This Week in CTE

October 21st, 2016



Harvard Political Review published an article making the case for Career Technical Education as an important option for students who want a pathway to a successful career:  “Students often leave CTE programs with certifications that allow them to immediately enter the workforce. Surprisingly, some see this as CTE’s greatest failing. Yes, welders might make up to $140,000 dollars a year, but how can the government support “condemning” students to blue-collar labor? The reasoning of many against CTE programs seems misguided at best.”


Join us for a webinar on November 10 taking a deep dive into the application process for the 2017 Excellence in Action award. You will hear from past award recipients and a member of the selection committee on what makes an award-winning program, providing insight into how to create a successful application.


National Skills Coalition released a report on the importance of providing supports to low-income people for postsecondary education and training, citing Arkansas’ Career Pathways Initiative as a model program.

Katie Fitzgerald, Senior Associate, Communications 

New Credential Registry Aims to Bring Transparency to a System in Crisis

October 18th, 2016

We’ve seen a lot of activity this year at both the national and local level to expand and systematize the use of industry-recognized credentials (including our own brief on credentials of value, which you can check out here). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics even released a helpful guide that describes different types of credentials and their prevalence in different industries. While credentials can serve as a useful signal of workforce competency that is recognized by both educators and employers, many learners face a credentialing marketplace that is as confusing as it is expansive.

To address this crisis, the Lumina Foundation in 2015 helped launch the Connecting Credentials Initiative, a collaboration designed to advance a well-functioning and sustainable credentialing system. Last month, the initiative revealed a 7-point action plan, based on input from more than 100 stakeholders, that articulates a vision for such a system.

credential_registry_2016One group already working to advance this vision is an organization called Credential Engine (formerly the Credential Transparency Initiative), which last month announced the launch of a national credential registry. The registry is designed to allow job seekers, employers and educators alike to access information about myriad credentials in various industries. The registry uses common terminology and guidelines for organizations to publish comparable information, and provides free and open access. While the system is currently being piloted in 60 sites with plans to expand in the future, we look forward to seeing how employers, job seekers and third-party accreditors alike will use the platform to contribute to a more transparent credentialing system.

Transparency is a key element in a successful credentialing system, particularly when it comes to identifying stackable credentials. According to new research, longer-term credentials are associated with higher earnings, though the return varies on a sliding scale depending on the length of time and effort required to earn the credential. Job seekers must be equipped with the right information to obtain stackable credentials that enable them to enter and exit the labor market at various points, building on their education and experience as they go.

Promising Practices in Work-based Learning

Meanwhile, the National Skills Coalition (NSC) and New America have both sparked dialogue about engaging the nation’s youth in work-based learning. NSC recently released a report titled “Promising Practices in Work-based Learning for Youth” that profiles four exemplar programs using work-based learning as a strategy to engage underserved and at-risk youth. One of the organizations profiled in the report, Urban Alliance, is a youth services organization operating out of Baltimore, Chicago, Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. Urban Alliance not only connects youth with paid internships through its flagship High School Internship Program, but also provides professional development and linkages to career and postsecondary pathways as well. NSC draws on this and other examples to identify four common policy elements for a strong work-based learning program:

  • Paid work-based learning opportunities, with wages provided either through employer, provider, or combination of the two;
  • Strong partnerships with business and other community stakeholders;
  • Positive youth development and continued support services; and
  • Linkages to career pathways either through future employment opportunities or future education and training opportunities.

In a similar vein, New America announced a project to study opportunities and challenges facing the nation’s youth apprenticeship programs and to develop a set of recommendations. In a blog post, the organization lays the groundwork and begins to identify the most prevalent challenges to expanding apprenticeships to youth. For one, the American apprenticeship system is aimed primarily at adults. With the average apprentice at nearly 30 years old, New America aims to challenge the old guard and find a way to extend these opportunities to younger learners.  

Odds and Ends

pew collegeWhose Job Is It? According to the Pew Research Center, 60 percent of Americans believe the public K-12 education system is responsible for ensuring the workforce has the right skills and education to be successful in the economy. Interestingly, the same study found that 67 percent of four-year degree holders believe their education prepared them for the workforce, compared to 58 percent for two-year degree holders and 78 percent for professional and technical certificate holders.

Rate Yourself. Building on its College and Career Readiness Organizer, CCRS released a self-assessment scorecard to help state policymakers identify gaps and opportunities for preparing K-12 students for postsecondary success. Based on the needs identified in the survey, the scorecard provides additional resources to help states and districts in their college and career readiness efforts.

The STEM of Success. The Education Commission of the States released a STEM Playbook last month as part of its “SepSTEMber” campaign. The playbook identifies three core components of a successful STEM strategy: statewide coordination; adequate, reliable funding; and quality assurance or program evaluation.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

This Week in CTE

October 14th, 2016



The Pew Research Center and the Markle Foundation released a study on the changing attitudes of the workplace with some interesting findings.


Workforce Data Quality Campaign published, “Data Policy Toolkit: Implementing the State Blueprint,” highlighting policies states can enact to improve data infrastructure and use in their state.


On Tuesday November 15 at 2:30-3:30 pm ET, join us for an update on Putting Learner Success First: A Shared Vision for the Future of CTE and learn about ways in which you can help support this vision of career success for all learners. Register today!

Katie Fitzgerald, Senior Associate, Communications 

Advance CTE Releases Guide for Building and Scaling Statewide Work-based Learning Systems

October 14th, 2016

WBL_GuideIn a recent nationwide education poll, 90 percent of surveyed Americans said it is extremely or very important for schools to help students develop good work habits. In turn, state education agencies have begun to focus on both college and career readiness to help prepare students for their futures. One popular strategy is work-based learning, which allows students to reinforce and deepen their classroom learning, explore future career fields and demonstrate their skills in an authentic setting.

Today, Advance CTE released a comprehensive guide — building on the “Connecting the Classroom to Careers” policy series — to help policymakers develop and implement a statewide vision for work-based learning. The guide provides key considerations and guiding questions to walk state policymakers through the steps of building and scaling a high-quality work-based learning system, drawing on examples from states such as Tennessee and West Virginia to highlight innovative solutions to common challenges. The paper not only builds upon earlier briefs in the “Connecting the Classroom to Careers” series, but also ties them together into one comprehensive and easy-to-use guide.

To get started, states must develop a statewide vision for work-based learning and get buy-in from all relevant stakeholders. Tennessee, for example, embarked on a campaign to overhaul its work-based learning programs and establish a framework that would be more inclusive and relevant for students in the state. This resulted in a new, shared vision that prioritizes career exploration, career advisement and hands-on learning for all students — not just those enrolled in Career Technical Education (CTE) classes.

Yet setting a vision is only the first step. To ensure the vision is implemented successfully, states must create a policy environment that allows work-based learning programs to thrive. One of the biggest challenges that states face in expanding work-based learning opportunities is overcoming legal barriers, such as child labor laws and safety requirements, that make businesses reluctant to hire high school students. New Jersey demonstrates how state agencies can work together to develop a regulatory framework that supports, rather than inhibits, work-based learning opportunities. One product of inter-agency collaboration in the state is the New Jersey Safe Schools project, a comprehensive health and safety training for CTE teachers.

The guide further explores how states can expand work-based learning by partnering with intermediaries to facilitate partnerships between educators and employers for the ultimate benefit of a student’s career exploration and skill development. Intermediaries can be either independent organizations or, in the case of Georgia’s Youth Apprenticeship Program (YAP) Coordinators, individuals who are based within the school or district. Georgia’s YAP Coordinators are funded by a competitive state grant and help support the full range of work-based learning activities for local students.

WBL GraphicOnce a statewide vision is in place and early implementation has begun, state policymakers should consider how to measure and scale work-based learning. There are two common approaches states take to building a comprehensive measurement and data-collection system: a systems-level approach that examines and evaluates the quality of the program, and a student-level approach that measures student learning and skill attainment. Through its School to Career Connecting Activities Initiative, Massachusetts has built a system to collect pre- and post-evaluations of student skills to determine both the professional and technical skills that students gain over the course of their work-based learning experience. This allows the state to assess difficult-to-measure student outcomes such as accepting direction and constructive criticism or motivation and taking initiative.

Collecting and evaluating program data enables states to not only identify promising practices but also to scale them statewide so that all students can access high-quality work-based learning experiences. One example profiled in the guide is West Virginia’s Simulated Workplace program, which began in 2013 as a pilot program in 20 schools across the state. The Department of Education gradually scaled the program, spending time evaluating and refining processes and policies along the way, to reach 60 schools — and more than 500 classrooms — by 2015.

There is no single way to build and scale work-based learning programs, but Advance CTE’s latest publication, “Connecting the Classroom to Careers: A Comprehensive Guide to the State’s Role in Work-based Learning,” can help states get started. The guide identifies essential strategies in work-based learning programs across the states and provides key takeaways and guiding questions to help states tackle common barriers. While work-based learning is a proven strategy to help students build technical and professional skills, policymakers should draw on examples from other states to thoughtfully build and scale a high-quality work-based learning system.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate and Ashleigh McFadden, State Policy Manager

This Week in CTE: Happy Manufacturing Day!

October 7th, 2016



Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals makes the case as to why CTE, STEM education and apprenticeships are key to the American workforce, economy and manufacturing industry. Read more in their piece, The Economy of Manufacturing and Community.


Visit our Learning that Works Resource Center for the latest research, policies and reports on CTE and career readiness, including the Manufacturing Institute, SkillsUSA and the Education Research Center of America’s report, Attracting the Next Generation Workforce: The Role of CTE, which found that personal industry experience — through involvement with Career Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs), internships, summer jobs and co-op study programs — can impact students’ future career interests.


Desert View High School’s precision machining and mechanical drafting program of study is a model program in the Manufacturing Career Cluster, demonstrating the incredible impact a strong employer and educational partnership can have on the community. A 2016 Excellence in Action award winner, this program of study was developed in partnership with the Tucson, Arizona business community to build a pipeline of skilled and qualified employees.

“When an industry comes forward and tells a district or administration, ‘our community needs this program, and we will support you,’ this becomes the leverage for change that enables the school to make those difficult decisions, to prioritize your program. Companies are moving to Tucson because they see a pipeline and workforce being built. This program has created an economic development change for our community,” said Kathy Prather, Director of CTE at Sunnyside Unified School District.

p.s. If you haven’t already, join 4,000 of your peers and cast your vote to include CTE in the next presidential debate on Sunday, October 9th!

Katie Fitzgerald, Senior Associate, Communications 


This Week in CTE

September 23rd, 2016



Have you checked out our Learning that Works Resource Center lately? We’re updating materials regularly so that you can find the latest CTE and career readiness research, reports, case studies and policies.


Our 2016 Fall Meeting is right around the corner! Join us October 17 – 19 in Baltimore, Maryland to tackle today’s most important CTE issues. Registration closes September 30 so register today!

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate 

Preparing Learners for Careers through Work-based Learning and Career Advisement: A Roundup of Recent Research

September 14th, 2016

Three Approaches to Connecting CTE Programs and Registered ApprenticeshipsNC

Work-based learning, an educational strategy that provides students with technical skills and knowledge in an authentic work setting, is often delivered through a Career Technical Education (CTE) or Registered Apprenticeship (RA) program. Both have overlapping structures and content, including experiential learning and career exploration coursework, which has led many states to build more deliberate linkages between the two. Earlier this summer, the National Center for Innovation in CTE released a report profiling six states — North Carolina, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Washington and Rhode Island — that are working to align secondary CTE and RA programs. The report identifies three approaches that these states have taken:

  • Registered Apprenticeship: High school students participate directly in an apprenticeship, applying CTE coursework to the RA requirements and applying RA work experience towards a high school diploma.
  • Pre-apprenticeships: High school students participate in programs that prepare them for an apprenticeship, often applying credit towards RA program requirements. Participation on a pre-apprenticeship often allows the student to get preferred entry into an RA program.
  • Registered CTE Curriculum: Students earn credits toward RA completion by enrolling in and completing CTE coursework aligned to RA programs in high-demand industries.

No matter the approach, states frequently face the same challenges with aligning CTE and RA programs, including lack of resources, misperceptions about pre-apprenticeship and RA programs, and difficulty engaging employers. The report further describes strategies that these states have taken to address these challenges.

A Customer Service Approach to Career Advisement

On a related note, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation recently released the third installment in its youth employment series, outlining the role that the employer community can play in building career knowledge and competency through career advisement. The brief encourages employers not to reinvent the wheel, but rather to adapt their existing business practices to support career advisement through a “customer service” approach. Key activities through this approach would include: representing the business community within schools, serving as subject matter experts, matching students with employers, validating skills acquired during work-based learning experiences, and organizing talent sourcing networks. By playing a larger role in career advisement, employers can do well by doing good: helping students gain clarity about their career choices while simultaneously strengthening the talent pipeline.

Odds and Ends

Executive Advice: Noting the limited discussion of education issues this election cycle, Bellwether Education Partners took it upon themselves to publish 16 education policy ideas for the next president to consider. Among the recommendations? Connecting secondary CTE to postsecondary opportunity by integrating academic, socio-emotional and technical learning; creating pools of federal grants to launch new models of youth preparation; expanding allowable uses of federal aid; and accelerating investments in technology to support personalized career pathways. Read more here.

Career Readiness: Last month, ACT released its 2016 report on the condition of college and career readiness. The report finds that at least 68 percent of test takers are making progress towards career readiness, a new indicator based on the ACT’s National Career Readiness Certificate. A record 64 percent of U.S. high school graduates took the test this year.

A World-class Education: After conducting an 18-month study of international education systems, the National Conference of State Legislatures released a report that identifies “a highly effective, intellectually rigorous system of career and technical education” as one of four elements of a world-class education system.

CTE Dual Enrollment: In a new blog post, the Education Commission of the States updated its policy components for dual enrollment to reflect opportunities for CTE. While the framework is still in draft form, it provides guidance related to access, finance and quality of CTE dual enrollment.

Americans Prefer CTE: “By a broad 68 percent to 21 percent, Americans say having their local public schools focus more on career-technical or skills-based classes is better than focusing on more honors or advanced academic classes.” That’s according to PDK’s 2016 poll of attitudes toward public education, which was released earlier this month.

Free College: Hillary Clinton’s free college plan, which aims to eliminate tuition for in-state students whose families make less than $125,000, has been getting a lot of buzz this election cycle. New research from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce projects a 9 to 22 percent increase in enrollment at public 2- and 4-year colleges and universities if her plan is seen to fruition.

Remedial Coursework: The National Center for Education Statistics conducted a descriptive analysis of students taking remedial coursework at public 2- and 4-year institutions. The report finds that students who completed remedial courses saw positive postsecondary outcomes (including persistence, transfer to a 4-year institution, credit completion and credential attainment) compared to students who partially completed or did not complete a remedial course. It is also worth noting that students in the sample who attended 2-year institutions took remedial courses at much higher rates (68 percent) than students at 4-year institutions (40 percent).

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

Latest Advance CTE Brief Explores State Strategies for Measuring Work-based Learning

August 25th, 2016

Measuring WBLWork-based learning provides a continuum of activities — from career exploration and job shadowing to internships and apprenticeships — that help students develop technical and professional skills in an authentic work environment. While many work-based learning programs are designed and operated at the local level, several states have begun building a data collection and evaluation strategy to ensure program quality, identify and scale successful programs, and share promising practices. To support state efforts in this work, Advance CTE today released a brief that explores strategies for measuring work-based learning.

The brief is the latest installment in the “Connecting the Classroom to Careers” series, which examines the state’s role in expanding work-based learning opportunities for K-12 students. This issue highlights examples from three states that demonstrate either a systems-level or student-level approach to measuring work-based learning activities.

  • In West Virginia, the Department of Education partners with industry leaders to evaluate the quality of Simulated Workplaces, student-run programs that create an authentic work environment in the classroom. Programs that fail to meet industry standards receive technical assistance from the state.
  • In 2014 Tennessee adopted a new framework to improve the quality of work-based learning. Under this framework, local districts conduct their own program evaluations and strive for continuous program improvement. The state supports local efforts through a toolbox of surveys, rubrics and other resources.  
  • And in Massachusetts, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education uses a work-based learning plan to evaluate skill gain for students participating in the School to Career Connecting Activities Initiative. Worksite supervisors assess students on technical and professional skills at least twice during the course of the program, allowing the state to measure skill gain against a baseline.

The brief, Measuring Work-based Learning for Continuous Improvement, is available on the Learning that Works Resource Center. Other titles in the series explore Setting a Statewide Vision, Removing Legal Barriers, and Leveraging Intermediaries to Expand Work-based Learning.

To learn more about work-based learning, be sure to sign up for Advance CTE’s fall meeting, which will take place in Baltimore, MD between October 17 and 19. The convening will feature a session on state strategies for measuring and scaling work-based learning. Register by August 31 to receive the early bird discount.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

This Week in CTE: Experts on NPR’s ‘On Point’ Weigh in on CTE

August 12th, 2016



Earlier this week, experts weighed in on the shift from vocational education to today’s Career Technical Education (CTE) on NPR’s On Point. Listen to the hour-long discussion featuring Shaun Dougherty, author of the recent study, Career and Technical Education in High School: Does It Improve Student Outcomes? The conversation spilled over into the comments section where listeners voiced their own experiences with CTE.


Students can earn up to $2,500 if they plan to continue their studies in CTE, thanks to the Horatio Alger Association. Applications are accepted on a rolling deadline here.


Register now for our upcoming webinar, “Kentucky Gets Students on TRACK with Youth Apprenticeship“! At 2 p.m. ET, on August 31, Kentucky leaders will discuss the state’s youth pre-apprenticeship program, Tech Ready Apprentices for Careers in Kentucky. Join us to hear how the program started, how success is being measured and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.

This webinar is part of a yearlong series on work-based learning co-hosted by Advance CTE and the Appalachia Regional Comprehensive Center. In case you missed our earlier webinars, be sure to check out the initiatives in Tennessee and West Virginia.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate

Report Explores State Requirements for Dual Credit Teachers

August 9th, 2016

In Missouri and Other States, Experience Counts

ECS dual creditMany states allow students to earn credits in high school that can be applied towards a postsecondary degree or credential — a strategy known as dual, or concurrent, enrollment. While dual enrollment makes it easier and more affordable to obtain a postsecondary credential, states must pass policies to ensure students are receiving this advanced instruction from qualified teachers.

To further explore this challenge, the Education Commission of the States last month released a 50-state report exploring the requirements that states are using to approve dual enrollment faculty. The report finds that most states (35 in total) require dual enrollment instructors to meet the same qualifications as faculty at postsecondary institutions. Other states only require a combination of graduate credits or work experience related to their subject of instruction.

Interestingly, some states, such as Missouri, permit Career Technical Education (CTE) instructors to teach dual credit courses without meeting postsecondary faculty qualifications as long as they demonstrate experience through “working in the field, industry certification and years of experience.” In addition to detailing faculty qualification policies, the report highlights strategies that states are using to train their existing teacher workforce to teach dual enrollment courses. Such strategies are critical for providing students with seamless pathways to postsecondary credentials and future jobs.

From the States: Investments in CTE, Workforce Training Programs

In other policy news, three states are taking steps to invest in CTE and workforce training programs. In Massachusetts the legislature passed a comprehensive economic development bill that includes $45.9 million to establish, upgrade and expand CTE and training programs that are aligned to workforce development priorities.

Meanwhile, Kentucky is now accepting applications for the $100 million Work Ready Skills Initiative, a bond-funded grant program to galvanize regional cross-sector partnerships and bring CTE facilities up to industry standards. The initiative was authorized in a recent budget bill and requires a 10 percent match from local partners.

Virginia residents can now earn a high-demand credential at a third of the cost under the New Economy Workforce Credential Grant program. The grant, which was passed in March, is designed to increase access to noncredit workforce training programs in high-demand fields. Under the program, the state Board of Workforce Development is required to publish a list of noncredit workforce training programs related to high-demand fields each year, which it has already done here for 2016.

As the new school year approaches, so do new opportunities to expand high-quality CTE across the states. Keep an eye on this feed for more updates.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate