Partnering with Researchers Can Help State Leaders Build the Case for CTE

November 12th, 2019

In Massachusetts, Career/Vocational Technical Education Schools (CVTE) are renowned for offering rigorous, high-quality programs of study across a variety of disciplines. While CVTE graduates have always experienced high rates of success academically and in their careers, state leaders in Massachusetts wanted to know whether these outcomes directly result from the CVTE model. In 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education partnered with Shaun Dougherty (at the time, a researcher at the University of Connecticut), and learned that CVTE students are significantly more likely to graduate from high school and earn an industry-recognized credential than similar students who were not admitted.

Demand for rigorous research on Career Technical Education (CTE) has increased as more policymakers ask questions about the impact on college and career readiness. State CTE Directors may be interested in similar questions as researchers (such as “Does CTE improve educational and career outcomes? Do different programs help different students? What types of programs offer students the highest economic returns?”) but may not think to seek out and collaborate with them or know how to prioritize among the many research requests they receive.

This blog series, a partnership between Advance CTE and the Institute for Education Sciences (IES) seeks to break down the barriers between State CTE Directors and researchers to encourage partnerships that can benefit both.

What Can Research with State Data Tell Us?

Research can be a powerful tool to help State CTE Directors understand what’s working, what isn’t working, and what needs to change. The findings described below provide examples of how strong partnerships between researchers and state policymakers can result in actionable research.

  • In Arkansas, students with greater exposure to CTE are more likely to graduate from high school, enroll in a two-year college, be employed, and earn higher wages. The study, which was rigorous but not causal, also found that students taking more CTE classes are just as likely to pursue a four-year degree as their peers, and that CTE provides the greatest boost to boys and students from low-income families.
  • Boys who attended CTE high schools in Connecticut experienced higher graduation rates and post-graduation earnings than similar students who did not attend CTE high schools. Further follow-ups using both postsecondary and labor data could provide information about college completion and employment and earnings for different occupational sectors.
  • CTE concentrators in Texas had greater enrollment and persistence in college than their peers. Although rates of CTE concentration decreased, student participation in at least some CTE programming, as well as number of CTE credits earned, increased between the 2008 and 2014 cohorts. Unsurprisingly, the study also found differences by CTE programs of study. Education & Training; Finance; Health Science; and Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) were most strongly associated with postsecondary enrollment, particularly in baccalaureate programs.

How Can States Use CTE Research to Improve Policy and Practice?

Here are a few things states can do today to start building a CTE research base:

  • Create a codebook of CTE variables in your state’s data system: Include K-12, postsecondary, and labor force variables if you have them. Define the variables clearly – what do they measure, at what level (student, program, district), and for how many years did you collect these variables? Are the measures comparable across years and across datasets?
  • Maximize opportunities to collect longitudinal data: longitudinal databases that span education levels and connect to workforce outcomes permit researchers to conduct rigorous studies on long-term outcomes.
  • Identify universities in your state with strong education, economics or public policy departments: Make a list of questions that policymakers in your state most wanted answered, and then approach universities with these proactively. Reach out to the chair(s) of these departments to connect with faculty who may be interested in partnering on answering the questions. Universities can often apply for a research grant that will cover part or all of the funding for state personnel to work on the research project. IES, which provides funding of this nature, opens its next grant competition in summer 2020.
  • Reach out to your Regional Educational Lab (REL) or the REL Career Readiness Research Alliance to inquire about partnering on CTE research: The mission of these IES-funded labs is to provide research and evidence to help educators in the states in their region. For example, REL Central is currently working with four states to replicate the Arkansas study described above (see “Review of Career and Technical Education in Four States”).
  • Stay up to date on the latest research findings in CTE: New research is regularly posted on the CTE Research Network and other websites. This can help you get ideas for what types of research you would like to conduct in your state. Another good source of inspiration is the recommendations of the CTE technical workgroup, which was convened by IES in late 2017 to guide future CTE research directions.
  • Become familiar with how researchers approach CTE research: Learn about why it’s so challenging to understand its impact. The CTE Research Network will hold research trainings for different audiences—including state agency staff— beginning in the summer of 2020. Stay tuned!

Over the next several months, Advance CTE and IES will publish a series of Q&A blog posts with researchers and state CTE leaders talking about how their partnerships developed and what states can do to advance CTE research.

This blog series was co-authored by Corinne Alfeld at IES (corinne.alfeld@ed.gov) and Austin Estes from Advance CTE (aestes@careertech.org), with thanks to Steve Klein of Education Northwest for editorial suggestions. IES began funding research grants in CTE in 2017 and established a CTE Research Network in 2018. IES hopes to encourage more research on CTE in the coming years in order to increase the evidence base and guide program and policy decisions. At the same time, Advance CTE has been providing resources to help states improve their CTE data quality and use data more effectively to improve CTE program quality and equity.

Equity in CTE Is Not Just About Access; States Have A Responsibility to Ensure Learner Success, Too 

October 24th, 2019

Making Good on the Promise: Ensuring Equitable Success Through CTEFinancial expenses, work commitments, developmental education and healthcare needs are some of the most common barriers to success for community college students, according to a survey by RISC. To minimize these barriers and bolster postsecondary credential attainment rates, Southwestern Community College (SCC) in Sylva, North Carolina has awarded 129 mini grants to help students address needs such as housing, transportation and educational expenses. 

The grants were issued as part of North Carolina’s Finish Line Grants program, which was started in 2018 using governor’s discretionary funds through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The program is administered by local workforce development boards in partnership with nearby community colleges and provides up to $1,000 per semester per student to address unexpected financial emergencies. 

The Finish Line Grant program, while relatively new, demonstrates the role states can play in removing barriers to success and supporting each learner — at the secondary, postsecondary or adult level — to achieve a credential of value and access an in-demand occupation with family sustaining wages. 

Advance CTE’s latest report, the fifth and final installment in the Making Good on the Promise series, explores other approaches states can take to ensure learner success through Career Technical Education (CTE), including: 

  • Using data-driven support systems to meet learners’ needs: To increase postsecondary credential attainment, some school districts and institutions of higher education have started deploying their data to drive a comprehensive, student-centered support system. Using a method known as predictive analytics, institutions analyze past data on the performance and behaviors of their student body to identify patterns that are correlated with success. They then use this information to identify key indicators — such as absenteeism or low grades in core academic courses — and provide proactive supports to ensure learners can make progress towards graduation or a postsecondary credential.
  • Providing integrated support services to secure wellness, academic preparation and financial stability: Like North Carolina, states can support equitable success in CTE by minimizing common barriers — such as health, academic and financial barriers — that learners encounter along their pathways. Expanding and fully funding integrated support services at both the secondary and postsecondary level can help reduce the burden on learners and ensure they can access the help they need to be successful.
  • Creating the enabling conditions for successful transitions: While completing a program or earning a sought-after credential or degree is important and should be the objective of any pathway, the ultimate measure of success is whether learners transition successfully into the next step of their career pathway, be it postsecondary education, an apprenticeship, employment or other opportunity of choice. States can support successful transitions to postsecondary education by ensuring early postsecondary opportunities such as dual or concurrent enrollment are accessible and equitable. They can also support transitions to the workforce by helping learners develop their occupational identity and expand their social networks through early career exposure and meaningful work-based learning connected to their career pathways. 

Throughout the Making Good on the Promise series, Advance CTE has explored state strategies to identify equity gaps, rebuild trust among historically marginalized populations, and expand access to high-quality CTE opportunities. 

But the work does not stop there. State leaders have a responsibility to ensure each learner is not only able to access CTE, but also feel welcome, fully participate in and successfully complete their career pathway. This means constantly monitoring learner progress and creating the conditions that are conducive for learner success. Making Good on the Promise: Ensuring Equitable Success through CTE aims to provide a roadmap for states to learn from promising practices and develop their own plans for achieving equity. 

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

Education Not Working For All

July 29th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meeting the Needs of Those Left Behind 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Jade Richards, Policy Fellow 

New Research Lay Roadmap for Future of the Workforce

July 1st, 2019

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

Image result for workforce of the future

Photo by Graeme Worsfold on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jade Richards, Policy Fellow 

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

May 22nd, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Navigating the Stormy Waters of Career Readiness Data: New Report Highlights Opportunities for States to Improve their CTE Data Systems

April 18th, 2019

How many girls of color earned an industry-recognized credential in Information Technology last year? What types of work-based learning experiences lead to the best wage outcomes for learners from low-income families? How many graduates from Career Technical Education (CTE) programs in advanced manufacturing go on to work in their field of study?

A strong, well-aligned data system allows State CTE Directors and other state leaders to answer these questions and more. But according to the latest State of CTE report, The State of Career Technical Education: Improving Data Quality and Effectiveness, these data systems are not meeting the need for data-informed decision making.

While the report finds that 86 percent of State CTE Directors believe improving and enhancing their CTE data systems is a priority, only 45 percent say they have the information they need to assist in making decisions about CTE program quality and other initiatives at both the secondary and postsecondary levels. Making decisions about CTE program quality and equity without sufficient data is tantamount to sailors navigating the stormy seas using old maps and constellations rather than modern GPS technology.

What is the cause for this gap?

For one, state data systems are not sufficiently aligned across the secondary, postsecondary and workforce sectors. According to the survey, less than half of State Directors say their CTE data system is “mostly” or “fully” aligned with secondary data systems, 28 percent with postsecondary data systems and 18 percent with workforce data systems.

Ensuring learners are prepared with the skills and experiences they need for high-wage, high-skill employment in in-demand occupations is a shared responsibility among secondary education, postsecondary education and the workforce sector. Yet too many states continue to use disparate data systems for collecting, validating and accessing learner-level data. Using disparate systems not only increases the data collection burden for local leaders but also threatens the quality of the data and the ability of state leaders to use their data effectively.

Another critical challenge is improving the methods for collecting and validating learner-level data. Too many states rely on self-reported information without confirming that learners successfully completed a work-based learning experience, verifying that the industry-recognized credentials reported on school data submissions were awarded by credential providers, or documenting that learners earned postsecondary credit for completing dual or concurrent enrollment in high school.

Notably, 61 percent of states say they use student surveys – which have notoriously low response rates and are difficult to validate – to determine whether secondary learners go on to meaningful employment after they graduate. Thirty-three percent report the same for postsecondary learners.

This information is not easy to obtain and requires clear data sharing partnerships with employers, credential providers and other state agencies. But improving the methods of collecting and validating CTE data gives critical decision makers confidence in their use of data and ensures learners, educators and community members can trust decisions that are made on their behalf.

There are clear skies ahead, however, if states leverage implementation of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) to improve the quality and effectiveness of their career readiness data. Perkins V pushes states to improve data collection and reporting and make more data-informed decisions about CTE program quality and equity. As states begin the months-long process of vision setting, stakeholder engagement and plan development for Perkins V, they should consider the opportunity to improve their CTE data systems by auditing their current practices, establishing and formalizing data-sharing partnerships, and embedding data-informed decision making in policy and practice.

Equipped with strong, well-aligned data systems that are reinforced by trusted methods of collecting and validating data, State Directors can use their data to chart out a path to success for learners in their state. Otherwise the institutions, learners and communities they serve will be left unmoored.

The State of CTE report is based on a national survey of State Directors and examines how states are collecting, validating and using career readiness data. This resource was developed through the New Skills for Youth initiative, a partnership of the Council of Chief State School Officers, Advance CTE and Education Strategy Group, generously funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co. This resource was developed in partnership with the Workforce Data Quality Campaign, a project of the National Skills Coalition, and the Data Quality Campaign.

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

The Number of States Counting Career Readiness Has More than Doubled Since 2014

March 19th, 2019

In a strong signal of support for Career Technical Education (CTE) and career readiness in high school, 40 states are now measuring career readiness in their state or federal high school accountability systems. Fewer than half as many – 17 – were measuring career readiness just five years ago.

The sophistication and design of the measures has evolved as well, and many states are working to intentionally link their accountability systems with high-quality career pathways.

That’s according to a new analysis from Advance CTE, Education Strategy Group, Achieve and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The report, the third edition in the Making Career Readiness Count series, uses a four-pronged framework that was developed by an expert workgroup and outlined in the report Destination Known: Valuing College AND Career Readiness in State Accountability Systems  to categorize how states are measuring college and career readiness.

The four categories used in the analysis provide a blueprint for states to develop and evolve rigorous measures. They each outline three levels that build upon one another, from Fundamental, to Advanced and Exceptional. The categories are:

  • Progress toward Post-High School Credential: Student demonstration of successful progress toward credentials of value beyond high school.
  • Co-curricular Learning and Leadership Experiences: Student completion of state-defined co-curricular experience(s) aligned to students’ academic and career plans.
  • Assessment of Readiness: Students scoring at the college- and career-ready level on assessment(s) that are validated by higher education and industry.
  • Transitions beyond High School: Successful student transition includes placement into postsecondary education, training or the workforce within 12 months of graduation.

Overall, the most common measure used across the states is Assessment of Readiness, with thirty states and the District of Columbia valuing experiences that are aligned with the Destination Known recommendations. Another 12 states include out of sequence measures that are aligned with this indicator but do not include the Fundamental measure, attainment of state-defined college- and career-ready level on a high school summative assessment. The vast majority of states counted under the Assessment of Readiness category are measuring industry-recognized credential attainment.

Another commonly used measure is Progress Toward Post-High School Credential. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia include measures aligned with the Destination Known recommendations, and another 22 states include out of sequence indicators. A number of states include either pathway completion or dual enrollment coursework in their accountability plans without requiring that experience to be accompanied by the completion of a state-defined college- and career-ready course of study, which is the Fundamental measurement in this category.

Twelve states include a Co-Curricular Learning and Leadership Experiences measure in their state or federal accountability systems, often looking at work-based learning participation. Eight states include information on Transitions Beyond High School, reporting either postsecondary enrollment or postsecondary enrollment without the need for remediation.

With all of the progress states have made, there is still room to strengthen and improve measures of career readiness. For example, states should be explicit about how career readiness components – such as work-based learning, industry-recognized credentials and dual enrollment – align to each other and to a students’ career pathways. They should also be transparent with their data and put thought and care into designing accountability systems that value and encourage the experiences that are best aligned with the outcomes they want for students. These and other opportunities are discussed in the report, Making Career Readiness Count 3.0.

The even harder work ahead is to support all students in their preparation for and transition to college, career and life. Regardless of the path students choose to pursue, they need to be transition ready. State and federal accountability systems can and should be used to highlight areas for improvement and connect programs and students with the supports they need to be successful.

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

How to Prepare for the Future of Work

March 5th, 2019

Economists and futurists no longer ask what the future of work will look like, but rather when it will come and how disruptive it will be. Automation, artificial intelligence and other technological advancements are in the workplace today. Some say that innovations should be embraced and, like technological advancements in the past, the average American, and the economy as a whole, will be better off. Others issue dire warnings that automation and robotics will render many occupations obsolete and displace millions of American workers.

So which is it? The rose or the thorns?

The answer is, it’s complicated. According to the World Economic Forum, automation is expected to displace 75 million workers around the world by 2022. That’s a staggering sum — and in just four years. But the same report predicts that 133 million jobs will be created during the same period. What is almost certain is that, in the next few years, the world economy — and by extension, the American workforce — will experience a significant transformation as businesses adopt new technologies and American workers adapt and reskill to fill new jobs.

A new study out of the Boston University School of Law illuminates potential impacts of automation by examining survey data for non-financial private firms in the Netherlands. The researchers obtained data on automation expenditures for more than 36,000 firms over a 16 year period, from 2000 to 2016, in order to measure the effects of automation on employment and wages.

The researchers estimate that wages decreased for incumbent workers by about 8.2 percent over five years as a result of automation. However, recent hires experienced no wage loss and even earned 4.4 percent higher income over five years. It follows that the impact of automation will be more severe for older, more experienced workers, who at best will experience shifts in their day to day tasks and at worst will need to pursue further education, training and credentials to adapt.

For policymakers and economists, this begs the question: can anything be done to prepare for automation and new technology in the workplace?

The Brookings Institute recommends five actions to prepare for the future of work:

  • Embrace growth and technology, which will encourage firms to step up hiring and training new workers as the economy heats up;  
  • Promote a constant learning mindset by expanding traditional education, reducing the financial burden for skill attainment, and fostering employer-sponsored learning opportunities;
  • Facilitate a smoother adjustment by investing in career counseling, retraining opportunities and unemployment support for displaced workers;
  • Reduce hardships for workers who are struggling through the expansion of state and federal safety net programs;
  • Mitigate harsh local impacts by expanding support to vulnerable regions and communities that may be hardest hit.

Automation and artificial intelligence in the workplace will augment human skill and improve productivity. New technologies like autonomous vehicles and voice recognition will make it easier for all individuals — particularly individuals with disabilities — to access work and participate in civil society. But the future of work will likely bring with it disruption and displacement, and this burden will be disproportionately borne by workers in particular industries, occupations and geographic regions. Federal, state and local policymakers should consider clear strategies to prepare for the future of work. The time to act is now.

Research Roundup

Meanwhile, here is the latest roundup of research and data related to Career Technical Education (CTE):

  • There’s a racial gap in CTE enrollment. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that, according to high school transcript data, white students earned more (3.2) CTE credits on average than black (2.9), Hispanic (2.6), Asian (2.2) and mixed race (2.9) students.
  • The American Association of Community Colleges developed an infographic based on a recent Pew Research Center study that depicts the different post-high school plans of today’s teens. One notable takeaway: 12 percent of teens plan to attend a two-year college and 4 percent plan to attend a technical or vocational school after high school. 
  • Skills training is pretty popular with American voters. According to polling from ALG Research, with support from the National Skills Coalition, 93 percent of likely 2020 voters support increasing investments in skills and technical training.
  • It’s not just you — CTE is getting more popular. The American Enterprise Institute looked at media mentions of CTE between 2012 and 2018 and found that the number of articles mentioning CTE has increased by more than a hundredfold in that time.

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

Work-based Learning is Predictive of Future Job Quality, According to New Study

December 10th, 2018

The Brookings Institution looks at employment outcomes for low-income learners

It’s a question that has puzzled education researchers for decades: what is the right mix of experiences in early adolescence that is most predictive of future career success and lifelong learning?

For the longest time, the rule of thumb has been “get a bachelor’s degree and you’ll get a good job.” But we know that there are other experiences on the path to a four-year degree (such as participating in work-based learning or earning an industry-recognized credential) that are just as powerful in preparing learners for their future careers. What are these experiences? And how should they be delivered to maximize learner outcomes?

New research from the Brookings Institution sheds a little bit of light on this question. The study looks at different factors that are correlated with economic success among 29-year-olds from “disadvantaged” backgrounds. The study finds that:

  • Participating in work-based learning is correlated with attainment of “high-quality” jobs later in life
  • Working (and earning high wages) at a young age predicts higher job quality in adulthood
  • Earning credentials is still the biggest predictor of career success, but sub-baccalaureate credentials are also important

Specifically, the researchers find that participating in “relationship-focused CTE” (a term they use to refer to work-based learning and other activities where students interact with industry mentors) is significantly related to higher job quality scores at age 29. This would seem to suggest that building relationships with industry mentors and completing work-based learning at an early age can help learners, particularly low-income learners, get a leg up on their careers. While the data do not provide a full picture of the quality of work-based learning in the study, the evidence is promising.

For the purpose of the study, the researchers define “disadvantaged adolescents” as those who, when they were between the ages of 12 and 18, had a family income equal to or less than 200 percent of the federal poverty line; did not have a parent with more than a high school education; had a mother who was a teenager when her first child was born; or whose family received public assistance. They defined job quality based on four factors: earnings, benefits, hours of work and job satisfaction.

CTE Research Roundup

  • In a new research brief, MDRC summarizes findings from studies of three different career-focused learning programs: New York City’s Young Adult Internship Program (YAIP), YouthBuild and Year Up. Using a random assignment research design, the researchers find significant positive wage increases for completers of each program.
  • JFF explores how the scope and length of Registered Apprenticeships can vary and poses the question: Are apprenticeships the next stackable credential?
  • The NewDeal Forum Working Group, a national network of state and local leaders, published recommendations for policymakers to help the economy adapt to the future of work. The report includes recommendations for skill development and workforce training; modernizing the social safety net; and supporting entrepreneurship, innovation and access.  
  • Mathematica Policy Research shares an update on new partnerships and research focused on pathways to postsecondary education, including an examination of free tuition programs for adult learners, a study of the Better Careers initiative in California, and research into community college career planning through the Working Student Success Network. Keep an eye out for future research.
  • A new study from JFF looks at Maine’s proficiency-based education system and finds some promising early results. According to the study, high school students who received a medium amount of exposure to proficiency-based education had significantly higher reported engagement; however, exposure to proficiency-based education was negatively correlated with SAT scores.

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

Free College: A Brief Policy History

September 24th, 2018

Advance CTE will be writing a series of blog posts profiling the policies and practices of free college in the United States. This post will explore the history of the movement toward free college. Check back for blogs on the challenges, successful practices and future of free college.

College affordability, or lack of affordability, is one of the most pressing problem in the world of higher education. Free postsecondary education has long been a topic of conversation, and various models have been piloted at the state and local levels. The Atlantic’s “Debt Free” article explains that this idea was given renewed national attention when former President Barack Obama addressed the topic in his 2015 State of the Union speech. In particular, President Obama advocated that the place to start implementing such policies was in community colleges. Afterward, with the upcoming presidential election campaigns underway, the conversation of free college remained part of many candidates dialogue. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), for example, was a vocal advocate.

Some state higher education institutions previously held free college policies, but found that model unsustainable over time. TIME’s piece, “What Happened When American States Tried Providing Tuition-Free College,” profiled some such examples:

  • For decades, the University of Florida was free for in-state students to attend. Around 1959, “registration and instructional fees” began to be instated and in 1969 full tuition was imposed;
  • The City University of New York system did not have tuition fees for students until 1976; and  
  • When the University of California (UC) system was started in 1868, free admission and tuition for in-state students was ensured. The California State and community-college systems decided the same. However, in 1960, California’s Master Plan for Higher Education allowed for students to be charged certain fees. In 1970, students were charged an “educational fee,” which has increased over time.. From that point on, California continuously decreased the amount of funding towards high education. In 2004-2005, UC allocated only 16 percent of funding to higher education compared to 32 percent in 1974.  

A main driver behind institutions pulling back on free college practices has to do with the significant increase in enrollment, as reported by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Whereas in the 1909-1910 school year only 355,000 of Americans 19-24 years old (2.9 percent of those in that age bracket) enrolled in higher education, by 2012 that number increased to 31.4 million (41 percent). At the same time, state and local funding for public colleges and universities decreased. Just from 2008-2016, overall state dollar allocation across the country to institutions of higher education has declined by 16 percent. If free college policies were put in place at the founding of an institution, the combination of increased enrollment and decreased state and local funding made the model unsustainable.

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate

 

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