National Association of State Directors of Career
Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc)

Inside International CTE: Papua New Guinea and the CTE System

July 2nd, 2015

Heather Singmaster visited Papua New Guinea and discusses the educational system’s challenges and some ways the government is implementing innovative solutions. This is part of our ongoing series examining international education systems in partnership with Asia Society’s Global Learning blog on EdWeek.

Traditionally in Papua New Guinea (PNG), there has not been much investment in human resources. Yet, with high population growth expected—approximately seven million today and projected to grow to 11 million by 2050 and then double every 30 years thereafter—the country will have no choice but to face this challenge. Perhaps that is why the PNG government chose last month to host the APEC High Level Policy Dialogue on Human Resource Development in the capital, Port Moresby, which I had the honor of attending and serving as a guest speaker.

One way the government is attempting to address the human capital challenge is by expanding access to vocational education and training (VET). This is a strategy being pursued by other economies in the Asia-Pacific region, whether they are emerging or not.

In the past, VET in PNG was considered the responsibility of the provinces. According to the UNESCO report Education for All 2000-2015, students could begin attending vocational training centres after successfully completing the basic education programme at the end of grade 8. An option today for students who complete lower secondary education is to attend technical colleges, which offer one-year Pre-employment Technical Training courses (currently being replaced by a two-year Technical Training Certificate programme.) Additionally, the Papua New Guinea Education Institute offers a three-year course for grade 10 graduates leading to the Certificate of Elementary Teaching.

Given these various options, one of the biggest challenges facing VET in PNG right now is the issue of coordination among the three different government bodies reponsible for VET: the Department of Education (TVET Division); the National Training Council and the National Apprenticeship and Trade Testing Board (NATTB) at the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations; and the Office of Higher Education. The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations is responsible for setting the national standards and curriculum, and they also administer the nation’s apprenticeship program. This fragmented system contributes to a lack of clarity about different roles, making reform difficult and also leading to budgetary issues as outlined below.

Aligning Practice with Industry Needs
Thumbnail image for FullSizeRender-3.jpgI had the opportunity to visit one of the four main government-run technical colleges, Port Moresby Technical College (called Pom Tech for short). They accept students from across the country and currently enroll 628 students full time. With only approximately 200 boarding spots available, most students have to find their own housing, which is extremely difficult in Port Moresby where housing is limited and expensive. There are only 62 female students, which is primarily because there are only that number of beds available to them at the school and staying outside is not feasible for women.

The school offers programs in 10 different trades with 30 different specialties, and is in the process of adding four more, including automotive electrical and refrigeration, as soon as the standards and curriculum are approved. Women are allowed to take any course they choose, but the majority are in the printing pathway (which includes desktop publishing, graphics, and offset printing). The most popular courses for men are electrical and mechanical.

One additional dorm is reserved for the apprentice program. Students work full-time as apprentices, but come to the school for eight weeks each year to study. During the course of the three-year program they earn Level One through Three certificates.

Pom Tech also serves as the Trade Testing Center. Anyone can come and take tests, beginning with Level One, to be granted certificates and recognition for skills they have—no matter where they learned them.

Striking to me was the fact that in a country where mining and oil production are the biggest industries, there were no courses in these fields offered to full-time students. Apparently this is because the companies doing this work (mainly foreign companies) provide their own training, with some exceptions such as the short courses provided “on demand” to the companies by Pom Tech. For instance, a gold mine may send workers to Pom Tech for a four-week course designed specifically for them. These are only possible when the staff, which appeared to be stretched, has the time.

However, industry involvement in the system is critical to its overall success and providing more than just apprenticeships is important to upgrading it. By keeping training in these key areas as a function of companies, there is no investment into the local workforce, leading to more expenses in terms of either bringing in workers from abroad or having to hold these extensive training courses.

There are many issues plaguing the PNG education system. Yet, there are a few areas where they are making strides:

National Standards and a Qualifications Framework
The VET standards are established through a process led by the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations that involves boards of industry-specific experts. The certificates students earn aligned to these standards are recognized nationally based on the National Qualifications Framework. During the APEC meeting there was much discussion of whether APEC should work toward a regional qualifications framework, an idea that PNG endorsed.

Regional Cooperation
This month marks the beginning of a Memorandum of Understanding signed between PNG and the Philippines to provide assistance on building capacity at VET colleges. Such agreements are not unique to PNG; during the APEC discussions, Australia presented on the work it has been doing on building qualification frameworks with other countries in the region. And Singapore is often providing technical assistance to emerging vocational systems.

Creating or expanding access to apprenticeship programs that work well with industry and provide training in a technical college is a goal of many education systems today across the globe—including in economies much more advanced than PNG‘s. The program that Pom Tech has established seems to be popular, well supported, and running smoothly via a partnership created between government and industry.

Papua New Guinea has far to go, they are eager to learn from others and are opening up to the world. Notably, they are focused on not only developing their natural resources but also developing their human resources. To meet this goal, they are beginning to integrate innovative practices—including global competence and expansion of VET—into their education systems, which can provide an inspiring example for others, including more developed countries.

Read part one on how Papua New Guinea prioritizes global competence in education. 

Follow Heather on Twitter. 

Photo courtesy of the author.

CTE Research Review: A Call for Career Pathways

July 2nd, 2015

The Potential of Career Pathways

Two new reports explores the history and potential of career pathways.

First, a new report from the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) examines the evolution of career pathways over the past 30 years as the country has adapted and responded to the need for a skilled workforce. Further, it also offers strategies for state and local stakeholders to consider when developing a comprehensive pathways system that connects and aligns education and workforce development systems.

The paper, published as part of OCTAE’s three-year initiative to advance CTE in state and local career pathways, cited the 2014 passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and the Administration’s Ready to Work initiative as “game-changing” actions that will continue to drive cross-systems alignment.

“When looking at what has worked in career-related education and training programs historically, it becomes clear that a comprehensive Career Pathways systems approach holds significant promise for providing Americans with the skills and credentials needed for high-demand jobs and careers,” the report states.

The report was produced by Jobs for the Future, which is contracted by OCTAE to manage the career pathways project.

Meanwhile, from the Brookings Institute, economics expert Harry Holzer calls for expanding high-quality CTE – including career pathways and work-based learning, to help the nation better meet the needs of employers’ skill demands. Specifically, Holzer writes that community colleges and employers need better incentives to invest in middle-skill workers and adapt as the labor market changes. He offers three solutions:

  • Provide more resources to community colleges and smaller four-year institutions while also creating incentives and accountability through performance-based funding;
  • Expand high-quality CTE and work-based learning such as apprenticeships; and
  • Incentivize employers to create more good jobs, as well as other supportive policies including higher minimum wages.

What Happens When Students Transfer

A new study examines what happens when students transfer from and to four-year institutions.

From the Community College Research Center, “What We Know about Transfer,” takes a look at student transfer patterns, outcomes, barriers and the economic benefits of transferring in a new brief, and call transferring a “vital route to a bachelor’s degree for many underserved students.” Yet, the authors caution that policymakers should pay keen attention to the transfer process to protect the credits students have earned in order to create an efficient, seamless process for college attainment.

Data, Data, Data

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released a new brief in its “Data Point” series that looks at the Credentials (2)relationship between education and work credentials. Analyzing the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation, NCES found that more than one in five adults, nearly a quarter, have a work credential. Of these, 71 percent have a license and 29 percent have a certification. Also, more than half of those holding a work credential have less than a bachelor’s degree.

NCES also released two new data sets of note:

  • An update to its High School Longitudinal Study, which includes a look at CTE coursetaking
  • Trends in high school dropout and completion rates from 1972-2012

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

Celebrating CTE at the White House

July 1st, 2015


Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education and  theWhite House hosted “Celebrating Innovations in Career and Technical Education,” honoring CTE students, educators and programs that exemplify everything CTE has to offer, which Kim Green (NASDCTEc Executive Director), Rod Duckworth (Chancellor for Career and Adult Education in Florida and NASDCTEc President) and I had the honor of attending.

One major highlight of the day-long event was a keynote from First Lady Michelle Obama who acknowledged the power of CTE and encouraged the audience to keep pushing themselves and their peers. “I don’t know how many people know about CTE but more people should because in today’s world, a high school diploma isn’t enough…If you want to learn cutting-edge skills, if you want to prepare yourself for college and a good career…it’s important for students to realize that a four-year university is not your only option.” She continued, “For many young people and their families, CTE can be the best option because you can get all the professional skills you need for a good job in a high-demand field and you can do it at a fraction at the time and, more importantly, a fraction of the cost.” To summarize, “Career and tech programs make a whole lot of sense.”

IMG_0349Throughout the day, excellence and innovation were on display, with remarks from Principal Sandra Clement of Foy H. Moody High School (a 2014 Excellence in Action winner) discussing how CTE has propelled all of their students, in a high minority and low-income district, to apply for postsecondary education; high school seniors Anne and Anna Raheem, who championed the development of a STEM course in their school and are on their way to Harvard next year; and Jacob Smith who introduced the First Lady and is starting at Johnson & Wales with a full scholarship in the fall. A number of students and schools also shared projects – on topics including 3D printing, fingerprinting and robotics – during an innovation fair.

IMG_0298The day concluded with the recognition ceremony, where 16 national “student innovators and 10 “educator innovators “(as selected by ACTE and Career Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs), five Excellence in Action award winners, and 16 CTSOs leaders were honored.

Kate Blosveren Kreamer, Associate Executive Director



Beyond the Booth: Training Skilled Welders on the Fine Art of Teaching

June 30th, 2015

As welding matures into an industry with increased automation, sophisticated equipment and higher qualityJason_Scales_Portrait_resize and code standards, there is more specialization and a greater need for welders who understand more than how to hold a torch and join metal.

And, to this end, increasingly more high schools and community colleges are developing advanced welding education programs; so, the need for skilled welding instructors also is growing as part of this roadmap to producing a new generation of educated welders.

There’s no question those moving from industry into the classroom as a teacher understand how to weld. They just don’t necessarily have a teaching background or the know-how to engage students – the millennials – in a classroom.

Just as there is a science and art to welding, the same can be said of teaching. And the skills needed to run a successful, engaging classroom can easily be learned. At Lincoln Electric, we have developed a new, five-day training course designed to prepare new welding instructors at both the high school and community college level, as well as internal trainers with industry partners, for a career that moves beyond the welding booth into the classroom, on the teacher’s side of the desk.

Held at our global headquarters in Cleveland, the course, Beyond the Booth: The Lincoln Electric Teacher Institute, prepares instructors for life in the classroom. One of the biggest challenges in the transition from a shop floor to teaching is that of preparation. This course will help educators learn how to organize all of the content and curriculum and write lesson plans in a way that is engaging and addresses the different learning styles of all students in the room.

Simply put, a good teacher makes it look easy. But, in reality, it takes a tremendous amount of planning and effort behind the scenes to make that lecture work.

Beyond the Booth addresses crucial curriculum and lesson planning, as well as other key considerations during five days of intensive, interactive, fun learning designed with teachers in mind. We’ll talk about different teaching styles and how to effectively present based on each individual’s personal style. We’ll go on field trip to visit local Cleveland industry partners. We practice what we preach, so our curriculum prepares participants to comfortably enter a classroom and share their knowledge with a room of future welders.

To learn more about upcoming workshop opportunities, including one scheduled for late July 2015, visit

This post was written by Jason Scales from the Lincoln Electric Company.

Inside International CTE: Papua New Guinea

June 29th, 2015

Heather Singmaster visited Papua New Guinea and discusses the educational system’s challenges and some ways the government is implementing innovative solutions. This is part of our ongoing series examining international education systems in partnership with Asia Society’s Global Learning blog on EdWeek.

Before heading to Papua New Guinea to speak at the APEC High Level Policy Dialogueon Human Resource Development in the capital Port Moresby last month, my American peers asked me many things: Will you see natives with faces painted like skulls? Did you know they have the world’s largest species of rat?  Isn’t it one of the poorest countries in the world?


What I found is a country that, yes, is very poor and facing what may seem to be overwhelming challenges. But, despite these, Papua New Guinea is taking positive steps to address them, including a budget that is focused on the pillars of health, education, infrastructure development, and increased funding direct to the provinces.

And while the vision of dancing natives is what the country is known for, it should also be known for the fact that it is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world, with more than 800 languages spoken within its borders. It is also one of the most rural countries in world, separating people by vast mountains and water—there are over 600 outlying islands. As someone said to me, “it’s like 800 countries in one.” This is an asset that the government has recognized. Despite facing the huge challenge of providing education for all students, they are prioritizing an education infused with global competence.

For many education systems, there is a common perception that a basic education must be offered first, before they can even begin thinking about integrating 21st century skills. Yet, making a quality 21st century education a pillar of an expanding system provides opportunities to leapfrog those that are still focused on outdated models (such as a narrow focus on academic knowledge and rote memorization) which result in limited dividends for their students and future workforce.

A Complex Set of Challenges
Now, I am by no means an expert on Papua New Guinea (PNG) after my short visit, but I did do some background research and had the chance to talk with people representing all walks of life: bus drivers, government officials, a lawyer who handles domestic abuse cases (a rampant issue in the country), a recently graduated university student, an expat business owner, and people who had moved from the provinces to the city looking for a job and a better way to live.

One recurring theme of these conversations is that jobs and government services—including education and health care—are in short supply and in some rural areas, extremely limited. Many people live in extreme poverty and the word corruption came up on more than one occasion. Yet Papua New Guinea is also a land rich in natural resources; development is improving the economy and leading to some infrastructure development, such as new roads around the capital.

However, there has not been much investment in human resources, a challenge the government is looking to address through new education initiatives including an expansion of vocational education and training (VET—which I will cover in my next post).

Educating for Global Competence
With development comes an increased interest in putting Papua New Guinea onto the world stage. In addition to the APEC dialogue on human resource development, which functioned as a practice run for 2018 when Papua New Guinea will be hosting numerous annual APEC meetings and the APEC ministerial convening, PNG is hosting the Pan Pacific Games this summer. In an era of globalization, the government is promoting some progressive ideas including global education and frameworks for responsible, sustainable development.

Nowhere is there a better argument for teaching global competency than Papua New Guinea due to the diversity within its borders and its aspirations to emerge on the world stage. Global competency has been recognized by the government and was clearly reflected in the priorities of the previous National Curriculum: culture and community, language, mathematics, personal development, and science. It stated, in part:

“The curriculum will prepare students who are more flexible for a changing world…. (its) principles are based on significant cultural, social, and educational values and beliefs such as: (i) bilingual education: education in vernaculars and English; (ii) citizenship: roles, rights, and responsibilities in society; (iii) law and order: good governance; and (iv) lifelong learning: applied learning. The National Curriculum is inclusive and designed to meet the needs of all students irrespective of their abilities, gender, geographic locations, cultural and language backgrounds, or their socio-economic backgrounds.”

School in Papua New Guinea is not compulsory, but it is free. According to an interview with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, published in the local paper, Post-Courier, while I was there, one of his proudest achievements is abolishing the school fees that were such a burden on his family when he was growing up. One effect of eliminating these fees is that more children, especially girls, are now able to go to school.

But it has also led to a huge shortage of teachers, lack of school buildings, and shortages of curricular resources. To his credit, the Prime Minister has acknowledged that the policy was not going as planned because the government was not delivering public services effectively and on time.

There were also issues with implementing the curriculum due to the difficulty of switching to an outcome-based approach with limited teacher training and resources (challenges also faced by Australia in trying to implement a similar pedagogy). However, the current curriculum maintains an emphasis on global education—for example elementary education has three focus areas: language, culture and community, and cultural mathematics.

As Papua New Guinea demonstrates, global competence is relevant to developing and developed countries alike. In recognition of this, the global education community has recently come together around a single set of goals that aim to accelerate progress in delivering quality education for all of the world’s children and youth. Organizations such as A World at School, the Global Business Coalition for Education, and Business Backs Education are supporting universal access to a quality education that provides 21st century skills for employability and global citizenship.

Learn more about how to be involved in the #UpForSchools campaign.

Come back on Wednesday to learn about the vocational education system in Papua New Guinea.

New State CTE Director: Guy Jackson, Wyoming

June 17th, 2015

Guy Jackson, State CTE Director
Wyoming Department of Education

Over the past year we have had a number of new State CTE Directors join NASDCTEc. Over the next few months, we will take a look into each new State CTE Director’s challenges, opportunities and goals for his or her tenure. For our first in the series, we spoke to Guy Jackson, State CTE Director in Wyoming.

  1. How did you come to be the State CTE Director in your state?

In high school I was very interested in anything mechanical (cars, aircraft, etc.) but went on to college and earned a B.S.Ed. from the University of Memphis.  I started flying during college and decided to get my aircraft maintenance technician certificate and FAA Aircraft Mechanic’s License and worked in aviation for several years.  My career in Career Technical Education (CTE) began when I moved to Wyoming to teach at an aviation maintenance technician school.  After 26 years of teaching and education administration, I took a consultant position with the Wyoming Department of Education and administration at postsecondary technical schools.  From there, I was promoted to the Wyoming State CTE Director in March of this year.

  1. What are your major goals for CTE in your state? And what do you think your biggest challenges are in your new role as State CTE Director?

My first priority is to provide professional development to existing educators in building effective CTE programs that result in graduates that are college and career ready.

There are a multitude of challenges to this. This includes:

  • Educators and administrators occasionally view Wyoming Department of Education-provided professional development opportunities as having no value to their classroom and instructional needs.
  • Ensuring career advising is a shared effort among educators, as school counselors do not currently have the capacity to provide all students with the necessary information and resources to make good decisions about school programs, colleges and careers.
  • Educating teachers in academic and technical-based skills. CTE teachers are more likely to have experience in project-based learning and lack advanced academic subject knowledge or formal training in the integration of academics into their technical coursework.

Though the challenges are there, it opens opportunities to work with the community to advance this priority. We will achieve this by working with Perkins secondary and postsecondary coordinators, CTE curriculum coordinators, and district instructional/training coordinators to develop and deliver effective, meaningful teacher professional development. We also hope to provide ‘academy’ offerings that help teachers implement best practices and innovative curriculum and encourage academic core and career technical teachers to integrate their subject areas.

Additionally, we plan to develop a state web-based career development and exploration platform that will available to every student, parent and educator in Wyoming, as well as work to encourage and facilitate teacher summer externship opportunities across the career pathways.

My second priority is to encourage districts to adopt regional strategies that promote collaboration among districts and institutions.

The largest challenge to achieving this priority is that most high schools are unable to offer more than four or five comprehensive career pathways with a full complement of academic and technical courses.  Rural districts and high schools with less than 200 students find it difficult to offer more than two career pathways.

Despite this barrier, we can encourage districts to collaborate with neighboring districts to organize complementary career cluster and career pathway offerings as well as create inter-district transfer opportunities for students and teachers. Critical to accomplishing this will be regional CTE strategy meetings and trainings.

My third priority is to facilitate business/industry and education partnerships. This has its challenges in that two-way communication between business/industry and education is not always consistent due to time, budget and other resource constraints. Also, formal apprenticeship programs often do not want to include high school CTE students due to liability issues.

We are looking to overcome this is by convening regional and statewide teams of academic and CTE secondary and postsecondary instructors along with industry representatives to develop competencies and CTE assessments in career pathways that are most important to the state economy. Also, we want to encourage local business and industry investment and support through funding, in-kind gifts, and externship opportunities for educators. Finally, we need to find solutions to liability issues so that we can connect high school students with formal apprenticeship programs.

My last priority is to strengthen teacher preparation programs and remove obstacles to hiring effective CTE teachers, particularly critical as many of our state CTE teachers are close to retirement.  Districts and administrators are finding it difficult to hire effective and qualified CTE teachers, which often results in the discontinuation of a CTE program.

We have identified some possible solutions to these obstacles. We will identify instructional activities that can be used in teacher preparation programs to prepare new teachers using innovative delivery systems. Along with identifying activities, we want to support the expansion of CTE teacher preparation programs at the University of Wyoming by encouraging teacher candidates to pursue dual certification in academic and technical subject areas and validate that Wyoming Professional Teaching Standards Board CTE teacher endorsement is meeting the state’s needs.

  1. What do you think the future of CTE looks like in your state?

The future of CTE in Wyoming is dependent on the state’s ability to support innovation in CTE to meet its education, workforce and economic needs.  That support is based on our state’s CTE funding in addition to Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education funding.  Though we are a small, rural state with limited funding, the Governor Matt Mead and Jillian Balow, Superintendent of Public Instruction recognize and support CTE in our state.

We look forward to working with our state school districts and community colleges to advance best practices in Wyoming Career Technical Education.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate 

ACTE Launches Microdocs Initative Aiming to Tell the CTE Story

June 17th, 2015

The Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE) launched its Microdocs initiative today. The series of films are designed to inspire student to follow their passions through Career Technical Education (CTE) through the power of storytelling. The videos highlight students’ experiences in CTE from 3-D printing to green energy, and will be distributed to educators, parents and career guidance counselors to share with students.

Interested in supporting the Microdocs initiative?  ACTE began their first-ever crowdfunding campaign through Indiegogo, which will support the creation of more stories on topics such as aeronautical engineering and cyber-security.

Learn more about this initiative on Indigogo and on ACTE’s website.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate 


Career Cluster Product End of School Year Sale!

June 11th, 2015

Stock up on your Career Cluster products for next year, today! We’re offering up to 75 percent off materials. From posters and brochures to sample plans of study, we offer the only official Career Clusters® products endorsed by the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium and the National Career Technical Education Foundation.

The sale ends June 26 and products will sell out, so make your purchase today!

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate 

This Week in CTE

June 5th, 2015


The National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE) launched a toolkit, Explore Nontraditional Careers, for educators and counselors across the CTE and STEM pipeline. Learn more about the toolkit in an archived webinar.

Demand for Summer Jobs Outstrips Opportunities
Ever since the recession, teen-unemployment has remained slow to recover. Only 30 percent of people 16-19-years-old are expected to have summer jobs, down from 52 percent in 1999 and 2000.

Infographic: Education options after high school
Developed by CareerStep, this infographic shows students their option upon graduating high school.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate 


Inside International CTE: Netherlands Part II

June 4th, 2015

This interview with Martin van Os an educational advisor, explores the CTE/VET system in the Netherlands. Van Os began his career as a physics teacher, became a school principal, coordinated the national in-service courses for science and technology, was the senior organizational advisor for the National Center for Urban School Improvement, worked for government on secondary vocational education and was founding director of the Vakcollege support company. This interview was conducted by Katie Fitzgerald of NASDCTEc in part of our ongoing series examining international education systems in partnership with Asia Society’s Global Learning blog on EdWeek.

What are some the steps the Netherlands has or is taking to strengthen CTE?

The urgency of the situation has become clearer and better supported in the last ten years. The economic crisis reminded us that only innovation and creativity would maintain our wealth as a nation, and that we need a high number of excellent, technically educated employers and employees. In response to this sense of urgency, successful Dutch companies and public figures have become involved and are providing inspiration and innovation to the field.

A numbers of actions are being taken to help young people to fulfill their talents with the possibilities the Dutch economy has to offer. Among them are very powerful bottom-up initiatives started by schools and often supported with the help of local companies. Others are powered by government and applied in schools, such as the implementation of career education and guidance and curriculum updates.

Building a chain: Developing career education and guidance

Despite the success with the high quality of individual schools, we are still struggling to provide all students with a successful transition from secondary to tertiary education. About 80 percent of students are successful in their chosen area of study after they finish secondary education. The remaining 20 percent drop out or don’t pursue post-secondary education.

The Dutch government hopes to increase the success of students in their first career choice, both for pedagogical and financial reasons. Currently, secondary schools are monitored and rated based on exams. This reliance on results has led to students taking subjects in which they are comfortable and confident for the test, rather than the subject that will help them in their chosen field of study. Furthermore, exams can easily miss some essential skills, like discipline, motivation and collaboration.

In addition, when students are preparing for post-secondary level of education, there are an abundance of choices without much guidance, so students often turn to their parents for advice – but they are also unclear about CTE fields of study. To address these challenges, the government has made career guidance a requirement of secondary education, and schools are experimenting with how to accomplish this new task. This includes teacher trainings on career guidance to help them understand what skills their students need, and site visits to organizations and colleges.

What are some of the Netherlands’ successful initiatives in Career Technical Education?

A broader curriculum

In 2002, an initiative was launched with schools to develop a broader technical curriculum. In partnership with 10 schools, we developed concepts and practices to make the curriculum attractive to students with various career and educational desires, including students interested in pure technical fields, those who want to apply technical solutions in human services and those who prefer to go into the business sector. Participating schools had to agree to deliver this curriculum successfully with a small number of students to start.

The schools were provided the opportunity to experiment and pilot the curriculum, and after a year of preparation and two years of practice, we followed the first group of students moving into tertiary, or postsecondary, education. We found that these students did as well or better than the traditional groups of students.

With these results, we developed a global curriculum and instruction for student exams. With the support of our stakeholders, the Government accepted the results and put it into legislation. The 10 original schools formed a platform, helping other schools implement this approach and guiding further development.

Currently, over 100 schools have adopted this curriculum and are fully supported by legislation with the support of the platform and stakeholders.

In 2007, a group of entrepreneurs had several observations. First, that a group of students were interested in high-quality and attractive CTE, but the number of schools providing that kind of education were closing or forced to decrease the number of their departments. Second, the perception of CTE was very poor.

After getting support from schools and businesses, I was asked to lead an initiative, Vakcollege, which focused on career knowledge early on for students, and would aim to change the perception surrounding CTE.

We developed three promises for stakeholders. For the students we aimed to develop, “attractive education towards an occupation, diploma and job;” for the companies involved, “a new generation of technicians and craftsmen;” and for the schools our goal is that, “together we make a difference.”

We started a company, and in 2008 partnered with 13 schools, each with its own assemblage of business partners. We pushed boundaries of what legislation allowed but found out that –to our own surprise- the Dutch system allows schools to change their vision and mission towards more CTE as long as they stay within the boundaries of the various streams.

The initiative has been widely accepted. This summer the company will be replaced by a foundation with 50 schools as members dedicated to furthering the development of Vakcollege.


Another successful program we have is Technasium, which began as an elective choice for students offered in the school gymnasium. In this free space, schools offered a new subject they called Research & Development for the more scientific and technical interested students.

This idea was crucial because it offered CTE to students in higher streams, something that these students were not typically exposed to. The most academically gifted pupils were given a chance to explore their talents and interests in CTE fields.

Furthermore, the goal of this initiative was not to develop a standard curriculum, but to work on interesting and innovative questions posed by local companies and businesses in eight-week projects, and present the student solutions to professionals from the companies. Instead of a typical test, student assessment is on their research, solution, creativity, presentation and collaboration.

A foundation has been created that helps schools develop a Technasium program and works closely with the government to set the standards on which schools can join and are allowed to offer exams in Research & Development.

Though these initiatives may have different outcomes, they share the same ambition of developing education, meeting the needs of the students involved, contributing to lasting careers, and helping to provide a pipeline of students with the skills industry needs.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate