New Resources Available on Statewide Efforts to Boost Career Training

November 18th, 2019

Advance CTE has added new resources to the Learning that Works Resource Center that highlight recent state efforts to coordinate across systems and strengthen career readiness training. Delaware, for example, is building out its capacity to increase postsecondary attainment by scaling regional career pathways and work-based learning. Similarly, Rhode Island is leveraging its New Skills for Youth (NSFY) grant to restructure the state’s entire talent pipeline and strengthen connections across education and workforce systems. Since 2015, Rhode Island has seen a 56 percent increase in the number of Career Technical Education (CTE) programs, a 38 percent increase in Advanced Placement course participation, and a tripling of the number of college credits earned by high school students. 

Massachusetts, another state that was awarded the NSFY grant, is also coordinating activities to significantly expand access to high-quality CTE programs. So far, increased investments in technical training equipment have led to a rapid expansion of the state’s career training capacity, resulting in more than 10,000 additional students enrolling in career training programs across Massachusetts. 

To learn more about these initiatives and related work, visit Advance CTE’s Resource Center

Student Leaders On Capitol Hill, Calls for Doubling the Investment in CTE

October 10th, 2019

This past month, hundreds of student leaders came to Washington D.C. for SkillsUSA’s Washington Leadership Training Institute (WLTI) and the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America’s (FCCLA) Capitol Leadership training. Both programs offer training and leadership development activities for youth Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) leaders.

SkillsUSA hosted over 550 students and advisors from 29 states at the WLTI. This year’s conference included training on personal and workplace skills, a panel discussion about effective legislative visits with experts from Capitol Hill, and a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. FCCLA’s annual Capitol Leadership training also provided students an opportunity to share their Career Technical Education (CTE) experiences with elected officials, while also developing their communication and collaborative skills.

Advance CTE’s Policy Fellow, Jade Richards, spoke with both groups of students and provided an overview of CTE funding at the national level. Students later went to Capitol Hill and passionately communicated to their representatives the impact of CTE in their communities, as well as the need to double the federal investment in CTE.

As a long-standing advocate for policies and legislation that enhance high-quality CTE programs across the country, Advance CTE is committed to empowering students leaders in America. Join us and the CTE community as we continue the campaign to create a brighter future for learners, businesses and communities everywhere.

Visit Isupportcte.org to learn more about the importance of doubling the federal investment in CTE. Email IsupportCTE@careertech.org for questions and updates on the campaign. 

SkillsUSA 2019 WLTI U.S. Capitol Photo

Using Advance CTE’s Policy Benchmark Tool to Address Gaps in “Policy” and Practice

August 7th, 2019

Guest Post by Whitney Thompson, Senior Director for Career and Technical Education, Illinois Community College Board

As the third largest community college system in the country, Illinois community colleges serve over 600,000 residents each year in credit, noncredit and continuing education courses. The Illinois community college system, made up of 48 colleges, has over 4,265 active, approved CTE programs spanning across all 16 Career Clusters®, which provide high-quality, accessible, cost-effective educational opportunities to the entire state.

In early 2018, Illinois embarked on the Postsecondary High-Quality CTE Program Approval Project. The goals are to assess existing program development and approval processes, align approval and review systems, identify technical assistance needs across the system, and share lessons learned within the broader CTE community.

This project was initiated just after Illinois went without a budget for close to two years. To add, investments in higher education over the last decade have been decreasing, or at best stagnant. Yet, thriving, modernized CTE programs across Illinois are critical to meeting the state’s goal of 60 percent of all Illinoisans with a postsecondary degree or credential by 2025.

What We Found

Because of Illinois’ challenging fiscal predicament, the colleges were facing significant staff turnover. With this, the system was experiencing a hemorrhaging of institutional knowledge. One major goal of this project, although not as originally designed, became to document practices and processes to build institutional knowledge.

The loss of institutional knowledge was also recognized among Board staff. During the self-assessment of our policies using Advance CTE’s Policy Benchmark Tool, we found that in practice we were upholding quality metrics, but there were a number of critical gaps in “policy” – documented in our Program Approval Manual. In the end, these high-quality practices were being upheld by one to two staff.

In examining our policies at the state level, we found two areas that were “building” or “promising” but not “strong:” secondary-postsecondary alignment and experiential learning. After our state-level assessment, we brought together ten participating colleges to conduct assessments of their own program approval policies and practices, with an additional lens of how they went about developing programs.

While there was some initial resistance to a couple of the elements, namely requiring secondary articulation for all CTE programs and identifying a common set of statewide standards for CTE, largely, the colleges felt it to be a helpful exercise. Similar to our assessment at the state level, the colleges also found that secondary-postsecondary alignment and experiential learning did not meet the “strong” benchmark as desired. Additionally, a few colleges noted that the use of labor market information could be strengthened in the program development process, but more education and training may be needed for staff in retrieving and analyzing this data

Alongside these examinations of our program approval policies and practices, we embarked on research to better understand program development at the campus level. We engaged our partners at the Illinois Center for Specialized Professional Support to conduct fieldwork on each college’s program development process as well as identify needs for technical assistance. Their fieldwork produced a list of areas in which the Board can help the colleges be more systematic in their program development activities and documentation.

Next Steps

While the participating colleges were steadfast for change, we are finding that there may not be enough buy-in from the system at this time to completely revise the program approval policy due to its grounding in administrative rules. However, in the midst of our project, Congress passed Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), allowing us to leverage several principles to encourage each and every college to take another step forward.

Specifically, we will be leveraging Perkins V’s calls for smooth transitions (including multiple entry and exit points in programs of study), equitable access and outcomes, alignment to secondary programs, and expanding work-based learning. We look forward to continuing this work well into the future as support for CTE is echoed nationally. Advance CTE has been instrumental in giving CTE a voice on the national stage and supporting states in fostering high-quality CTE programs across the P-20 continuum.

To learn more about Illinois Postsecondary CTE visit: https://www.iccb.org/cte/.

Welcome Jade Richards, Summer 2019 Policy Fellow

July 31st, 2019

My name is Jade Richards and I am very excited to join Advance CTE over the Summer. During my time I will be working as a Policy Fellow supporting the organization’s policy and communication priorities. 

A recent graduate from American University, I come with a fresh perspective and a bold eagerness to effect Advance CTE’s mission. Over the past five years I have worked with a range of organizations, including Toyota Government Affairs, the United States Senate through the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and the Aspen Institute. These experiences allowed me to develop a deep insight of how public-private partnerships influence the policy-making process. My experiences also informed my abilities to think critically, problem solve, and be a dynamic asset to teams. 

Recently, I also worked for a year as a STEM enrichment teacher at an elementary school. This experience was pivotal as it provided first-hand exposure to some of the challenges and successes of urban schooling. As a long-time advocate for equitable and high-quality education, I look forward to the opportunity to further develop my understanding of education policy while at Advance CTE. 

By Jade Richards, Policy Fellow 

Education Not Working For All

July 29th, 2019

The national postsecondary attainment rate across all groups of students has steadily increased over the past decade. Despite this positive trend, a recent research paper by the Center for American Progress found persisting gaps in students’ access to higher education. 

Using nationally representative data to investigate how degree attainment rates for adults compare in the U.S., the report looked at how geography and socioeconomic factors continue to impact students’ access to the postsecondary level. In the report, researchers found that despite an overall 20 percent increase in attainment in the last decade, the distribution of growth is uneven across the country. National patterns reflect lower attainment rates in rural areas and highly stratified rates – with the largest attainment gaps between racial and ethnic groups – in urban areas. This pattern highlights two significant insights:

  • Students in rural counties and low-income students in urban ones are being left behind when it comes to accessing postsecondary education and a pathway to the middle-class.
  • Though community and regional colleges serve the majority of rural residents and low-income students, funding for these institutions has historically lagged and only 50 percent of pre-recession funding have been recovered. This is just one of the challenges that limit the ability of these institutions to continue being an effective route to a good paying job.

Earlier this year, researchers at Brookings explored the landscape of the millions of young adults who are out of work. In their study, researchers used cluster analysis to segment out-of-work young adults into five groups, including:

  • 18-21 year olds with a high school diploma or less; 
  • 22-24 year olds with a high school diploma or less;
  • 18-21 year olds with at least some education beyond high school;
  • 22-24 year olds with at least some education beyond high school; and 
  • 22-24 year olds with Bachelor’s degrees

Clusters were categorized based on similarities in students’ work history, educational attainment, school enrollment, English language proficiency and family status. Specific policy recommendations were provided for each group, such as utilizing re-engagement centers with  those who have a high school diploma or less. Work-based learning and certification attainment were the only recommendations consistent across all five clusters.

Meeting the Needs of Those Left Behind 

Community colleges have traditionally worked to meet the needs of underserved students and dislocated workers. With skills-training and work-based learning gaining popularity, these institutions are also increasingly strained for resources, especially since they are in the midst of a historic funding disadvantage. The Community College Research Center (CCRC) highlights this challenge in their report on The Evolving Mission of Workforce Development in the Community College.

Today, over two-thirds of states’ accountability and funding measures are tied to completed degrees or certificates. This has led to many community colleges integrating guided pathway programs into their systems as a means to improve attainment rates. 

The CCRC research points out that noncredit programs are also increasing in popularity, as they are often shorter, more flexible and responsive to industry needs. While for-credit programs may take up to two years to launch a new program in response to student and local market needs, noncredit programs can do so in a matter of weeks or months. Because they are also shorter and tend to target specific skills needed in an industry, students often see them as a more affordable investment in their time, education and career development.

However, according to a recent report by Opportunity America, these programs can come with disadvantages, namely, they do not provide college credit or financial aid to their students. 

Given that the majority of students who are enrolling in these programs are out-of-work and/or low-income, many advocates are calling for legislation like the Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS Act), which would extend eligibility for Pell Grant funding to short term credit and noncredit programs that meet several key criteria. Proponents also argue that federal education policies need to keep pace with the changing dynamics of the workforce and postsecondary systems, to support life-long learners by aligning credited and non-credited programs.

 

Jade Richards, Policy Fellow 

New Research Lay Roadmap for Future of the Workforce

July 1st, 2019

Reports and discussions concerning the future of work in the global economy often result in increased apprehension from the public, particularly among those most vulnerable to job displacement. While the tune of a dystopian future in which workers are replaced by automation have waned, evidence pointing to the potential impact of technology on the workforce have largely been inconclusive. Recent studies continue to stress that automation has worsened inequality and stagnated worker’s wages, and that this pattern will persist more drastically in the years to come.  

Image result for workforce of the future

Photo by Graeme Worsfold on Unsplash

Given the realm of possible outcomes, one thing is for certain: policymakers and representatives of the education and labor markets need to consider clear strategies to prepare the workforce for the future of work. Researchers at the Urban Institute are optimistic in this regard. In a study that looked at what it would take to achieve quality careers for all workers, the Institute proposed five strategies for making sure more workers in the 21st-century have access to quality careers, including: 

  • Increasing effective wages. Since wages have stagnated over the last 30 years for low and middle-skilled employees, policymakers should consider approaches for boosting wages (such as raising the hourly minimum, like in Los AngelesMinneapolisSeattle, and Washington, DC). 
  • Improving access to benefits. As the nature of work and traditional employment relationships change, a growing number of people work but don’t receive benefits, such as health insurance. Businesses and industry leaders can play a vital role at this junction by voluntarily giving more workers access to benefits. Examples of this practice include Vermont’s Multiple Employer Plans, where different employers pay into retirement benefits for people with several jobs or part-time jobs. Another example is Starbucks’ free college tuition program. 
  • Strengthening worker protections and standards. State and local governments should continue exploring strategies to improve labor standards and protections as the nature of work evolves. Take New York City for example, which passed the Freelance Isn’t Free Act in 2017, the only law of its kind to protect the city’s independent workers from wage violations and retaliation. 

Researchers are also optimistic about the role postsecondary institutions, particularly community colleges, can play in preparing the workforce for the future economy. Given the role community colleges play in expanding opportunities and mobility for low and mid-income students, these institutions are in the greatest position to respond to the evolving workforce. A recent paper published by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University highlighted this role and identified prevailing trends that will inform the future of workforce development in the U.S. economy. According to the paper, community colleges in the next few years will need to respond to a number of key issues and developments by:

  • Supporting students who enroll in noncredit programs and training dislocated workers. Since these programs are more flexible than credit programs and are more attractive to adult learners, they serve as opportunities for at-risk workers to further train and adapt to evolving workforce needs. More colleges should consider how to bridge noncredit programs with credited ones to allow students a way to continue their education and training.
  • Fostering entrepreneurial and innovative activities. Colleges will benefit from responding to the overall economic development needs of communities and the nation than simply to the demand by the local private sector. LaGuardia Community College in New York and Lorain County Community College in Ohio, for example, developed business incubators to help start-up local enterprises. Rather than just serving as buildings to house new businesses, these incubators provided technical equipment to aid in product design and development.

Because postsecondary institutions will inevitably play a central role in preparing learners for future careers, researchers at the Aspen Institute’s College of Excellence program published The Workforce Playbook. This guide highlights a set of standards to distinguish colleges that are effective at ensuring that a diverse student body succeed in the labor market post-graduation. 

The playbook lays out the essential practices of a high quality community college, such as advancing a vision for talent development and economic mobility, and taking intentional action to support students’ career goals from pre-matriculation through post-graduation. 

Jade Richards, Policy Fellow 

New Tools to Drive Quality and Equity through the Perkins V Comprehensive Local Needs Assessment

June 27th, 2019

One of the most significant and exciting changes introduced in the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) is the new comprehensive local needs assessment (CLNA). The purpose of the CLNA is to support data-driven decisionmaking and more closely align planning, spending and accountability activities under Perkins V. The results of the local needs assessment must form the foundation of the local application and drive local spending decisions.

The CLNA presents an incredible opportunity for states and locals to bring focus and purpose to their Career Technical Education (CTE) offerings and programs. At the same time, it will take an incredible lift from state and local leaders to truly maximize the CLNA. To support states in this undertaking, Advance CTE convened a Shared Solutions Workgroup, with support from the Association of Career and Technical Education and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Workgroup – comprised of state and national leaders – is charged with informing and contributing to the development of resources and tools for the benefit of all states, as they guide local recipients in conducting rigorous CLNA that drive program quality, equity and access.

Today, Advance CTE is releasing the first two deliverables from this Workgroup: Driving Quality & Equity in CTE: A State Guide to Developing the Perkins V Comprehensive Local Needs Assessment Template and a State Needs Assessment Crosswalk.

The State Guide helps states identify the major decision points that will impact the design, development and implementation of their CLNA and related local application.  It provides guidance around key decisions such as: how should states structure the template? Who is required to complete the comprehensive local needs assessment? What evidence will be required? How will the CLNA connect with the local application and local uses of Perkins V funds?  The State Guide also provides a bank of questions to draw from to help states create a template that elevates and addresses state and local priorities.

The State Needs Assessment Crosswalk is designed to support state-level discussions about and the coordination of state- and federally required needs assessments, such as the required under Perkins V, the Every Student Succeeds Act and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The crosswalk tool is available in both in Excel and Google spreadsheet.

There will be a second set of deliverables from the CLNA Shared Solutions Workgroup released later this summer.  All of Advance CTE’s and partners’ Perkins V resources can be found here.

Kate Kreamer, Deputy Executive Director

New Campaign Calls for Greater Investment in Skills Training

June 26th, 2019

Last week the National Skills Coalition launched Voices for Skills, a campaign to raise the voices of working people to educate policymakers and candidates running for office in 2020
about how critical skills training is to 21st century jobs. The campaign collectively amplifies the voices of working
people, students, teachers and business leaders by calling for a national commitment to significantly increase the investment in skills training. During the launch, personal stories were shared by those who have completed a skills training program, including:

  • Alicia Waide, a teacher of over 16 years and now a graduate of Catalyte’s software engineering program. Alicia spoke to the audience about the opportunity Catalyte provided her to continue growing her skillset and represent her former students in diverse career pathways.
  • Mike Mckeague, a current Superintendent at Holder Construction with aspirations to become a regional superintendent. Mike started off in Holder’s in-house training program as a lineman and was successfully
    promoted numerous times while with the company.
  • Jeffrey Bond, a support specialist at Philadelphia FIGHT who works with groups of low-income individuals. Jeff recalled his time in the unemployment line before encountering the opportunity to further his experience and transition back into the workforce. He’s since become a passionate advocate for skills training as he believes it is a “mandatory must” that policymakers prioritize these investments to benefit communities across America.

Voices for Skills also presented a discussion between representatives from both sides of the aisle in Michigan – a state that is expected to be highly contested in the 2020 election – on why they continue to be leading champions for skills policy in Congress. Representatives Andy Levin (D-MI) and Paul Mitchell (R-MI) reiterated their commitment to skills training to meet the needs of a 21st century economy, and called upon members of the community (such as businesses, advocacy groups and teachers) to further educate, collaborate and communicate the importance of skills education. Both members also stressed that talks around infrastructure development should increasingly highlight a workforce development component, with congressman Mitchell pointing to his BUILDS ACT — which Advance CTE supports — as a needed step in the right direction.

Jade Richards, Policy Fellow 

Expanding Work-Based Learning Under ESSA and Perkins V

June 25th, 2019

This blog was originally posted by the Education Commission of the States on the EdNote education policy blog. To see the other posts in this series, click here.

The World Economic Forum predicts that, by 2022, the widespread advancement of high-speed mobile internet, artificial intelligence, big data analytics and cloud technology will transform up to 75 million jobs. To prepare for the future of work, today’s students need to know how to navigate an increasingly fluid, technology-based workforce — and work-based learning can help them get there.

Work-based learning — which can include low-exposure activities, such as career fairs or job shadowing, or intensive, sustained experiences, such as an internships or pre-apprenticeships — helps students gain real-world skills under the guidance and mentorship of industry professionals.

While work-based learning is often delivered at the local level in coordination with education and business leaders, states play a critical role in setting expectations and scaling work-based learning for all students. With new flexibility in both the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), state leaders have the opportunity to strengthen and scale work-based learning to ensure all students can develop real-world skills.

One specific leverage point between ESSA and Perkins V is accountability. Under ESSA, states are given the flexibility to choose a measure of school quality or student success that aligns with their visions and priorities for public education. Forty states adopted measures of career readiness in their accountability systems — more than double the number of states with career readiness indicators in 2014. Of those states, 12 are specifically counting work-based learning as a measure of success for high school students.

These states can take their ESSA accountability systems into consideration as they define and set performance targets for Perkins V. When Perkins V was reauthorized in 2018, Congress gave states the opportunity to choose a secondary CTE program quality indicator from among three options, one of which is a measure of work-based learning completion. This indicator only applies to the population of students graduating high school after concentrating in CTE programs, but states can still use the opportunity to align definitions, data collection cycles and reporting between Perkins V and ESSA to elevate the importance of work-based learning in high school.

State and local leaders can also braid funding from ESSA and Perkins to strengthen and expand work-based learning opportunities for students. State leaders can start by mapping different funding streams between each of the laws and identifying critical opportunities. For example, they can use ESSA funds to train school leaders on integrating rigorous academics and work-based learning and Perkins V leadership funds to establish and scale work-based learning opportunities for students. Working in tandem, both ESSA and Perkins V can be used in service of a broader statewide work-based learning initiative.

But state leaders should ground this work in a shared vision for work-based learning. A statewide vision sets common expectations and resources for those managing work-based learning experiences on the ground and can help build consensus through meaningful and sustained employer and stakeholder engagement.

This approach has been widely effective in Tennessee, where state leaders have made a coordinated effort to define and align expectations for work-based learning in order to achieve the state’s Drive to 55 goal of increasing the percentage of adults in the state with a postsecondary credential or certification. In 2014, the state board of education mapped out a framework for work-based learning to clearly articulate the expectations and components that would make up a high-quality experience. This framework has been used at the state and local levels to drive work-based learning delivery.

In short, work-based learning is a critical strategy to help learners develop the real-world skills and experiences they need to prepare for the future of work. State policymakers can expand access to work-based learning opportunities through ESSA and Perkins V implementation by aligning data collection and accountability, braiding funding and setting a statewide vision.

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

State Leaders Are Prioritizing Workforce Readiness but the Data to Get There Is Missing

May 22nd, 2019

Workforce readiness takes center stage in most education policy conversations these days. With last year’s reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (now known as the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act or Perkins V), state leaders are increasingly focused on how they can improve and increase access to high-quality career technical education (CTE) programs. With more attention being paid to this important work, state leaders must be transparent about which kinds of CTE programs are being offered, who is accessing them, and how participants fare once they’re finished. To do this, states need to collect data that is meaningful and share it in ways that people can access and use to make informed decisions. Unfortunately, CTE data currently available leaves most students and families in the dark.

According to a recent report from Advance CTE in collaboration with partners including Data Quality Campaign (DQC), less than half of State CTE Directors say their CTE data systems provide the information needed to assist in making decisions about program quality and initiatives at both the secondary and postsecondary levels. The majority of states report being able to collect learner-level data on a variety of career readiness measures at the secondary level, but for a variety of reasons this information isn’t found on states’ most public-facing resource about school quality, their school report card.

In January 2019, DQC reviewed every state’s report card and found that only 21 states included the number or percentage of students who completed a CTE program or earned an industry credential. Almost no state reported a separate graduation rate for CTE concentrators. How states chose to report this information also varied greatly, making it difficult at times to understand and interpret the data. Some states reported CTE certification rates as a standalone indicator, while others rolled it into a broader college and career readiness (CCR) indicator. Combined CCR indicators are simple (in theory) but often contain a variety of very different data points (such as CTE certifications earned, dual enrollment, and AP course completion rates) and that summary indicator is rarely broken out to give readers a clear picture of the outcomes for each of the included, and very different, measures.

Two states, South Carolina and Pennsylvania, stood out for the variety of data each include about students’ pathways, which DQC highlighted as bright spots. South Carolina reports detailed CTE data, including course enrollment and completion, credential attainment, and the types of industry credentials earned by Career Cluster® (e.g., Business Management & Administration, Finance, etc.). Pennsylvania includes data about postsecondary pathways more broadly, such as military enlistment and postsecondary enrollment rates disaggregated by student group, as well as the percentage of students who have completed a work-based learning experience.

It’s certainly a positive step forward to see almost half of states beginning to include CTE data on their report cards, but more state leaders need to follow suit. By including CTE and career readiness data side-by-side with college-going rates, state leaders can help students and families see the value of CTE pathways. As states invest significant resources into further developing CTE programming, it is critical that they be transparent about program participation and student outcomes. In order for students to utilize these programs as paths to better outcomes, they must be equipped with the data needed to guide them there.

This is a guest blog post from Elizabeth Dabney, Director of Research and Policy Analysis at the Data Quality Campaign. The post was originally published here

 

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