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

This Week in CTE

September 18th, 2015



The Council of State Governments September/October issue of Capitol Ideas magazine focuses on Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) with an article specifically on how Career Technical Education intersects with STEM.
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NASDCTEc in partnership with the Appalachia Regional Comprehensive Center are hosting a webinar,. Reshaping Tennessee’s Work-based Learning on Thursday, October 15. The webinar will explore how Tennesee is reshaping work based learning to create a rigorous and relevant experience for all students.


Don’t Quit on Me, a report released by America’s Promise Alliance, explores how the role of relationships in a student’s life impacts their chances of graduating high school.
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The Alliance for Excellent Education opened applications for their Excellence and Innovation In Secondary Schools award. The awards will identify exemplary high schools and/or districts that are improving outcomes for undeserved students.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate 

CTE Research Review: Making Sense of Credentials

September 16th, 2015

The number of high-demand jobs requiring an occupational license has grown over the past several years. This shift requires changes from the education community when considering the requisite training and preparation that students will need to enter these careers.

A new report from the White House offers policymakers a framework for the growing field of occupational licensing as well some best practices to consider.

Some interesting facts:

  • More than one-quarter of U.S. workers now require a license to do their jobs, and most are licensed by their state – which represents a five-fold increase since the 1950s.
  • The share of licensed workers varies widely across the states from 12 percent in South Carolina to 33 percent in Iowa. Differences are largely due to state policies not occupational differences across the states.

Also, licenses are just one type of credential that students can obtain in their educational journey, and with states working to meet the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), understanding the different types is more important than ever.

The Association of Career and Technical Education recently published a primer on credentials, in particular the postsecondary space between high school and a two-year degree. Check out the full brief here.

Finally, the two-year degree attracts students of all ages, but which of those age groups are most likely to continue on to earn their bachelor’s degree? A quick fact sheet from the American Association of Community Colleges’ “Data Points” series has the answer.


Source: Association of Career and Technical Education

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

CTE Research Review: Jobs, Jobs and More Jobs

August 27th, 2015

In the past few weeks, a number of studies have been released focusing on jobs and careers. Below is a quick rundown of some of the most salient reports.

The U.S. Departments of Education, Labor and Transportation: Strengthening Skills Training and Career Pathways across the Transportation Industry
This joint report, building on the collaboration across these agencies to better align career pathways initiatives and efforts, details the potential employment opportunities throughout the transportation industry, broken down by subsectors, occupations, career areas and geography. A core finding is that transportation industry employers are expected to hire and train roughly 4.6 million workers, an equivalent of 1.2 times the current workforce, to meet the needs of growth, retirement and turnover in the next decade.

Jobs for the Future: Promising Practices in Young Adult Employment
Jobs for the Future has released a series of three briefs to support ways in which education, employers and workforce development can better collaborate to combat the chronic high unemployment of our youngest adults. They released case studies on an EMT Career Pathway program in New Jersey; automotive and manufacturing Career Pathways in Wisconsin and Virginia; and a multi-disciplinary career exploration program in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, each of which detail the specific actions taken by employers and workforce development leaders.

Center on Education and the Workforce: Good Jobs Are Back: College Graduates Are First in Line
The latest report from Georgetown’s Center for Education and the Workforce focuses on how many of the jobs created since the Great Recession are “good jobs,” which according to the Center:

  • Pay more than $53,000 annually for a full-time, full-year worker (more than 26% above the median earnings of all full-time, full-year workers, which is $42,000), and
  • Typically are full-time (86%), offer health insurance (68%), and provide an employer-sponsored retirement plan (61 percent).

CEW Good JobsThe report finds that 2.9 million of the 6.6 million jobs added over the Recovery are “good jobs,” most of which require at least a bachelor’s degree. Consistent with many of the Center’s other reports, “Good Jobs Are Back” finds that individuals with a high school diploma or less as the most likely to suffer during and beyond the Recession and Recovery.

Young Invicibles: Best Jobs for Millennials
Focusing on careers that will provide millennials with the greatest opportunities, Young Invincibles analyzed Bureau of Labor Statistics data using three criteria: projected occupation growth by 2022, median wage and “Millennial share,” or the percentage of the total jobs in that occupation held by young adults aged 18-34. Based on the criteria and a ranking system, the report found that physician assistants, actuaries, statisticians, biomedical engineers and computer and information research scientists were the five best jobs out there for young adults. Across the list of the 25 best jobs identified, over half are “STEM” and nearly all require some education and training beyond high school, a number of which require less than a four-year degree.

Kate Blosveren, Associate Executive Director

This Week in CTE

August 21st, 2015



NJ County Vocational-Technical Schools Lead Newsweek’s ‘America’s Top High Schools’ List
Newsweek’s 2015 “America’s Top High Schools” list, six of the top ten schools are New Jersey county vocational-technical schools one of which is a 2015 Excellence in Action award winner. In all, 15 New Jersey vocational-technical schools are included in the top 150 (out of 500) high schools speaking to the high caliber of CTE in the state.
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Despite the increasing demands placed on professionals in the education sectors whether in public education, government agencies, foundations or nonprofits to manage the K-12 education system, professional development opportunities are consistently left on the backburner. EdFuel released a report, Hidden in Plain Sight: Tomorrow Education Leaders Already Work for You, diving into the benefits and necessity of training and educating education leaders.


While women represent 50 percent of the labor force, only 25 percent of the manufacturing workforce are women. To celebrate and promote women in this sector, the STEP Ahead Awards program by the Manufacturing Institute launched the Women in Manufacturing award recognizing women at all levels of the industry. Nominate someone you know today!

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate

CTE Research Review: Leveraging CTE within Competency-Based Education

August 20th, 2015

CBPA new brief from Achieve and NASDCTEc argues that states can and should leverage CTE when considering how to move K-12 education toward a system marked by mastery, not time. The paper, “Building a Strong Relationship between Competency-Based Pathways and Career Technical Education,” identifies the opportunities for collaboration and strengthened relationships as well the challenges of creating an integrated system.

Competency-based pathways (CBP) have the potential to open new opportunities for students to learn and demonstrate their learning in meaningful ways. To do this, students should be able to access engaging learning opportunities that are grounded in application and relevant to their career goals – a central focus of CTE. This is why state leaders should consider how to ensure that CBP and CTE systems are aligned and mutually reinforcing.

In fact, states that intentionally include CTE in their vision for CBP can use its inherently competency-based elements to help break down the classroom walls that separate academics from CTE, and by doing so, can value learning where it happens and create opportunities for teachers to collaborate and innovate.

Leverage points can include:

  • Contextualized learning environments for all students
  • Self-directed pathways anchored in students’ career interests and inclusive of the full breadth of college- and career-ready knowledge and skills
  • High quality experiential learning opportunities
  • Project-based learning as a platform for instruction
  • CTE as a component of assessments to authentically measure student learning

The brief also offers key points of consideration for states moving toward an integrated CBP system:

  • Incorporating CTE at the outset helps break down the historical silos that still exist within the education system
  • Ensuring equitable student access to high quality CBP across CTE areas
  • Building capacity for districts, schools and educators to transition to an integrated CBP system
  • Overcoming data and reporting challenges to capture student proficiency where it happens, especially when it happens beyond the traditional school walls
  • Recognizing that some elements of CTE programs are still beholden to time
  • Crafting a thorough, well-executed communications plan to build buy-in and understanding

The brief includes state examples from Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Read more about how states are implementing CBP here.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

CTE Research Review: Career Readiness for All

August 5th, 2015

PathleasttakenThe Center for Public Education has analyzed the National Center for Education Statistics’ Education Longitudinal Study to look at a student group that is often ignored in major research studies – the one in five students who do not immediately enroll in college after graduating from high school. Be sure to check out the first installment of this research series, which looked at the characteristics of this group.

Now, CPE has released its second installment – this time attempting to gain insight into “career readiness” for high school graduates by looking at various job-related and social outcomes of this same group of non-college goers by the time they reached age 26. In fact, the data showed that “credentials” and being well prepared in high school matter, particularly for non-college goers who:

  • Completed Algebra 2 as highest math course and Advanced biology as highest science;
  • Earned a cumulative GPA between 2.51 and 3;
  • Completed an occupational concentration in high school (three or more CTE courses in a specific area); and
  • Earned a professional certification or license.

Specifically, researchers found that advanced courses, such as Algebra 2 and advanced biology, and an CTE focus can have an impact on non-college going students’ likelihood to have a good job and engage in society. If those same students earn a professional credential, then the scale shifts in favor of the non-college goer, meaning they are actually more likely to be employed, earn good wages and vote than their peers who attended college. Further, better preparation also had a greater impact on black graduates than their white and Hispanic peers, showing that higher credentials can be the key to closing the employment and wage gap.

Rising to the Challenge?

A new survey from Achieve asked college faculty and employers who teach or hire recent high school graduates about their preparedness for college and careers. This is the second release of Achieve’s Rising to the Challenge survey. The first release, from late 2014, examined recent high school graduates’ views on their own preparedness. The full survey is an update to a similar survey Achieve conducted in 2004.

The results reveal many parallels to the students’ own responses – in short, that there is a pervasive opinion that public high schools are not doing enough to prepare students for the expectations they will face in college and the workplace. Contrast those responses with those from the 2004 survey, and the picture becomes even bleaker.

All three groups – college faculty, employers and students – all agreed that to improve preparedness:

  • Communicate early in high school about the courses needed for college and careers;
  • Provide more opportunities for challenging courses; and
  • Offer more chances for real-world learning.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

CTE Research Review: Manufacturing Edition

July 24th, 2015

Mind the Gender Gap

It’s no secret that the manufacturing industry faces a serious recruiting problems in recent years – with a predicted shortfall of 2 million workers by 2025 and an ever-increasing skills gap.

A new study from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute takes a closer look at the industry’s gender gap. Only 26 percent of the U.S. manufacturing workforce is female. Meanwhile, nationally, women make up nearly 50 percent of the workforce. The study found that by overlooking or under-recruiting women into the field, manufacturers are missing an important pool of talent that could help them close the skills gap.

  • Two-thirds of those surveyed said they would stay in manufacturing if they were to start their careers today and would recommend them to their daughters or female relatives.
  • Yet, 65 percent said their companies do not have an active recruitment program for potential female employees and 73 percent said women are underrepresented among the companies’ leadership ranks.
Compared to other sectors, the above reasons contribute to the manufacturing gender gap, according to the study.

Compared to other sectors, the above reasons contribute to the manufacturing gender gap, according to the study.

Study: Parents still don’t understand STEM jobs

Women aren’t the only group that manufacturers need to continue targeting. A new survey from the Alcoa Foundation and SkillsUSA found 87 percent of parents believe STEM education is important for their children, yet there remains a clear disconnect between STEM education and its related careers, particularly in manufacturing.

  • 42 percent of respondents thought the average wage for manufacturing employees was $15 per hour or less and/or don’t offer medical benefits. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce show that the average salary for entry-level manufacturing engineers is $60,000 and 90 percent of manufacturing workers have health insurance.
  • Two-thirds believed that manufacturing and trade jobs don’t provide opportunities for advancement and 22 percent said that manufacturing jobs do not offer innovative, intellectually stimulating work.

Preparing the next generation of manufacturers

The Brookings Institute has also weighed in on the state of the manufacturing industry. During a recent forum focusing on preparing the next generation of manufacturers through community colleges, panelists called for new more technical training in new manufacturing technologies.

Be sure to check out three excerpted videos of the daylong discussion, as well as two blog posts: “Preparing the Next Generation of Manufacturers through Community Colleges” and “New Skills Needed for New Manufacturing Technology”.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

This Week in CTE

July 10th, 2015



Association for Career and Technical Education launched their third video as part of the Stories of Putting America to Work series. Check out Green Collar: Sustainable Jobs of Tomorrow highlighting the Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering High School in Washington, D.C.
View the Video


Digital ‘Merit Badges’ Coming to Aurora Public Schools
Digital merit badges, an online credentialing system that rewards students for ‘soft skills’ such as collaboration, critical thinking and invention, are being introduced to 19 Aurora, Colorado public schools.
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Embracing the Millennial Generation for Success
This white paper and accompanying webinar delves into how manufacturers can attract and retain millennial workers through a training and development program.
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Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate 

State Policy Update: New CTE Briefs Feature Ohio and Massachusetts; Legislatures Send New Money to CTE

July 9th, 2015

Today, Achieve released two new briefs highlighting academic and CTE integration in Ohio and Massachusetts. Achieve also released a helpful compendium of its CTE resources, many of which NASDCTEc helped produce. Download the PDF compendium here.

In “Seizing the Future: How Ohio’s Career-Technical Education Programs Fuse Academic Rigor and Real-world Experiences to Prepare Students for College and Careers,” we learn about the changing face of Ohio CTE, which now focuses on integrating academics in a rigorous and relevant curriculum in high-skill, high-demand Career Clusters® and pathways and includes strong connections to postsecondary education and employers.

“Career-tech now integrates rigorous academic preparation with career education,” says Steve Gratz, senior executive director at the Ohio Department of Education and NASDCTEc member. “We are ‘mashing up’ college and career. This is a shift from the past and one that we are serious about.”

In “Best of Both Worlds: How Massachusetts Vocational Schools are Preparing Students for College and Careers,” we learn more about state policies that promote strong programming, including the state’s college- and career-ready course of study, incentives for rigorous academic standards in its accountability system, and capacity-building support for locals. The brief also highlights some of the state’s vocational-technical schools for their impressive student outcomes.

Finally, the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) has also released a new brief that examines the efforts of six states — Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Kentucky, New Jersey, and West Virginia – to modify their existing science standards or adopt new benchmarks such as the Next Generation Science Standards. It also explores each state’s unique path to adoption and implementation as well as the common strategies and activities used to engage stakeholders.


State Legislative Update

With more than two thirds of state legislatures adjourned for the year, CTE has had some big wins in statehouses across the country. You can catch up with our last legislative update here. In the last few weeks, there have been a few more notable developments.

  • Earlier this week, Oregon lawmakers approved free tuition to its 17 community colleges through a $10 million last-dollar scholarship program similar to Tennessee’s popular initiative.
  • Additionally, lawmakers appropriated $35 million for STEM and CTE-related activities, including a pilot program to increase student exposure to CTE.
  • In late June, the California legislature agreed to a $115 billion budget deal – effective July 1 – that sends more than $400 million in new money to the state’s CTE programs next year. Specifically, lawmakers approved Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed CTE Incentive Grant program to the tune of $900 million over the next three years (with $400 million for Fiscal Year 2015-16), though the state’s budget adviser cited concerns about the program back in March. This additional CTE funding follows two years and a $500 million investment in the California Career Pathways Trust, which has already awarded two rounds of competitive grant funding to partnerships among schools, community colleges, and employers to create career pathways aligned to high-need and high-growth sectors. One more CTE-related proposal, The Career and Job Skills Education Fund, is still working its way through the legislature, and is focused on results-driven CTE programs. If passed, it remains unclear how this will be funded given that, as currently proposed, it is contingent upon funds appropriated in the recently passed budget.
  • Finally, Nevada and Michigan also saw significant funding bumps for CTE, middle college programs and dual enrollment.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

CTE Research Review: A Call for Career Pathways

July 2nd, 2015

The Potential of Career Pathways

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Happens When Students Transfer

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

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

Data, Data, Data

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

NCES also released two new data sets of note:

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

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate