At a time when U.S. global competitiveness is slipping and a skills gap persists among American workers, business and industry representatives are looking to Career Technical Education (CTE) to skill up help solve many of the problems in the American workforce.
Yet, state CTE directors, institutions and programs often find it difficult to forge true, substantial partnerships with business and industry. Jason Tyszko, Senior Director of Education and Workforce Policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) hinted that a gap in communications remains between those in the business and education worlds.
Tyszko sat with Dane Linn, Vice President of the Business Roundtable (BRT) and Timm Boettcher, Chairman of the Industry Workforce Needs Council (IWNC) on a panel titled, “Other Views: Business/Industry Perspectives on Perkins and CTE,” at NASDCTEc’s 2014 Spring Meeting. All three underscored their support for CTE as well as their opinions regarding the forthcoming reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006.
Employers often feel education officials seek partnerships to procure equipment for their programs without helping businesses engage in deeper and more substantive ways, Tyszko said. He suggested that educators pitch employers by explaining how their programs will help drive entrepreneurship and improve the company’s prospects in the long-run. A focus on cost, performance and return on investment—key focuses of any business—is more likely to catch the attention of an employer, he concluded.
Linn agreed, highlighting the partnership between Northrop Grumman and the University of Maryland, which worked together to develop cybersecurity programs that integrated Northrop Grumman’s expertise into program development. Linn said CTE leaders need to set clear expectations with their business and industry counterparts so that a partnership would amount to more than coming to the table once a month.
The BRT Vice President called CTE a critical pathway to creating a pipeline of qualified workers to fill the high-wage, high-skill jobs of the future. He cited BRT’s upcoming toolkit for a U.S. model of apprenticeships to encourage employers to become more engaged in CTE.
The skills gap is the top reason why the USCCF is talking about CTE, Tyszko said, and it sees the reauthorization of Perkins as one of the many solutions to close the skills gap. He added that the organization has several recommendations to transform the public-private partnership – a list that its members are also taking to Congress, including:
- Promoting industry credentials to make students career-ready and career-competitive;
- Encouraging innovation, including competency-based education; and
- Increasing accountability based on the return on investment.
Boettcher called CTE the backbone of America. The IWNC is amplifying the message about CTE: Learning that works for America® through speaking engagements by its members, whitepapers and advocacy in conjunction with NASDCTEc and the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE).
For the upcoming Perkins reauthorization, Boettcher said that IWNC plans to continue its alliance with NASDCTEc and ACTE around a more coordinated effort to target areas in the law that need the most improvement. He also suggested that a major point for crossover between business and CTE lay in promoting CTE’s visibility to the public and changing outdated perceptions of CTE equating the modern field to vocational education programs of the last century.
Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate