New International Resources from OECD and NCEE and Implications for CTE

November 3rd, 2020

Program for International Student Assessment 

Every three years, fifteen year olds around the world participate in testing that assesses reading, mathematics, and science literacy. Coordinated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) was last conducted in 2018, with reading literacy serving as the major domain to be assessed. The results from the most recent assessment have been published all year long, and reports (including the most recent Are Students Ready to Thrive in an Interconnected World?) are regularly published on the PISA website. 

OECD Education at a Glance 2020 

On an annual basis, the OECD publishes Education at a Glance, a report that serves as a data source to compare structures, finances, and performance outcomes of international education systems. Education at a Glance 2020 has a specific focus on Vocational Education and Training (VET), and provides implications for VET in the US and internationally. 

Implications for CTE 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, career technical education has never been more important, as states leverage Career Technical Education (CTE) programs to rapidly credential adult workers and aid in economic recovery. In a recent webinar with the National Center for Education and the Economy, OECD Director for Education and Skills (and chief administrator of PISA) Andreas Schleicher further illustrated the need for vocational credentialing, arguing that “professions with vocational qualifications have formed the backbone of economic and social life during the lockdown.” The Education at a Glance 2020 report similarly correlates investment in CTE (or VET programs internationally) with increased economic returns. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the healthcare industry are growing faster than average than every other occupation industry, and more students than ever before are expecting to enter into a healthcare occupation. However, PISA 2018 survey results illustrate that students do not regularly have the skill sets required by the job market, nor do they understand the educational demands that their chosen occupation often requires. During a pandemic that relies on skilled healthcare professionals, when learners don’t necessarily have the skills they need to enter this field, and research reveals economic returns from CTE programming, it is crucial that educators and legislators leverage CTE to benefit the healthcare industry and the economy. Career technical education programs could provide learners the necessary information they require to enter into the healthcare field or, as adults, help reskill/upskill to get the credentials learners need to be successful in an ever-growing field. 

Dan Hinderliter, Policy Associate

How COVID-19 is Impacting Young People’s Academic and Career Plans

October 29th, 2020

New Survey Data Illuminates the Impact of the Pandemic on Black and Latinx Youth and Youth from Low-Income Families

In the early spring, the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic was often referred to as “The Great Equalizer.” After all, pandemics are equal opportunity threats and we all have to wear masks and attend meetings and classes on Zoom. But as the pandemic wore on, it became immediately clear that it would have disproportionate impacts, exacerbating racial and economic inequities that have long existed in the public education system and in the workforce. Without action from state and local leaders, the pandemic could have long-lasting impacts on young people, particularly Black and Latinx youth and youth from low-income families.

The Great Recession of 2008 provides some insights into the threat of the current coronavirus economic crisis. Five years after the Great Recession, youth unemployment was at an all-time high, impacting the career success of Millennials through the present day. Back in 2013, the Center for American Progress projected that young people would lose out on more than $20 billion in earnings over the next 10 years – and many are still struggling with debt and underemployment as a result of the recession.

Today, an emerging generation of young people – often referred to as Generation Z or “Gen Z” – stands at a similar precipice. We are already seeing early warning signs that the pandemic and related economic recession will impact their plans for education and career success.

How Are Young People Responding to the Pandemic?

New research from Goodwin Simon Strategic Research, funded by Equitable Futures, a project of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, illuminates the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on young people. In September, the organization released results from the first of four national surveys examining the pandemic’s impact on Black and Latinx youth and youth from low-income families.

One alarming takeaway from the research is that young people are taking on additional economic burdens as a result of the pandemic. Sixteen percent of respondents reported losing income due to decreased work hours or less business, and eight percent have lost an internship, apprenticeship or similar opportunity.

At the same time, young people are taking on additional responsibilities at home. Thirty-two percent of respondents say they are providing care for a younger member of their household, such as a younger sibling, with Black and Latinx youth responding at the highest rates.

As a result, young people are reconsidering their future academic and career plans. More than half of respondents say they value college differently now, with 28 percent reporting that they used to think college would be worth it but now think college is not worth it. Additionally, fewer young people have clarity about their goals and ideas for their futures than they did before the pandemic. In 2019, 43 percent of respondents said they felt clear about their future goals, compared to 27 percent in 2020 — a drop of 16 percentage points.

The coronavirus may not be the great equalizer, but it is the great disrupter. It may be years before we know the full impact of the pandemic and related economic crisis, but we know enough now to see that young people have been interrupted in their pursuit of education and career success in ways that will likely impact credential attainment, employment and earnings for years to come.

Trying Times Require Strong State Leadership

As a nation, we are at a crossroads, and states have a critical role to play in minimizing the impact of the Coronavirus on Black and Latinx learners and learners from low-income families. What can state leaders do to support young people in this time of crisis?

For one, they can provide clear information and guidance to help learners make informed decisions about their academic and career goals. This includes providing clear, transparent information about high-skill, high-wage and in-demand careers, the credentials needed to access those careers, and affordable opportunities to earn those credentials.

Additionally, with many young people experiencing loss of income as a result of the pandemic, state leaders can strengthen earn and learn opportunities so young people are not forced to choose between education and work. Paid work-based learning opportunities like youth apprenticeships are a proven way to build technical and employability skills on the job.

And finally, states can monitor data — including additional research from Goodwin Simon — to understand how Black and Latinx youth and youth from low-income families are being impacted by the pandemic and respond accordingly.

Early data is already illuminating the disastrous effects of the pandemic. State and local leaders can act now to pave the road to economic recovery and well-being for those who have been most impacted by the crisis.

Austin Estes, Manager of Data & Research, Advance CTE

This Week in CTE

September 19th, 2020

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

TWEET OF THE WEEK

STATE DIRECTOR OF THE WEEK

The Wyoming Department of Education State CTE Director, Michelle Aldrich, announced support in funding for the Natrona County School District (NCSD). Funding will allow for a mobile STEM lab to travel across the school district, sharing equipment and providing career exploration opportunities to middle and elementary school students. Aldrich noted that it is important to, “recognize people who go above and beyond the norm.” Read more in this article published by Oil City News. 

GRANT APPLICATION OF THE WEEK

Colton-Redlands-Yucaipa Regional Occupational Program (CRY-ROP), in partnership with the California Department of Education (CDE), is now accepting applications for the 2020-2021 CTE TEACH Mentor Grant. One grant per local education agency (LEA) will be awarded. Mentoring teachers will be provided resources and supports as they help to transition new CTE teachers from industry to the classroom. Read more about CTE TEACH’s objectives, requirements and application here

VIDEO OF THE WEEK

ApprenticeshipNC shares how these five steps can lead to the start of a registered apprenticeship program for your business. 

CAREER PATHWAY OF THE WEEK

The partnership between the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE), the University System of Georgia (USG) and the American Transaction Processors Coalition (ATPC) has brought new opportunities to secondary learners in the state of Georgia. Since 2018, the Georgia FinTech Academy (GFTA) has provided over 1,900 learners with courses that lead to a career in financial technology (fintech). Aligned with the growing market demand for talent in fintech careers and with the help of an innovative virtual platform, GFTA now reaches every high school in Georgia that chooses to offer the pathway. Fintech college courses are also available for dual enrollment. Read more in this article published by the Atlanta Business Journal.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE OF THE WEEK

On Thursday, the Democrats of the House Committee on Education and Labor released a proposal to reauthorize the National Apprenticeship Act. The new bill, the National Apprenticeship Act of 2020, would invest $3.5 billion in Registered Apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships over five years, and develop approximately 1 million new apprenticeships.

A fact sheet on the National Apprenticeship Act of 2020 can be found here, a section-by-section summary here and the full bill text here.

Follow Advance CTE’s legislative updates for more up-to-date information. 

RESOURCE OF THE WEEK

Advance CTE, with support from the Siemens Foundation, commissioned focus groups and a national survey to explore the attitudes of parents and students currently involved in CTE, as well as prospective CTE parents and students, to better understand the promise and opportunity of CTE. Making a Winning Case for CTE: How Local Leaders Can Communicate the Value of CTE provides ideas for how local leaders can use the messages and research from the Value and Promise of Career Technical Education report to effectively communicate the importance of CTE, especially to the most important audiences- students and parents.

View Making a Winning Case for CTE: How Local Leaders Can Communicate the Value of CTE in our Learning that Works Resource Center.

Brittany Cannady, Digital Media Associate

Education, Training and Skill Development to Support an Equitable Recovery

July 16th, 2020

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, in partnership with the W. E. Upjohn Institute and the Penn Institute for Urban Research at the University of Pennsylvania, is conducting a webinar series highlighting strategies to promote an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. The first webinar focused on the impact of the pandemic on workers and the need for job training and skill development during the recovery. A full recording of the webinar and the speakers’ slides can be found here.

Recent data indicates that about 20 percent of the U.S. labor force has lost employment or earnings since February 2020, and about half of all job losses have taken place in the retail, leisure and hospitality industries. Some demographic groups have been disproportionately impacted by employment or earnings losses, including Black and Latino workers, workers with a high school education or less, and female workers. Notably, a large percentage of recent job losses may be permanent, meaning the worker won’t go back to employment at that particular job; Steven Davis from the University of Chicago shared recent calculations suggesting that 32-42 percent of job losses that have resulted from the coronavirus may be permanent. 

To date, most policy responses to the coronavirus have taken the form of relief, but Harry Holzer from Georgetown University urged a shift toward recovery-related policies that support job creation and strategies to ensure that workers can obtain available jobs. Holzer encouraged policymakers to focus on three important points when deciding which education and training policies to enact:

  • Policy proposals should target support to the highest-need workers, including permanently displaced workers, workers who have experienced involuntary reductions in their hours, low-wage workers in “essential” jobs, and young workers who are new entrants into the labor market.
  • Policies should support education and training for work in high-demand fields.
  • Policies should implement education and training approaches that research has shown to be effective, such as work-based learning and apprenticeship, occupational and career guidance, and financial aid for higher education.

Davis suggested that many of the massive shifts in consumer spending, working arrangements and business practices that have occurred as a result of the pandemic will not fully reverse. For example, working from home, online shopping and delivery, and virtual meetings and interactions may become the norm as people are getting used to these practices and as businesses realize that virtual interactions are often easier and less expensive. Davis encouraged policymakers to think ahead to the future and enact policies that facilitate the shift toward virtual, rather than enacting policies that try to return to the pre-pandemic status quo. 

Michelle Miller-Adams from the W. E. Upjohn Institute encouraged a focus on policies that facilitate a better match between labor supply and demand, including identification of skills shortages and training to meet those needs. She shared a number of state and local examples of programs that support individuals who are disconnected from work, including the concept of neighborhood hubs as a supplement to the workforce system’s one-stop job centers, and the use of technology to provide career guidance and information to job seekers. Miller-Adams also encouraged the expansion of high-quality tuition-free college programs, which include elements such as universal eligibility, embedded student support, strong alignment with employer needs and stable funding; she highlighted the Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect programs as best practices. 

Meghan Wills, Director of Strategic Initiatives

New Resource: Talent Pipeline Management® (TPM) Resource Guide: A Compendium for High-Quality CTE

May 20th, 2020

Career Technical Education (CTE) provides learners of all ages with the academic and technical skills, knowledge and training necessary to succeed in future careers. At the heart of high-quality CTE programs is the partnership between employers and educators. Effective, two-way partnership between the employers and educators allows for CTE programs to adapt to the current needs of industry and address talent shortages, while also strengthening the quality of those CTE programs.

However, too often there are disconnects between employers and CTE programs, due to lack of coordination, common language and measures of success. To help bridge this gap, Advance CTE partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Center for Education and Workforce to help develop the Talent Pipeline Management® (TPM) Resource Guide: A Compendium for High-Quality CTE

The guide is designed to both introduce TPM as well as enhance the existing TPM movement. It is composed of three major resources:

  1. Resource 1: CTE Orientation to the Employer Community
  2. Resource 2: Employer Orientation to the CTE Community
  3. Resource 3: Improving Employer Engagement in CTE through TPM

 

To develop these critical resources, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation convened a review committee of State CTE Directors and TPM practitioners from across the country to ensure the tools can simultaneously work for CTE and industry leaders. The resources can serve as a primer to CTE for employers (and to employers for CTE), as well as offer concrete and actionable steps to take to build strong partnerships across the two communities in support of CTE programs that fully meet the needs of employers and learners alike.

Help us share: 

Tweet: In partnership with @USCCFeducation, @CTEWorks has contributed to the TPM Resource Guide for High-Quality #CTE, offering guidance on how to build stronger partnerships between employers and CTE educators to improve student outcomes.  #TalentPipelineManagement #CTEWorks

Kate Kreamer, Deputy Executive Director

This Week in CTE

May 15th, 2020

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

MEMBER OF THE WEEK

This week, Advance CTE welcomes Melissa Hickey as the State CTE Director for the Connecticut State Department of Education. Melissa serves in this role while also leading Reading/Literacy for the state. Top of mind for Melissa is working with business and industry leaders as well as high school and community college leaders to engage in conversations to establish new industry-recognized credentials.

CTE AWARD OF THE WEEK

In Arizona, the J.O. The Unified School District continued the tradition of hosting the annual CTE awards program recognizing students who have completed their CTE program. In addition to the program concentrator awards, a Spirit of CTE Award is presented to a student, advisory board member and community partner for their impact and contribution to the success of the district’s CTE program. View the Spirit of CTE Award winners here. All achievements were announced virtually. 

VIDEO OF THE WEEK

Gavin Schmidt, a Custom, Collision and Restoration student from Batavia Career and Technical Education Center in New York practices his skills while social distancing. Gavin has found an innovative way to keep working on his industry skills by turning his home into a body shop. 

GRANT RECIPIENT OF THE WEEK

United Way of North Texas has announced its seventh round of grant recipients. On the list is Per Scholas, which helps the nation meet the demand of skilled workers in the technology sector. With this grant, Per Scholas will be re-skilling and upskilling learners in preparation for their re-entry into the workforce. 

RESOURCE OF THE WEEK

The Fordham Institute provided a new analysis of data comparing workers with bachelor degrees to workers without one. In the end, job skills and on-the-job training is agreed upon as a necessity for upward mobility across industries. 

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE OF THE WEEK

Advance CTE and the Association for Career and Technical Education has responded to the House’s proposed HEROES Act. View the letter, and all of our responses, on our COVID-19(Coronavirus) state resources page.

Brittany Cannady, Digital Media Associate

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

May 7th, 2020

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Brian Robinson, Policy Associate

Navigating CTE during COVID-19: Best Practices for Distance Learning

April 27th, 2020

As education moves online in response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), Career Technical Education (CTE) programs are looking for ways to continue supporting learners virtually and offer high-quality educational opportunities. This edition of the CTE Research Review will synthesize some of the research on best practices for delivering distance learning. While these examples predate the pandemic, they can be a guide to CTE programs looking to implement or scale distance learning in response to the Coronavirus. 

A 2010 U.S. Department of Education meta-analysis of experimental and quasi-experimental studies from 1996-2008 found that distance learning is at least as effective as traditional classroom instruction and most successful for undergraduate and adult learners. Despite being a little dated, the findings from the studies examined likely hold true today. Some best practices identified for distance learning included giving learners an element of control over their learning (such as offering multiple options of learning tools), providing online simulations and building opportunities for individualized instruction and learner reflection.

In 2015, Hanover Research released a report outlining best practices in the development and implementation of high-quality distance learning. Some of the key findings included giving learners the opportunity to collaborate with each other as a means to further learner engagement and ensuring the course platform is easy to use with necessary information such as syllabi, schedules, readings and videos. Additionally, the authors examined the literature of best practices for online instruction specifically at the postsecondary level and cited Penn State’s World Campus’ recommended principles of effective online instruction. The original recommendations in detail are linked here and explain how to effectively engage in online instructing for the following teaching principles: actively engage in online instruction; practice proactive course management strategies; establish patterns of course activities; prepare for potential course interruptions; respond to student inquiries in a timely manner; establish a timely process for returning assignment grades; use the Learning Management System for communication and ensure course quality.  

A 2018 edition of Library Technology Reports focuses on the accessibility of distance learning programs for students with disabilities. Using the University of South Carolina’s Center for Teaching Excellence as a case study, the article identified best practices in online learning and accessibility for students with disabilities. Their recommendations are as follows:

  • “Provide step-by-step instructions for accessing the course and all course materials;
  • Offer multiple formats of materials, including Word and PDF documents;
  • Provide transcripts and closed captioning for all lectures, talks and synchronous or asynchronous interactions with students;
  • Use Sans Serif fonts to increase visibility and accessibility;
  • Use bold to display emphasis rather than color (for students with color blindness); and
  • Maintain ongoing one-on-one and group communication with students and offer accessible opportunities for interaction.”

In addition to these best practices, Advance CTE has compiled resources for distance learning. As the educational environment remains online to flatten the curve of the Coronavirus, these research-based best practices and resources can help guide CTE programs as they continue to provide high-quality learning opportunities. In future blogs we will highlight best practices related to delivering work-based learning and CTE-specific coursework online. 

Brian Robinson, Policy Associate

Learning from CTE Research Partnerships: Using Data to Address Access and Equity Barriers in Massachusetts

March 17th, 2020

As part of our ongoing blog series aimed at increasing state research on Career Technical Education (CTE), Corinne Alfeld, Research Analyst at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and Austin Estes, Manager of Data & Research at Advance CTE, are conducting interviews with individuals who are part of successful CTE State Director research partnerships. The third interview was with Cliff Chuang at the Massachusetts Department of Education and Shaun Dougherty of Vanderbilt University. [Note: this interview, from February 5, 2020, has been edited for length and clarity].

Could you start by talking about the projects that you’ve worked on, your research questions, and how you settled on those research questions?

Shaun – It grew out of my dissertation work that was using some of the school data and then some of the statewide data from Massachusetts. It started pretty narrowly but the director of research was happy enough with what I was able to do that she talked about whether we could address some additional questions, and more data was becoming available. That more or less triggered the expansion, and then with Cliff coming into the role it became a two-way conversation that was more explicitly about what’s of academic interest and what’s of interest or of need on the practice and policy side for CVTE [career/vocational technical education].

Cliff – I would say that the particular catalyst for our most recent partnership is our desire as an agency to understand the waitlist demand issues related to chapter 74 CVTE in Massachusetts. If I recall correctly, we put out an RFR (request for responses)* for a research partner to help us analyze different aspects of who is and is not getting access to CVTE programs in Massachusetts. And Shaun and his partner Isabel at Harvard, a grad student there, their bid was selected. From that project there have been a lot of offshoots through the CTEx exchange collaboration that Shaun and others have established. We’ve been engaged in a lot of informal research inquiry as well as additional formal research that uses that data.

Could you talk a little bit about what the findings were from that project and what have been implications in the academic space but also on the policy front, how are you using those findings to change policy in Massachusetts?

Shaun – The basic findings were that in fact there is much more interest in these high-quality CTE programs, these chapter 74-approved programs in these standalone technical high schools, than can be met by current supply. This was more confirmatory evidence with a little more granularity and maybe confidence in the figures than was possible previously.

Cliff – Shaun’s team also helped us look at just the straight enrollment data comparisons, which is still not as ideal as looking at applicant data. It was helpful to have a more rigorous definition of what data protocols are needed around application and admissions. We have now made the decision to collect waitlist data systematically at the state level to allow researchers like Shaun to more rigorously analyze across the board the attributes of who’s interested in voc tech, who’s getting in, who’s applying, etc.

I think it also stimulated a variety of program initiatives on the part of state government in Massachusetts to increase access to CVTE programs through collaborative partnerships like After Dark, which is an initiative that seeks to utilize shop space in our technical schools after the regular school day paired with academics provided by a partner academic school to get more kids the technical training that we are unable to do in the standard day program structures.

I would also add that Shaun is continuing other aspects of the research now that we’re very excited about, based in part on some of the research they did do to look at longer term trends of students and their outcomes post high school.

Shaun – The first order concern is that lots of people want [access to CVTE programs] and there’s a limited amount of it, so should we have more?

The second order concern – but certainly not secondary question – is one about equity and whether or not the students who were applying and the students who were getting access look like a representative cross-section of the community at large.  We know that students who choose CTE or select a lot of it are maybe different than those who don’t, but we don’t know a ton about whether and how we expect students who are making those investments to look like the overall population or whether or not access concerns lead to equity concerns.

Cliff – We would like to look more closely at whether the gaps are simply due to application gaps – which is still an issue in terms of kids not applying – or whether there are actual gaps related to who is applying and getting in. That was the data gap that we haven’t quite been able to close yet. But Shaun was able to create some comparative data that is just based on enrollment that has allowed us to engage in these conversations. We’re having the conversation about trying to expand the number of seats available so there’s less of a waitlist, but also to ensure that access into the existing seats is equitable and doesn’t disadvantage certain subgroups over others.

Over the course of the partnership, what have been some of the major challenges and hurdles that you’ve faced? What are some of the speedbumps that you’ve hit getting things formalized up at the front?

Shaun – Fortunately, one thing that we didn’t face, although I know it’s an obstacle in many places, is processes related to how one gets permissions and access to the data. In fact, as the process has evolved, having those structures in place has made it really easy, so that if Cliff and I say “hey, we’d like to add this,” it’s a pretty easy amendment of the MOU [memorandum of understanding]. And then the people who deliver the data get approval and then they deliver it through a secure portal.

Cliff – I would also say that researchers left on their own probably would have had much less success in getting district participation in the survey study we did together. I, on the other hand, am someone with positional authority at the state level and established relationships that I can leverage to get that participation. And then I can pass it off to the research team that actually has the expertise and bandwidth to execute on the very labor-intensive data collection, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

It seems like you have a good partnership and a good synergy between the state office and the research team. If you were talking to CTE leaders and other researchers, what are some strategies and practices to make sure that partnership runs effectively and can be as impactful as possible?

Cliff – I think it’s important to have someone in the role of a researcher director type person whose job it is to facilitate these partnerships and to do some of the nitty gritty around data sharing, MOUs, etc. The other thing I would say is to have a commitment to an evidence base in terms of policymaking, and have people in the programmatic leadership who see the value of that and have enough knowledge of how research functions to parlay whatever policy or relational capital they have to support the research agenda.

Shaun – I think sometimes overcoming the incentives related to purely academic publishing restricts some of the willingness of some academic researchers to invest or to think about important questions in practice and policy. It’s being willing to realize that strong partnerships with local and state agencies means that more and better work can be done, and the work can have impact in real time. There is something very fulfilling and useful and practical about taking that approach from a research standpoint and then, if you come from practice like I did, then it helps ground the work.

Other blog posts in this series can be viewed here.

 

*Cliff explained that this is a formal process by which they solicited proposals for pay. “What’s been nice is that because it’s a partnership, Shaun has secured funding from other sources so there’s not an explicit contractual arrangement always. Aspects of the research that are ongoing are follow-ons from the original study. We have an interest in continuing to mine the data long-term to inform practice and policy.”

New Survey Highlights a Persistent Skills Gap; What Can States Do to Strengthen the Talent Pool?

February 18th, 2020

As the economy continues to change with digitalization and automation, the needs of the labor market will continue to change too. In 2019 the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation commissioned a study surveying 500 human resource (HR) professionals with hiring decision authority in their organizations. An overwhelming 74 percent of respondents said that a “skills gap” persists in the current U.S. labor and hiring economy. 

These employers cite three major challenges they face when hiring: candidates lacking the appropriate or necessary skills, candidates lacking previous relevant work experience and not having enough applicants. According to these HR professionals, addressing the skills gap and truly transforming the talent marketplace would require:

1)      Greater upskilling initiatives within companies for existing employees.

2)      More educational/Career Technical Education (CTE) programs to build talent pipelines.

3)      Improving alignment between skills and competencies taught in educational/CTE programs and in-demand skills and competencies needed in the workforce.

A study by JFF further highlights the skills gap and the challenges to solving the problem. The report, Making College Work for Students and the Economy, follows JFF’s comprehensive policy agenda for addressing states’ skilled workforce and talent development needs.  The report examines a representative sample of 15 states to determine their progress toward adopting 15 policy recommendations. Of the recommendations made in their initial report, states have made the most progress on the following:

1)      Establishing expectations that community college programs align to labor market demand.

2)      Developing longitudinal data systems that provide the ability to track over time the educational and employment outcomes of students.

3)      Addressing barriers to college readiness.

Conversely, JFF finds that states have the most work to do in the following areas:

1)      Providing community colleges with sufficient resources and appropriate incentives.

2)      Addressing the holistic needs of students to strengthen their financial stability.

3)      Digging into labor market outcomes of students and postsecondary programs.

Both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the JFF studies highlight a need for state governments, the education sector and the labor sector to work collaboratively and do more to prepare the 21st century workforce to meet the needs of an ever-changing labor market. 

With implementation of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) underway, states are poised to make transformational changes to improve the quality of CTE programs and ensure equitable access and success. Opportunities like the comprehensive local needs assessment and the Perkins V reserve fund give state leaders leverage to ensure programs are meeting the needs of learners and employers.

Research Roundup

  • The University of Michigan Youth Policy Lab released a report last month finding disparities in access to CTE programs for economically disadvantaged learners and learners of color throughout the state. However, the report found that when CTE is offered in a single high school, there is very little disparity. This suggests that there is broad interest in CTE programs when offered and that states should do more to expand access for low-income and Black and Hispanic learners.
  • A report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce finds that students enrolled in certificate and associate degree programs make up 50 percent of the postsecondary student population. Students graduating with certificates in fields such as engineering and drafting can earn a median income up to $150,000. Black, Hispanic and low-income students were most likely to enroll in a certificate program. These findings suggest that certificate and associate degree programs can have great potential in closing earnings and opportunity gaps.

Brian Robinson, Policy Associate

 

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