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

CTE: The Choice for All Students

May 7th, 2015

HeadshotFriends of CTE guest blogger is Dr. Vince Bertram is president and CEO of Project Lead The Way and the New York Times bestselling author of “One Nation Under-Taught: Solving America’s Science, Technology, Engineering & Math Crisis.”

In three and a half years as CEO of Project Lead The Way (PLTW), I’ve visited all 50 states and Washington, D.C., been in hundreds of schools, and talked with thousands of teachers and students. People often ask me whether PLTW is or should be considered a CTE program. My response is simple—all education should be Career and Technical Education (CTE).

I recently participated in a gathering of our nation’s education leaders focused on college and career readiness. By the conclusion of the meeting, we realized the real focus should be on career readiness. After all, students take many different pathways en route to their careers, but a successful career is the end goal. As a result, we must focus on career readiness for all students.

It makes sense, then, that CTE should be at the center of career preparation—not a separate program for some students, but an education for all students. CTE programs help students explore careers and develop valuable skills—skills that are relevant, in high demand, and lead to high-wage careers.

Staying relevant

With career and technical education, we must ensure that the programs we offer are relevant to the job market and teach applicable skills across all sectors. Career readiness is not necessarily about a specific career, but rather a skillset that leads to opportunities. Through hands-on, activity-, project-, and problem-based learning, students—as early as elementary school—will develop critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration skills. As students progress through grades K-12, they can explore career paths, be mentored, and develop strong technical skills.

It’s about skills

CTE programs and educators are doing some of most important work in our economy. There is a growing realization across the United States— from governors to federal policymakers, and from local educators to the business community—that CTE is essential for our students, states, and nation. It is also becoming clear that education is not just about earning four-year college degrees, many that lead to underemployment and massive student loan debt. Rather, education must be about developing skills—skills that lead to the greatest career opportunities.

Moving forward, we must impress upon decision-makers the critical nature of this work. In the last several decades, CTE has suffered from a stigma that it is “the other choice.” Today, we find ourselves with 4 million unfilled jobs, over 8 million people who are unemployed, and millions more underemployed because they lack appropriate skills. To solve this crisis, and to ensure the United States remains a strong and prosperous nation, we must rethink the way we view education. Career and Technical Education is not just for some students, it’s for all students.

The Friends of CTE Guest Blog Series provides advocates an opportunity to articulate their support for Career Technical Education. Want to provide your perspective on and experience with CTE as it relates to policy, the economy and education? Contact 

This Week in CTE

May 1st, 2015

@AsiaSocietyPGL Australian Education Gives All Students Skills for the Workplace  #CTEblog-thumbnail-thiswek @CTEWorks thanks for the post!

Baldwin: Technical Education can Boost our Workforce
Senator Tammy Baldwin makes the case why Career Technical Education (CTE) is a high priority for her work in the U.S. Senate.

Learn more about President Obama’s Upskill Initiative providing workers with the education and skills they need to be successful in the workplace through the White House report and fact sheet.

Looking for an introduction to CTE? Visit our CTE Videos page to brush up on your CTE knowledge.

 Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate

This Week in CTE

April 24th, 2015

@VP By the end of the decade, we need: ✓ 1.3 million IT jobs ✓ 600,000 nurses ✓ 100,000 high skilled manufacturing jobs–0 …

The Bloomberg Recruiter Report: Job Skills Companies Want But Can’t Get
Bloomberg surveyed corporations to find out what skills are missing from recent MBA graduates. Though the survey is focused on this demographic, this chart provides insight into what businesses are looking for in their employees.

Employer Perspectives on Competency-Based Education
Employers weigh in on how competency-based education (CBE) impacts hiring. A survey of 500 hiring managers found that there is very little awareness around CBE and how hiring credential-bearing graduates may benefit them and their organization.

Lifelong Learning Skills for College and Career Readiness: Considerations for education policy
The College & Career Readiness & Success Center (CCRS) developed an annotated bibliography of the research into lifelong learning skills, the skills needed to master a subject and translate knowledge into action. From the bibliography, CCRS Center developed a brief summarizing the policy considerations for including lifelong learning skills in educational objectives.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate

Spring Meeting Recap: Career Pathways Systems and Performance Based Funding

April 24th, 2015

During NASDCTEc’s Spring Meeting in Washington, D.C., attendees had the opportunity to participate in a variety of concurrent workshops. Below we have highlighted two workshops, one focused on advancing CTE in Career Pathway and another on Performance Based Funding systems. 

Since 2012, five states have worked with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education to integrate CTE programs of study with state and local career pathways systems.

During a breakout session, CTE leaders from Kansas, Minnesota and Colorado discussed their wide-ranging efforts that include employer engagement initiatives, a transformational state pathways project and a toolkit for industry-recognized credentials.

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Transportation added funding to the Career Pathways initiative specifically to support transportation-related career pathways. As part of this work, the Transportation Learning Center launched a large data project to examine the current and future workforce needs across six transportation sectors.

Age is one of the greatest liabilities for the industry, with 49 being the average age for a new mechanic hire. Through retirements and attrition, it’s estimated that 4.2 million jobs will be open between 2012 and 2022. When accounting for industry growth, the Center estimates that one new transportation worker will need to be hired every minute over the next 10 years to fill industry demand.

During a concurrent session led by Steve Klein and Laura Rasmussen Foster of RTI International and the National Center on Innovation in Career Technical Education, presenters discussed opportunities and challenges to performance-based funding (PBF) systems.

This session drew on findings from the recent report, State Strategies for Financing CTE, which was discussed in detail on this co-hosted webinar, but was moderated as an open forum, with state leaders engaging in an candid discussion on what was working and what barriers stood in the way in supporting PBF.

For example, Texas shared details on their incentive grant program, which uses Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) funds to encourage higher enrollment in CTE programs, particularly in rural communities. Districts meeting a certain threshold of their Perkins performance indicators are eligible for a sliding amount of incentive funds. Kansas shared early successes of its (state-funded) district incentive grants for students earning state-approved industry-recognized credentials.

Some of the major takeaways shared include:

  • Be clear about the goals and intent when designing PBF (“If you pay for it, you will get more of it”),
  • A little money can go a long way in changing behavior,
  • PBF systems will only work if they are based on quality indicators, which rely on valid and reliable data, and
  • Be sure to build support among policymakers and practitioners early and often to make PBF happen.

Post written by Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate and Kate Blosveren, Associate Executive Director 

Spring Meeting Recap: Ohio’s Unified State Plan and Vermont’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy

April 23rd, 2015

During NASDCTEc’s Spring Meeting in Washington, D.C., attendees had the opportunity to participate in a variety of concurrent workshops. Below we have highlighted two workshops, one focused on how states can develop a Unified State Plan, with Ohio as a premier example while another discussed how Vermont integrated Career Technical Education (CTE) in their state’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS).

With the passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), there is a lot of discussion about cross-program and systems collaboration. The state of Ohio is a well ahead of the game. At the behest of Governor Kasich, the state has been engaged in a collaborative planning process among state agencies with the goal of creating and submitting a unified state plan under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) that would fulfill planning requirements for the state’s three largest workforce programs – WIA, Adult Basic and Literacy Education and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins).

The vision for the collaboration was to make sure Ohio had a literate and prepared workforce by ensuring Ohioans had the knowledge, skills and abilities to fill the top in-demand jobs in the state. This meant a shift in thinking away from planning driven by institutions or the delivery system and instead a focus on students and career pathways. The state also developed a Workforce Success Measures data dashboard and common metrics focused on outcomes (employment, increased skills, increased wages and value to employers) to help guide the work.

Some lessons learned:

  • Leadership must be committed: This is crucial. Leadership needs to be engaged at the highest levels and be committed to a shared vision. In Ohio, the Governor set the vision and tasked agency leadership with the specific goal of developing the unified plan.
  • Be patient: Change is difficult and often feared. This sort of shift takes time and building of trust. In Ohio this was accomplished through a lot of outreach, meetings, learning, and stakeholder/public input.
  • Be Open to Learning: A lot of learning happened as the agencies shared through what they do, who they serve, etc. With the shared commitment and focus on student success, an openness to see the potential of new partnerships and ways to serve Ohioans emerged.

The Ohio unified state plan was submitted to the federal agencies for approval. At the time of the presentation, the plan was pending approval.  The state will likely have to resubmit a plan under WIOA but with the groundwork laid to break down silos and to focus on students and results, Ohio is well-positioned to lead the way!

For more information make sure to check out a copy of Ohio’s presentation, delivered by Steve Gratz, Tony Landis and Bill Bussey.


Last summer, after facing a series of economic and natural challenges, Vermont became one of only a handful of states in the country to develop and implement a comprehensive economic development strategy (CEDS). The strategy brought together stakeholders from the state’s education, workforce and economic development communities to develop a cohesive economic development “road map” for the next five years. Much of this planning was supported by funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) CEDS program which sought to help businesses prosper in the state while ensuring all student populations— both traditional and nontraditional— were fully served.

So what was notable about this endeavor? Quite a bit according to Vermont CTE Director John Fischer and David Ives, a Sustainability and Planning Coordinator for EDA. The two took an in-depth look at Vermont’s CEDS during a breakout session at the 2015 NASDCTEc Spring meeting which looked at Career Technical Education’s (CTE) role in the plan and ongoing implementation. One message was clear throughout— education and training is a “key ingredient” to economic development and should be incorporated into the wider “workforce ecosystem.” Significantly, Vermont’s CEDS has served as a catalyst for the state to prioritize its CTE investments and has been a strong policy lever for leaders to implement high-quality statewide CTE programs of study.

Be sure to check out the plan and the newly updated CEDS guidelines on the meeting resource page!

Post written by Kimberly Green, Executive Director and Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

Endorsements, Electives & More: CTE & State Graduation Requirements

April 22nd, 2015

With Career Technical Education (CTE) in the spotlight and a priority among state leaders across the country, high school graduation requirements are a common leverage point for policies that aim to increase assess to, incentivize participation and recognize success in CTE programs of study.

In 2013 and 2014 alone, 23 different states made adjustments to their high school graduation requirements with some direct impact on Career Technical Education (CTE) course taking or credentials. It should come as no surprise that the requirements look very different from state to state.

NASDCTEc’s newest policy brief, Endorsements, Electives & More: CTE & State Graduation Requirements, explores common approaches to offering or requiring CTE courses and assessments within a statewide set of graduation requirements, offers illustrative examples of state-level policies and elevates implementation issues for consideration.

So what did we find?

  • Eleven states offer separate diplomas or endorsements on existing diplomas that either serve to recognize successful completion of CTE programs and earning of credentials and/or to incentivize more CTE participation, including Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.
  • A number of states, such as Arkansas, Delaware, Kentucky and West Virginia, require a certain number of electives, which are directed to be “career focused” or “aligned with students’ post-high school plans.”
  • A growing group of states are creating ways for CTE assessments, typically industry-recognized credentials, to meet certain exit exam requirements, such as New York, Ohio and Virginia.

Regardless of the approach, some common implementation considerations emerged, such as having processes in place for ensuring equality of rigor and quality across pathways and assessments; providing flexibility to allow students to engage in CTE programs of study without having to give up other areas of interests, such as the arts, foreign languages or other academic courses; ensuring students have the opportunity to take the full range of courses that will prepare them for college and careers; and publicly reporting the percentage of students earning the various endorsements to understand their value.

Read the full report to learn more about state graduation requirements and see how your requirements compare.

Kate Blosveren Kreamer, Associate Executive Director


Spring Meeting Recap: Featuring Excellence in the Press

April 16th, 2015

Last week, NASDCTEc held its 2015 Spring Meeting in Washington, D.C. bringing together leaders from across the country in Career Technical Education (CTE). As part of the meeting, NASDCTEc hosted a panel, Featuring Excellence in the Press, highlighting why the media is telling CTE’s story, and to offer insights into how CTE advocates can best and most effectively engage the media in support of CTE.

The panel began stressing how the CTE conversation has shifted over the years including rebranding from the more traditional vocational education programming. Along with the shift in moving from ‘vocational education’ to ‘career technical education,’ panelists noted a focus on the concept of college and career readiness and showing students early in schooling how their education is relevant to careers they can have in the future. In addition, speakers saw a noted shift in CTE’s inclusion of career-ready and employability skills as integral to today’s CTE.

Emily Hanford, Education Corresponded at American RadioWorks and correspondent and producer of Ready to Work highlighted how her year working on the documentary greatly influenced her perspective on CTE. “CTE is really exciting and refreshing,” said Hanford. “I came away from filming this documentary with a sense of envy. No one had challenged me to see what I wanted to do.”

Panelists also offered up tips to the audience on how to best tell their CTE story. Emily Ann Brown, K-12 Education Policy Reporter at Education Daily stressed the importance of introducing high-quality data, along with providing access to a variety of stakeholders when pitching a story to the press. Caralee Adams, Contributing Writer at Education Week emphasized showing the press that your story is backed up by local and national trends, but also showing how those trends translate into real-life successes by including the voice of teachers, administrators and students. Hanford, on the other hand, suggested a missing voice in the CTE narrative is alumni of CTE reflecting on how their education successfully prepared them for their career.

Check on a wide array of materials and resources shared by the speakers on our Spring meeting resource page.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate 

Finding Clarity in Career Readiness through Partnerships

April 6th, 2015

Kimberly Green, NASDCTEc Executive Director, recently wrote a blog post for Pearson on how Career Technical Education (CTE) impacts college and career readiness. Read an excerpt of the blog post below.

The phrase college and career readiness is used constantly, along with an assumption that there is a common understanding of what this term means or aspires to achieve for students, employers and our nation. Yet, when you start to unpack the term, what becomes crystal clear is that there is no clarity.  While there is some agreement that college readiness means preparation for credit-bearing, college-level coursework without the need for remediation, such agreement doesn’t exist when defining career readiness. And it all gets even less clear if you ask people to explain college and career readiness as one term, not two.

Having worked as an advocate for Career Technical Education (CTE) for more than 20 years I know that for the CTE community, college and career readiness isn’t a new term or initiative – it’s what CTE is and has been all about. High-quality CTE has always prepared students with the academic, technical and employability skills and knowledge to succeed not only in one’s first job, but for the lifetime of a career.  College isn’t the goal. College of any form – two-year, four-year, apprenticeship, etc. – is a pathway to a career– a career that aligns to an individual’s skills, talents and aspirations; a career that can support one’s family and fuel one’s passion; a career that drives our nation’s economy and ensures our country’s global competitiveness.

Read the rest of this blog post here.

STEMSuccess for Women: Empowering Educators to Recruit and Retain More Women in STEM

April 6th, 2015

We are excited to invite you to an upcoming virtual conference,STEMSuccess for Womewomeninstemn: Empowering Educators to Recruit and Retain More Women in STEM, where you’ll learn from leaders across the country who are engaging more women in the STEM fields.  One example: Professor Barbara DuFrain of Del Mar College who was able to increase female enrollment in her intro to computer programming classes by 62 percent, and improve overall retention by 45 percent.

Some of the other case studies you will hear over the course of the 12 sessions from April 13 – April 16 include…

  • How one department chairperson was able to increase female enrollment in her college’s STEM programs by 95 percent;
  • How a professor improved retention of female engineering students by 42 percent in one semester in only 12 teaching contact hours; and
  • How another professor increased the number of women who declared a computer science major from 11 percent to 46 percent by changing the introductory computer science course.

This free event is completely online, and you can participate via phone or computer. STEMSuccess for Women is hosted by Donna Milgram, Executive Director of the Institute for Women in Trades, Technology and Science

Learn more about this National Science Foundation funded virtual event here.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate

Why is Credentialing Important?

March 26th, 2015

This blog series provides readers with insight on the valuable content that is being shared at the NASDCTEc Spring Meeting. Guest bloggers are partner organizations, supporters and other experts that will be present at the national gathering in Washington, D.C. in April. 

It is crucial, now more than ever, that students are preparing for the workforce along with the prospect of a college education simultaneously. The ever-developing and changing job market united with a flexible and adaptive education system is closing the significant skills gap between employers and qualified workers. There is concern that students are not entering the workforce with an adequate skills set that prepares them for success. According to a report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2020, 65% of all jobs will require postsecondary education and training. This skills gap between education and the workforce has caused a shift toward the importance of credentialing and additional training that is more comprehensive in order to meet the needs of employers and the U.S. work industry as a whole.

Career and technical education (CTE) programs are at the front of the initiative to create students that are career ready. CTE programs provide a basis for students to acquire technical and academic skills that are necessary for successful and long-term employment. Classroom education with hands-on training prepares students for the real work they will be completing in their career fields or as they work through and continue their educations at the collegiate level. Applying concepts and skills in lab, workshop, or actual work settings provides tangible learning experiences for students to build their knowledge base. As a result, students are better able to align their educations, and subsequently their skills, with their preferred career pathways. Successful CTE programs are complemented by the opportunity for students to obtain industry recognized credentials that are beneficial for students as they build resumes and portfolios for the future. Credentials provide proof of knowledge and verify a student’s capability to perform a particular trade, skill, or occupation. Credentialing opportunities bring value to CTE programs because they validate the education and training these programs provide as well as give students incentive for further achievement.

For entry-level employment, credentials are a good predictor of success and achievement for students who are seeking their first time jobs, apprenticeships or internships. Employers are able to easily identify what degree of competence potential employees possess. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment for workers ages 16 to 24 rests at nearly 12%, and with nearly 18.1 million people entering the workforce under the age of 24, students require a way to show they have the desired technical and employability skills in a competitive job market. Industry recognized credentials and other certifications are a good way for students to make themselves more marketable to employers who are looking to invest in long-term, qualified workers. Leaving high school with more than a high school diploma is now a valuable means toward success upon entering a career field or continuing on to a two-year or four-year college or university.

Specific industry recognized credentials can give students better understanding of associated career pathways and college programs while other credentials provide general training essential to all 16 Career Clusters and beyond. Industry recognized credentials like ones offered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) play a critical role in preparing students for the hazards and risks associated with various career fields and pathways. Through a partnership with OSHA, the CareerSafe Online program is committed to providing workplace safety training for students prior to their first jobs. The safety curriculum aligns with all 16 Career Clusters and can be easily implemented into any CTE program. It gives students an advantage moving forward toward post-secondary schooling or employment opportunities. With completion of CareerSafe OSHA 10-Hour safety training, students receive an industry recognized credential verifying that they have received workplace safety training. Students that have completed the CareerSafe program have experienced increased economic flexibility and employment opportunities over their peers that do not hold credentials. Feedback from educators across the country proves that industry recognized credentialing, like OSHA credentialing, makes a difference in the employment opportunities and wages of their students. Many CTE educators reveal that their students have been guaranteed jobs immediately upon their high school graduation and therefore have the ability to establish careers or have an opportunity to pay for further education without creating a large amount of student debt.

Credentialing opportunities can and should be easily accessible because of their added value to students as they complete their high school educations. The use of credentials will increase the likelihood of skilled, competent, and knowledgeable students entering the workforce. With career readiness as an integral part of education, students will be confident in their abilities to be successful.

If you would like to offer your students credentialing opportunities with CareerSafe or learn more about implementing a safety curriculum in your classroom, please visit,

Written by Stacy Riley, CareerSafe Online

Thank you to CareerSafe for sponsoring the 2015 NASDCTEc Spring Meeting!


Foster, C. John & Sandra G. Pritz (2006). “The Certification Advantage.” Techniques. January, 14-20.
Hyslop, Alisha (2008). “CTE’s Role in Workforce Readiness Credentialing.” Techniques. September, 40-43.
Molnar, Michele (2014). “Career and Technical Education Gains Ground in Many States.” Education Week. April.
Muller, D. Robert & Alexandra Beatty. “Work Readiness Certification and Industry Credentials: What do State High School Policy Makers Need To Know?” Measures That Matter, 1-16.