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

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.
Read More


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.
Read More

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

This Week in CTE

June 19th, 2015


CTE and STEM Education: Two Sides of the Same Vital Coin
Career Technical Education is key to improving STEM literacy and interest among students for a variety of reasons. This includes providing access to underrepresented students, adding relevance to STEM subjects through hand-on and work based learning and integrating the business community.
Read More

Transforming Career Counseling: Bridging School to Career in the Workforce of the Future
The Manufacturing Skills Standards Council, SME and Bray Strategies released a paper outlining recommendations to improve the career guidance counseling system in middle and high schools.
Read More 

In partnership with the Appalachia Regional Comprehensive Center, NASDCTEc is conducting a webinar exploring the highly successful Simulated Workplace system in West Virginia.
Register Today

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate 

CTE Research Review: Demystifying Work-based Learning

June 10th, 2015

Jobs for the Future’s Pathways to Prosperity Network recently released a toolkit to help demystify work-based learning for employers. In the report, “Not as Hard as You Think: Engaging High School Students in Work-based Learning,” JFF acknowledges that addressing employers’ concerns about liability and labor law issues are critical to scaling up work-based learning (WBL) opportunities.

The brief’s primary goal is to alleviate employers’ concerns about perceived barriers to allowing high school students into the workplace, and also offers three case studies of employers in manufacturing and health care that have successfully launched such experiential opportunities.

First, the report offers the greatest benefits of WBL for employers:

  • Developing a more robust talent pipeline
  • Gaining access to a diverse and innovative workforce
  • Creating opportunities to increase name recognition and positive press
  • Encouraging economic growth that in turn boosts business prospects

To create these opportunities, most employers need “to make only minimal changes, if any, to existing workplace policies and procedures in order to ensure compliance with state and federal laws and policies,” according to the report. The greatest restriction for youth under 18 is the 17 hazardous occupations identified by the U.S. Department of Labor, but just one of these occupations – operating a forklift — is actually in use in most workplaces, the report states. Within the manufacturing industry, most federal restrictions apply only to 14- and 15-year-olds. Other restrictions regarding work hours, minimum wages, permits and required rest or meal periods are typically a matter of state law.

Employers’ insurance policies are a more likely source of barriers to the workplace than state or federal regulations. Yet, the report found that liability issues for paid student interns are often covered under existing workers’ compensation policies. Some employers have been able to work with their insurers to clarify and address WBL restrictions and others take additional steps to limit their liability by having students and families sign liability waivers and working with intermediary organizations.

The report offered three ways to encourage and support employers’ WBL efforts:

  • Incentivize employer engagement through tax credits, subsidies, etc.
  • Embed WBL in curriculum through teacher externships and credit for WBL
  • Support intermediaries that can broker WBL opportunities and be a resource to schools and employers


Credentials for All

The Southern Regional Education Board’s Commission on Career and Technical Education released its final report earlier this month, and described the bridge from high school to postsecondary and the workforce as broken and in desperate need of fixing.

To repair this bridge, the Commission offers eight actions that states can take to reach the goal of doubling the number of young people completing some form of a college credential by the age of 25. Be sure to check out the full report for all eight action steps.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

Research Review: Value of Higher Education

May 28th, 2015

The value of higher education has been a hot topic lately, and the following research and reports provide insight into returns on an investment in higher education.

  • Career Technical Education and Labor Market Outcomes: Evidence from California Community Colleges released by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) discusses how Career Technical Education (CTE) impacts students’ future earnings in California. The study of 112 community college campuses with 2.6 million students is critical to helping students decide the worth of attending higher education for their desired career field. Health careers were one of the occupations that students found extremely high returns on their college investment.
  • A study of employers through the recent CareerBuilder survey found that 65 percent of employers are looking to hire recent college graduates and the most sought after candidates will have skills in IT, customer service, finance, sales and business development.
  • The Aspen Institute released From College to Jobs: Making Sense of Labor Market Returns to Higher Education exploring the ways in which labor market data are collected and used to determine the value of higher education. A collection of eight short papers resulted in a variety of findings, one of which was that the skills valued by employers are not always found within one field. For example, skills associated with STEM degrees are valued across non-STEM fields.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate 

What did Education, Policy and Foundation Leaders Have to Say About the Global Skills Race?

May 27th, 2015

Last week, New America held The Great Skills Race: Innovations in U.S. Education and Training from a Global Perspective to discuss what the skills gap looks like abroad and in the United States, and how it impacts employers, students, policy, the education system and more. Simon Field, Project Leader, OECD, started off the event by discussing what some big global trends are emerging around developing employees with the skills they need in both developed and emerging countries.

He explained that there is a global disillusion with the college for all concept, and that though it remains politically popular, increasingly studies show that it does not yield career-ready employees. For example, 70 percent of Koreans attend college, but this includes two-year programs to become a barista, and similar lower-skilled positions, where after two years students may not have very marketable or essential skills.

On the other hand, countries are ramping up their efforts to provide students with high-quality academic and work-based skills such as Indonesia, which is making a concerted effort to expand Career Technical Education (CTE). Currently, about a fourth of the population takes part in some CTE, and the country has a goal of expanding this number to 90 percent through a massive growth of CTE high schools.

Countries need to focus on education that bridges the gap between the world of learning and the world of work through strengthening employer engagement, educating the teacher workforce and developing work-based learning opportunities through apprenticeships, internships and more.

The panel then turned to Holly Zanville, Strategy Director at the Lumina Foundation who spoke about the value of credentials in the Foundation’s work. At this time, there is no system for evaluating credentials or certificates, or a way for educators, students, employers and parents to determine how credentials and certificates connect to jobs. Lumina is developing a website to address these issues along with:

  1. Creating a national dialog around credentials and certificates
  2. Developing a translation platform to connect credentials
  3. Developing a prototype of a credential registry including the competencies, quality of the credential, cost and more
  4. Launching a new website (in two weeks) as a clearinghouse for credential information to help students understand the value of the credential, and employers understand how credentials and certificates may increase the skills of their employees.

Next, Todd Greene, Vice President of the Federal Reserve System of Atlanta explained that the Federal Reserves is involved in workforce development, something not typically addressed by the Reserves, due to the financial crisis. Greene took over 40 meetings with local communities including business leaders, employers and educators to see what workforce development looked like on the ground. Through this work, Greene found that there was a vast disconnect between these groups, and many did not have any type of meaningful relationship resulting in educators often teaching the wrong skills, and employers disengaged with the community and experiencing a skills gap with their employees.

Now, all 12 Federal Reserves are involved in workforce development, often using convening as a method to combat unemployment. One of these convenings included over 30 historically black colleges to help the Federal Reserves understand why Black unemployment is vastly higher regardless of education level compared to White unemployment.

Last on the panel was Byron Auguste, Managing Director of Opportunity@Work who attributed the skills gap to a variety of things. The first concept Auguste described is that the skills gap is a result of market failure; it’s not just the government or education systems that are failing, it is also the duty of employers and industry to help solve the skills gap problem. Also, the country has been highly disinvested in this work. All of the focus and spending has been centered on former higher education with very little investment in adult learning.

In addition to changes in policy, there needs to be a change in business practice. Instead of hiring on degrees, there needs to be a focus on hiring based on skills, whether gained through a degree, previous work, credentials, certificates, apprenticeships, internships or more.

To watch a video of this lively discussion visit New America’s website.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate 

This Week in CTE

May 8th, 2015

TWEET OF THE WEEKblog-thumbnail-thiswek
“If you’re in business in CO & not investing in education, then you’re not in business in CO.” -Kelly Brough of @DenChamber #GradNation
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School Reform for Rural America
With one in four rural children living in poverty, and the vast majority of the 50 U.S. counties with the highest child-poverty rate being rural, it is clear that much is to be done to improve the education system in rural communities.
Read More

This week we celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week with this video. Thankful to all of our CTE educators out there!
Watch the video

The Economic Value of College Majors analyzes 137 college majors and their economic benefits. The report includes a list of key findings, one of which is that the top-paying college majors  like STEM and business earn $3.4 million more than the lowest-paying majors such as early childhood education and the arts, over a lifetime.
Read More

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate

CTE Research Review

April 30th, 2015

teachersToday in CTE research … a scan of career pathway models, a peek into employers’ views on competency-based education, recommendations to strengthen the teacher pipeline, and research into the labor market’s return on investment for higher education.

First up – MDRC’s new research, “New Pathways to Careers and College: Examples, Evidence, and Prospects

Over the years, the high school reform debate has evolved to view CTE as a means to prepare all students for success in college and careers, and CTE programs are changing along with it. More programs are emerging that blend CTE, rigorous academic coursework and opportunities for career exploration. With that in mind, MDRC researchers took a first-ever scan of the most prominent career pathway models and their underlying principles, the localities where they are most popular, and some evidence of success.

At least one career pathway model can be found in high schools in virtually every state and most large cities, the researchers argue, and yet still only a small percentage of students are enrolled in pathways that include the key elements of success. Much work remains to scale programs that are anchored by infrastructure that ensures high-quality implementation, sustainability and continuous improvement.

NASDCTEc Executive Director Kimberly Green and Oklahoma State CTE Director Marcie Mack were among the national experts interviewed for this report.

The Pipeline of Teachers

ACT and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) have published new research that takes a closer look at the pipeline of future
teachers as well as how they fare during their first five years in the classroom.

In “The Condition of Future Educators 2014,” ACT examines which students are expressing interest an education career from administration to classroom teachers, and found that the number of students interested in becoming educators continues to drop significantly – just five percent of all ACT-tested graduates. There continues to be a lack of men and diversity among those who expressed interest in the profession. The study was based on the 57 percent, or 27,000 students, of the U.S. graduation class who took the ACT test in 2014.

Among the findings, just one percent, or 224 students, planned to make CTE teaching a focus of their postsecondary pursuits.

The report offered three recommendations to help drive more high-achieving and diverse students into the teacher pipeline:

  • Recruit high-achieving college students who are undecided about their future careers;
  • Promote alternative pathways to teaching; and
  • Improve educator benefits.

At NCES, researchers provided a first look at the results of a nationally representative study of 2,000 teachers who entered the profession in 2007-08. After five years in the field, 17 percent of the teachers were no longer teaching, the study found. Salary was one of the greatest reasons why teachers remained in the profession. Education level had little impact. Those teachers who started with a $40,000 salary were more likely to still be teaching a year later.

Competency-based Education

Competency-based education (CBE) is gaining traction in communities across the country, particularly within higher education. But what do we know about how employers see it?

The American Enterprise Institute recently published a first-of-its-kind survey of 500 hiring managers to better understand how employers view CBE. The study found:

  • Overall employer awareness of CBE was low despite engagement efforts;
  • Those who were aware of CBE, a small minority, generally viewed the model and its graduates favorably;
  • The lack of awareness correlated to employers’ lack of understanding the benefits of hiring graduates of CBE programs;
  • Employers struggle to articulate discreet needs as competencies, and rather continue to hire based on generalizations of a new hire’s “fit”, which makes it difficult to create an effective competency map;
  • Two-thirds of employers believe they could be doing a better job of identifying students with the specific skill set required for the job.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate