to develop and expand high-quality CTE into the middle grades.

Happy Nurse Appreciation Week!

This week we celebrate all the nurses across our nation and shine the spotlight on our health occupations CTE programs. Recent and soon-to-be graduates are selflessly joining the workforce to serve the needs of their communities while earning credit toward completing their program of study. In the state of Massachusetts, 17 students from postsecondary institutions are now working, under guidance from the Governor, to fulfill their graduation requirements. Thank you, all!

Brittany Cannady, Digital Media Associate

Navigating CTE During COVID-19: Challenges to Providing Work-Based Learning during COVID-19

May 7th, 2020

One of the most important components of Career Technical Education (CTE) is work-based learning (WBL). For learners, WBL is an opportunity to learn and gain hands-on, in-the-field work experience in their career pathway. WBL exists on a continuum beginning with career awareness and exploration experiences such as field trips, job shadowing, mentorship and industry engagement. At the end of the continuum, learners begin preparing and training for the workforce through experiences such as internships, apprenticeships and co-ops. Along the way, learners build relationships and develop technical and professional skills necessary to transition into the world of work after they complete their CTE program. 

This spring and summer, however, WBL has ground to a halt for most CTE learners. COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has forced many American businesses to close their doors and, as a result, cancel or indefinitely postpone any WBL programs. Among the challenges facing State CTE Directors, policymakers and on-the-ground practitioners are: 

  1. Industry partners disengaging as they shift focus to cutting costs and long-term planning for a likely recession. 
  2. State and local government suspension of WBL programs. 
  3. Ensuring that any solution to virtual or distance WBL does not exacerbate inequities. 
  4. Knowing where to start. This is virtually unknown territory and many states and local leaders and businesses simply have no idea how to begin delivering WBL virtually or remotely. 

 

Some states and local school districts have been able to provide career awareness and exploration experiences for learners through video platforms. In South Carolina, WBL coordinators are creating virtual tour videos for learners to finish their WBL hours. Learners in Texas; the Kansas City region; Orange County, California and the District of Columbia are encouraging industry engagement by partnering with for-profit companies such as Nepris, a site that connects learners to industry professionals through live industry chats and virtual job tours. The platform, which usually requires a paid membership, is free to all users for a limited time because of the Coronavirus. Other platforms include ConnectED’s “A Day In the Life” YouTube channel. Completely free, learners can gain insight into career opportunities across a variety of industry sectors. Learners can hear from professionals and learn what their daily work entails, how they do their work, and the path they took to accomplish their career goals.  

While career awareness and exploration activities are easier to continue for learners with access to technology, career preparation and training still remains a challenge. Some private technology companies have converted their internship programs into virtual and remote experiences. Tech giant Hewlett-Packard plans to continue its summer internship program virtually for high school and college students in the Sacramento, California region. The company plans to send interns equipment so that they can connect online. However, the option to work virtually is harder to scale to other industry sectors. 

The lack of WBL opportunities during the coronavirus pandemic has significant implications for equity. Many of the go-to alternatives for remote WBL require access to video conferencing software, home computers or mobile devices and reliable internet access. The Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted, and exacerbated, the digital divide that disadvantages rural and economically disadvantaged learners. 

Additionally, Black, Latinx and economically disadvantaged learners often have less access to the social capital (professional networks) that White and professional-class learners have. WBL exposes learners to careers and professionals who they otherwise may not have the opportunity to engage with. Research has shown these engagements have the potential to close racial and economic equity gaps and increase the likelihood that economically disadvantaged learners exposed to WBL will work in high-quality, high-paying jobs as adults. By limiting access to meaningful WBL, the Coronavirus could take away a critical opportunity for learners to get a leg up on their careers. 

WBL is a vitally important component of a learner’s education and career trajectory. The Coronavirus presents significant access challenges, but also creates an opportunity for creativity and innovation. In the weeks and months ahead, it will be vitally important for local and state CTE systems and the private and public sector to work collaboratively and push the creative boundaries on what an engaging and formative WBL experience can look like for learners and industry alike. 

Brian Robinson, Policy Associate

Navigating CTE During COVID-19: Distance Learning for Nursing

May 6th, 2020

The current COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic and its imprint on the world has impacted education and workforce programs throughout the nation. Administrators, educators and learners are faced with new challenges as traditional classroom education has been largely disrupted and quickly replaced with distance learning. Though this may be the first time that many are using digital learning platforms or online educational content delivery, distance learning programs have been utilized for years and can be scaled or replicated during the pandemic.

The healthcare industry has unique challenges in providing high-quality
distance learning to learners since many of the required coursework is hands-on. Even before the Coronavirus pandemic, the need for a strong workforce of healthcare professionals was critical, with healthcare being one of the fastest-growing employment sectors in the country. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has forecasted that between 2018 and 2028, the healthcare workforce
will grow by more than 14 percent. As demographic trends in the U.S. lead to a growing older population, the needs of new health care providers and support professionals will continue to be in high demand. 

Work-based Learning at a Distance 

Work-based learning opportunities and clinical learning requirements are central to many state licensing policies, and a major component of a high-quality Career Technical Education (CTE) program. Virtual clinical simulation technologies offer an alternative opportunity to gain experience with clinical decision-making without requiring learners to be physically present in a clinical setting. This technology can replicate many situations that healthcare professionals would experience by simulating real-world patient interactions and clinical experiences. For instance, learners using this technology through a computer screen or virtual reality (VR) simulator can take a detailed medical history, conduct a virtual physical exam and make clinical decisions in scenarios that would mimic real-life interaction. Additionally, the experiences using these simulators can be standardized, allowing for enhanced ability to examine competency across programs. A  large-scale study on simulation technologies, including virtual simulation conducted by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) found that even in research cohort groups that had 50 percent of their traditional clinical hours substituted by simulation technology, no statistically significant differences were found in nursing licensing exam pass rates.

Competency Based Education and Distance Learning

Competency Based Education (CBE), which awards credit based on proving competency of content and not seat or class time, is also uniquely suited to distance education. As CBE programs are largely self-directed and allow learners to go at their own pace in different environments, they are a unique fit that aligns well with distance learning practices. CBE programs help to ensure quality as course completion is only achieved through demonstrated competencies. As distance learning is expanded, programs based on CBE can offer learners potentially a quicker way to program completion – which translates to a quicker ability to enter the workforce.

Benefits of Offering Distance Learning in Rural Communities

Rural areas face particular challenges and the need for a fully-equipped healthcare workforce. Distance learning presents opportunities for communities that have been historically underserved or have limited options for health sciences education programs in their own communities. Leading states including North Dakota, Idaho, Florida, Lousiana and Nebraska have continued to close access gaps by offering distance learning CTE coursework and opportunities. Some standout examples include: 

  • North Dakota’s Interactive Television program connects learners to remote sites in realtime via video to facilitate distance learning. It’s often used at the postsecondary level to enable students to gain access to coursework they need to earn a certification or degree; 
  • Louisiana launched a multifaceted effort combining technology and hands-on teacher supports to connect rural students with employers; and 
  • Idaho Digital Learning integrates CTE instruction into its online course catalog. Each course is aligned with state standards and facilitated by a certified teacher. 

CTE distance learning presents as a short-term challenge during Coronavirus, however, the work done now can offer long-term solutions to providing each learner in the nation with the opportunity for high-quality CTE.

View the new Distance Learning for Rural Communities Fact Sheet.

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate

 

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