Barbara Humpton, CEO of Siemens USA, to Keynote Advance CTE Fall Meeting

October 1st, 2018

We are excited to announce that Barbara Humpton, CEO of Siemens USA, will keynote the Advance CTE Fall Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland later this month. This meeting will occur on the heels of the passing of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) and ahead of many state elections. The Fall Meeting is designed to empower state leaders of Career Technical Education (CTE) with the information, knowledge and skills they need to lead over the coming months of transition and change.

Humpton will underscore the importance of being a bold leader who is willing to take risks and strive for quality. While there is much uncertainty and potential challenges ahead for state CTE leaders, it is also a great time for opportunity and innovation. She will discuss her role as CEO, and how she serves as an inspiring leader to 50,000 people across the United States.

Nicole Howard, Communications Associate

Advance CTE Fall Meeting Sponsor Blog: New Hands-on Training and Certification Program – CPT+ Skill Boss

September 27th, 2018

This post is written by the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC), a Platinum Level sponsor of the 2018 Advance CTE Fall Meeting.

The Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) is pleased to announce the release of its complete hands-on advanced manufacturing CPT+ Skill Boss Training and Certification program. Built upon MSSC’s well-established Certified Production Technician (CPT), this new program is designed to prepare certificants with the next generation skills to work in a computer-driven, data-intensive advanced manufacturing workplace.


The centerpiece of this new program is a transformational training device, invented by Amatrol, that enables MSSC to offer hands-on training and assessment as an enhancement to its signature CPT training and certification system.  “Skill Boss” is a computer-controlled machine that performs a wide variety of functions aligned with 55+ skills drawn from the MSSC’s National Production Standards.  

Leo Reddy, Chair, MSSC & Paul Perkins, President, Amatrol, pictured with CPT+ Skill Boss Device

As shown in the Skill Boss Brochure, the “Skill Boss” device is portable, compact, and “classroom friendly.” Together with its associated programmable logic controller (PLC), Skill Boss fits comfortably on a standard 3’x 6′ table. It is strongly built with industrial grade components to withstand heavy use. Additionally, it is designed to cover many of the core technical competencies related to advanced manufacturing discrete parts and process manufacturing.  

Colorful and multifaceted, Skill Boss will be more fun than a robot for many students and will encourage them to enter a career pathway in advanced manufacturing. Cost-effective, Skill Boss will enable many more schools, including most high schools, who cannot afford a costly lab or tech center, to offer hands-on CPT training and testing. Watch the video below to see the Skill Boss functions!

“As an instructor, having Skill Boss will provide me with a functional hands-on teaching and testing tool that will allow my students to learn and demonstrate the valuable skills and concepts of the MSSC CPT program.” -Victor Burgos, Master Trainer, MSSC

Skill Boss Value Add:

  • Allows for documentation of 55+ “Hands-on” Skills from MSSC National Standards
  • Affordable for lower rural and urban income regions
  • Trains and assesses hands-on skills for all sectors of manufacturing
  • Increases employer confidence in their workforce and apprenticeship investment by requiring evidence of hands-on skills
  • Strong training and assessment tool also for incumbent workers
  • Interactive with CPT virtual 3-D simulation learning
  • Offers students and workers a robust introduction to mechatronics
  • Increases incentive to earn the full CPT
  • Appeals to tactile learners through dynamic learning experience
  • Meets ISO Standard 17024 accreditation requirement that MSSC offer exactly same assessment using the same equipment nationwide. 

Relationship with Current CPT Program, Instructors, and Fees:

The current MSSC CPT Program remains in full force as a highly successful program for training and certifying individuals with the core technical competencies needed to enter front-line production jobs in all manufacturing sectors. There is no requirement that education and training institutions offering CPT will need to purchase a Skill Boss trainer.

Nor will there be any change in the credentialing documentation that MSSC provides for successful completion of CPT Modules. CPT+ is a “stackable” credential.  Individuals seeking a CPT+ credential must pass the current multiple-choice assessments for all four CPT Modules: Safety, Quality Practices & Measurement, Manufacturing Processes & Production, and Maintenance Awareness.

CPT+ Credentialing:

MSSC CPT+ Skill Boss trained Instructors will issue a “MSSC Transcript” to students who satisfactorily complete hands-on training for each of the four CPT Modules.  MSSC will also offer a final, hands-on CPT+ Assessment after students pass all four CPT modules. The CPT+ certification will be on diploma-style parchment, suitable for framing, and include two CPT+ arm patches.

Delivery Expectations of CPT+ Instructor Training and Assessment:

Only MSSC Representatives are authorized to sell the Skill Boss training device and will be responsible for demonstrating Skill Boss to CPT Instructors, for invoicing and collections, and for customer service questions related to Skill Boss. Assessment related questions and orders will be done through the MSSC Headquarter office.

MSSC strongly encourages its interested community members currently and/or previously offering CPT, to order the new CPT+ Skill Boss Assessment device.  Please contact your local MSSC Representative for more information on placing your order. For information on who your MSSC Representative is,  please visit our website or contact our office by email at or 703-739-9000.

Staff Reflections of the 2017 Fall Meeting: Part 2

October 26th, 2017

Staff Reflection: Ensuring Quality for All Learners
Ashleigh McFadden, State Policy Manager

High-quality CTE is always a focus area for Advance CTE, but in our Fall Meeting this year there was a special focus on how to use program approval and evaluation policies to ensure quality.

The first full day of the Meeting began with a panel discussion featuring Kim Green, Executive Director of Advance CTE; Marcie Mack, State CTE Director, Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education; and Donna Lewelling, Deputy Director of the Office of Community Colleges and Workforce Development, Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission. The panel, moderated by Kate Kreamer, began with a discussion around Advance CTE’s recently released Policy Benchmark Tool on CTE Program of Study approval policy. Marcie and Donna explained how they plan to use the tool in their states to assess current policies and make changes moving forward, particularly as the states prepare for a newly-reauthorized Perkins. The panelists then talked about program quality more broadly, including how and when to shut down programs that are not producing the right outcomes for learners.

Following the panel discussion, Danielle Mezera, formerly the State CTE Director in Tennessee, and I led a breakout discussion on program evaluation policy. In that session, we discussed with state leaders and organizational partners the crucial questions that high-quality evaluation policies should ask and answer. State leaders brainstormed about how specific evaluation data could be collected, using the Benchmark Tool as a thought-starter.

It was wonderful to be able to participate in these conversations during the meeting, and I look forward to helping our members continue those conversations now that the Fall Meeting has ended.

Staff Reflection: Focusing on Postsecondary CTE 
Kate Kreamer, Deputy Executive Director 

Advance CTE’s meetings always strive to not only be engaging, relevant and informative – but also personalized to our diverse members, who represent every facet of the CTE system. Over the years, we have worked to ensure we have a strong balance of national and state experts, as well as sessions that resonate with participants who work in the secondary, postsecondary and workforce development spaces. This year, with some input from an informal “postsecondary member kitchen cabinet,” we made sure we had sessions on some of the top issues facing postsecondary leaders – including expanding dual/concurrent enrollment and the use of labor market information.

We also know that there is much those working in secondary can learn from those working in postsecondary (and vice versa), which is why we had a session that reflected on what worked – and didn’t work – around stakeholder engagement strategies under both the Every Student Succeeds Act and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to inform future stakeholder engagement strategies when Perkins is (finally) reauthorized.

Finally, given so much of the conference focused on high-quality CTE, we were excited to feature the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program, the annual competition honoring institutions that strive for and achieve exceptional levels of success for all learners, including the current winner, Lake Area Technical Institute of South Dakota.

Ultimately, Advance CTE’s goal is to hold meetings and professional learning opportunities that reflect our vision for the future of CTE and put learner success first by ensuring aligned programs, aligned policies and aligned commitments to high-quality CTE.

Staff Reflection: Sharing Early Lessons from the New Skills for Youth Initiative
Austin Estes, State Policy Associate 

Earlier this year it was announced that ten states were selected to participate in the New Skills for Youth initiative, an ambitious, national effort — supported by three-year, two-million dollar state grants from JPMorgan Chase — to transform career readiness systems, expand access to high-quality career pathways for all students, and develop replicable practices that could be emulated in other states. At Advance CTE’s Fall Meeting, participants got to see how the New Skills for Youth work is progressing and learn early lessons from the ten participating states. Sessions on the agenda, many of which pulled from work in the New Skills for Youth states or Advance CTE research funded by the initiative, included:

  • Rural CTE Access and Quality: State leaders from Idaho and North Dakota led a meaningful discussion on strategies to serve learners in rural schools and colleges. Idaho’s program alignment initiative, which was recently featured in Advance CTE’s CTE on the Frontier series, brings together secondary and postsecondary educators to align learning competencies. Meanwhile, the Dakota Nursing Program in North Dakota demonstrates how states can leverage rural healthcare facilities to bring experts to rural communities.
  • Strengthening the CTE Teacher Pipeline: Building upon Advance CTE’s recent research, the New Jersey Department of Education, the Center for Great Teachers and Leaders at the American Institutes of Research (GTL), and Advance CTE led a workshop on recruiting and training industry experts. The workshop focused on work New Jersey is doing with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education to strengthen the CTE teacher pipeline. Advance CTE plans to continue this work through both the New Skills for Youth initiative as well as an ongoing workgroup in partnership with GTL.
  • Communicating about Labor Market Information: Led by state leaders in the Kentucky Department of Education, this session highlighted Kentucky’s data innovations and helped participants better understand ways that labor market data could be used to inform program prioritization and design. To build upon lessons learned in the workshop, Advance CTE plans to release a guide in the coming weeks to help states communicate and leverage labor market information.
  • Identifying and Measuring Credentials of Value: By 2020, two-thirds of all new jobs will require a postsecondary degree or training. Under the New Skills for Youth initiative, Education Strategy Group (ESG) has convened an expert workgroup to develop recommendations and strategies for states to meet this demand. At Advance CTE’s fall meeting, ESG previewed the workgroup’s recommendations and gathered reactions and input from state leaders in attendance.

This is just a slice of the work Advance CTE and partners are conducting under New Skills for Youth. As the initiative progresses, there will be ample opportunity to identify and elevate best practices from the participating states. New Skills for Youth is a partnership of the Council of Chief State School Officers, Advance CTE and the Education Strategy Group, generously funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Staff Reflection: Effective Stakeholder Engagement
Kathryn Zekus, Senior Associate, Federal Policy 

This year’s Fall Meeting featured a session called, “Building Effective Stakeholder Engagement for Perkins V,” which was designed to share the best practices and lessons learned from states’ stakeholder engagement processes used during the state planning process for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The panelists provided many helpful pointers for states preparing for the stakeholder engagement process for a reauthorized Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins), but I’ll focus on just three:

  • Building relationships and partnerships is beneficial to fostering statewide collaboration – don’t wait until a planning process is underway to find stakeholders or start the conversation with them
  • When the time comes to gather feedback and input on a state plan, be sure to execute a strong communications plan to get the word out and include clear expectations about the feedback you seek
  • Use the state’s vision for CTE as a driver for planning efforts, not the legislation that requires a plan

These three ideas stood out to me not only because they apply to Perkins and other statewide planning efforts, but also because they apply to advocacy planning. When building out an advocacy plan to accomplish a goal, it is unlikely that the work can be done by one person, agency or organization – building relationships and partnerships is key. A strong communications plan can help with this – stakeholders and partners won’t know they can contribute if they aren’t aware of the process. Or, as one panelist noted, “Asking who else should be involved is like saying “raise your hand if you’re not here.” Setting clear expectations about a request for a partner or stakeholder to weigh in or do something related to a plan is also important to the plan’s ultimate success. Lastly, advocacy, like stakeholder engagement, is most effective when it is proactive and informed by a larger vision, not limited to one time-bound initiative.

Four Essential Components of a Quality CTE Program

October 16th, 2017

This post is written by the NOCTI, a Gold Level sponsor of the 2017 Advance CTE Fall Meeting.

For the past decade, our community has grown accustomed to the public’s perception about CTE and how the perception swings back and forth like a pendulum. At times, the perception is focused on how beneficial CTE is to both our students and the nation, and at other times, CTE is viewed as a path for only “certain” students.  Recently, the pendulum has been swinging toward the side of positivity and credibility. CTE has gone from “odd-man-out” to the person everyone wants to befriend.

It is a bit ironic that this popularity is occurring at a time when some of the factors that attributed to CTE’s popularity are weakening a bit.  It is critical that the entire CTE community focuses on addressing and strengthening any shortcomings if the growth and “popularity” of CTE are to be sustained. NOCTI has been working in the CTE arena for over 50 years and our mission is to provide tools and services to build a world-class workforce. There are four important factors that we believe should be part of every quality CTE program:

  1. Quality Administrators: Organizations like Advance CTE, ACTE, NOCTI, SREB, and numerous others have all noticed a disturbing trend. Many CTE administrators are not coming from the ranks of the CTE teaching community. In addition, most universities have eliminated formal programs that prepare CTE administrators. This creates a situation whereby a large cohort of well-meaning individuals are being hired in CTE administrator positions and are continuously challenged with understanding the nuances of a quality CTE program. Those nuances are essentially the differences in basic education and CTE including mission, governance, instructional delivery, financing of CTE programs, as well as the professional development needs of CTE teachers. The over-arching difference also relates to the ability to embrace and determine a strategy for engaging business and industry.
  2. Quality Programs: CTE responds to the needs of local economies, helps individuals become independent, assures our nation’s standard of living, and helps maintain our infrastructure. It is critical that the programs are not only high quality, but are also offered based on need and potential growth within the community. This is an entrepreneurial model and one that may be foreign to those who do not have a CTE background.
  3. Quality Teachers: Like quality administrators, CTE teachers need a deep understanding of and experience in the related technical content they deliver. Often CTE teachers are individuals coming to CTE as their second career and follow what many refer to as an “alternate pathway” to CTE teaching. It is important that the processes for bringing new CTE teachers to the classroom are straightforward and that efforts are made and supported to ensure these individuals are kept up to date with new methods, materials, and products that are occurring within the workforce. At the same time, it is as equally important that classroom pedagogies are reinforced.  
  4. Quality Tools and Data: CTE schools, programs, and teachers need tools that can help to objectively measure and reward both individual and program success. Third-party data is important for schools, programs, and teachers for a variety of reasons. It can be used to underscore a program’s credibility, help in identifying instructional areas of improvement, and serve as a useful tool in determining areas in which professional development should be offered.

The four components briefly described above are critical to program success. As the focus on CTE increases, these topics—as well as others—will be in the spotlight. NOCTI has developed collaborative products and services that can assist state leaders in addressing these and other areas within CTE. Check out our website for further details.  We are looking forward to seeing you at the Fall Meeting in Baltimore. Stop by our table and say hello!

John Foster, NOCTI President/CEO
Amie Bloomfield, NOCTI Executive Vice President

ESB is Now Open for Business

September 26th, 2017

This post is written by the Certiport, A Pearson VUE Business, who is a Platinum Level sponsor of the 2017 Advance CTE Fall Meeting.

Certiport will host an evening of drinks and small bites at a hospitality suite Tuesday, October 17, from 6 to 8 p.m. in Room 917 of the BWI Marriott. Your RSVP is appreciated, but not required–


Certiport, a Pearson VUE business, has a new certification exam: Entrepreneurship and Small Business! The Entrepreneurship and Small Business (ESB) certification, practice tests, and supporting curriculum were released in early 2017. The ESB certification is built to test and validate foundational-level concepts and knowledge in entrepreneurship and small business management with a 50-minute exam covering topics such as: recognizing and evaluating opportunities, starting and operating a business, marketing and sales, and financial management.

What is the Entrepreneurship and Small Business Certification (ESB)?

ESB is the first in the new Certiport® Business Fundamentals Certification Program, which will also include certification exams in business disciplines such as Digital Marketing and Finance. The ESB exam is intended for use primarily in academic settings including K-12 and vocational schools as well as community and technical colleges.

Candidates for ESB certification will be expected to have key conceptual knowledge of entrepreneurial and small business principles, although it is not required for students to have had real-world experience as a small business manager in order to take and pass the exam. Successful completion of this certification will validate skills and knowledge for those students interested in working in a middle-skill trade profession as their own bosses, and those with entrepreneurship and small business career aspirations.

Why should students study and seek certification in ESB?

Whether it is a beauty salon in a large metropolitan city, a taco shop in a booming resort location, or a car repair garage in the suburbs, an incredible number of small businesses can be found almost everywhere. In fact, in a recent report from, “every minute, a new business is started in the U.S. and, according to some, more than 50 percent of all workers will be self-employed by 2020.” (The State of Small Business in America, 2015,, emphasis added.)

ESB certification engages and prepares students who will pursue additional vocational training after their formal schooling or those who elect to enter the small business sector immediately upon graduation. The entrepreneurial concepts validated by this certification ensure that these students are career ready.

Learn More

Learn more about Entrepreneurship and Small Business certification at

We look forward to visiting with you at the Fall Meeting.

Eldon Lechtenberg, Vice President, Sales-Americas
Mike Maddock, VP, Microsoft Volume Licensing Business – Americas
Lori Monson, Senior Director, NOAM Sales
Brent Clark, Director, Strategic Accounts – NOAM

Early Bird Registration Ends Friday

August 14th, 2017

Early bird registration closes on Friday for the Advance CTE Fall Meeting! We invite you to join us October 16-18, in Baltimore, Maryland, for two days of informative, thought-provoking sessions and networking with your peers across the country.

Register today to save $100!

Check out the newly released agenda to get a peek into the critical professional development you will gain by attending. We’ve crafted programming designed to help state leaders build the buy-in necessary to affect systemic change and ensure quality and excellence in CTE.

We’re also bringing back our popular workshop format, where you can:

  • Try your hand at setting ambitious performance targets;
  • Learn how to benchmark your state CTE system to identify areas for improvement; and
  • Explore best practices for state policies that ensure learners are able to move seamlessly throughout their educational journey with the credit they’ve earned.

Andrea Zimmermann, Senior Associate, Member Engagement and Leadership Development

Registration Open for 2017 Fall Meeting

July 13th, 2017

Join us October 16-18, in Baltimore, Maryland, for the 2017 Advance CTE Fall Meeting! Registration is now open for this two-day convening offering intensive, unique professional development to state and local leaders of Career Technical Education (CTE).

This year’s meeting will focus on helping state leaders prepare for reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act with key sessions focusing on how to:

  • Create effective stakeholder engagement
  • Build a strategy to address your CTE teacher shortage
  • Foster alignment across systems to provide smooth transitions for all learners across K-12, two-year and four-year institutions

We also are bringing back our successful workshop format to give participants dedicated time to explore into the most important issues influencing CTE today.

Andrea Zimmermann, Senior Associate for Member Engagement and Leadership Development

Kuder Proud to Support Career Technical Education

January 3rd, 2017

As a career guidance solutions provider, helping students and adults plan for and achieve lifelong career success is what drives us at Kuder. Over 165 million people worldwide have used our career assessment, education planning, and guidance resources to help visualize which industry or career, field of study, or school to pursue next in life. We help ensure that people of all ages can unlock the power of their own potential, and create a bright future.

Kuder offers the following solutions for K-20, workforce and economic development:

  • Comprehensive Online Career Planning System;
  • Research-based Career Assessments;
  • Career Development Curricula;
  • Professional Development for Career Counselors, Advisors, & Coaches;
  • Career Program Database Management;
  • Career Coaching for Students and Adults;
  • Career Program Needs Assessment; and
  • Career Program Consulting

Phil Harrington, Kuder President & CEO on the Value of Kuder

Proud to Support CTE

Kuder is proud to partner with Advance CTE, because we believe that competing in a global economy requires a strong, prepared workforce. Our solutions are designed to strengthen and sustain today’s Career Technical Education (CTE) programs and to foster collaboration between education, business, and community stakeholders to drive economic success.

CTE programs throughout the country rely on the Kuder Career Planning System® (KCPS) to support their curriculum development and planning. The KCPS is centered on reliable career assessments that help students identify career interests, skills, and work values. Our assessments are empirically aligned to the Career Clusters ® to enable students from the sixth grade and up to explore occupations and related education and training options.

Kuder has also been a longtime participant in our local community’s School-to-Work program, in which we employ high school seniors throughout the course of each year. These interns open our eyes to their world, and we, in turn, open their eyes to the world of work. It’s a remarkable and transformative experience that reinforces our belief in, and commitment to, CTE.

This post was written by Kuder, which was a sponsor at Advance CTE’s 2016 Fall Meeting.

Staff Reflections of the 2016 Fall Meeting

October 20th, 2016

This week, Advance CTE held its 2016 Fall Meeting bringing together attendees from across the country to take a deep dive into all things Career Technical Education (CTE). Advance CTE staff reflects on the Fall Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland in this two-part series. 

Perkins Reauthorization and Looking Ahead

The Carl D. Perkins Act and related reauthorization efforts in Congress were top of mind throughout our meeting. During a general session on Tuesday, I was fortunate enough to participate on a panel with Alisha Hyslop, the Association for Career Technical Education’s Director of Public Policy, and speak to the current reauthorization processes in both chambers of Congress. With an overwhelming vote of support from the House, activity and focus has centered on the Senate where the parties remain locked in negotiations over the issue of secretarial authority. Following this, Kimberly Green, Advance CTE’s executive director, led a reaction panel with distinguished set of state CTE directors from Washington state, Iowa, and Maryland. With the prospects for Perkins uncertain in this congress, the discussion focused on what states can be doing now, using current law, to promote their respective visions for high-quality CTE.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

Fall Meeting Provides Opportunity for CTE Leaders from Across the Nation to Come Together 

Networking is one of the greatest benefits of attending an Advance CTE meeting. This year’s Fall Meeting was no different – with 150 attendees gathering from 40 states, one territory and D.C. Consistent with our new name and tagline, “Advance CTE: State Leaders Connecting Learning to Work,” attendees included State CTE Directors, counterparts, state staff, as well as local and national CTE leaders.

This meeting was made possible thanks to financial support from our many longtime sponsors:

  • Diamond-level sponsors: Certiport, Kuder, and the National Center for College and Career Transitions.
  • Gold-level sponsors: NOCTI and Today’s Class
  • Bronze-level sponsors: CTECs, MBA Research, Realityworks

Many attendees had the opportunity to take part in a special networking opportunity thanks to the generous support from Kuder, who sponsored a dinner cruise along Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

With all of the excitement and energy around CTE, we are looking forward to seeing this community of bold CTE leaders continue to grow during our next in-person meeting. Save the date – May 2-4, 2017 in Washington D.C. for our 2017 Spring Meeting!

Andrea Zimmermann, Senior Associate, Membership Engagement

Advance CTE and Meeting Attendees Lean into Putting Learner Success First

Putting Learner Success First: A Shared Vision for the Future of CTE was a central topic throughout 2016 Fall Meeting, which provided participants with insight into how to share and implement the vision including solid state, local and partner examples of the fantastic work already being accomplished. The meeting kicked off with a dinner and opening session that brought together all attendees to learn more about the multitude of resources Advance CTE and partners have developed, the sign on campaign, which has been supported by over 30 states, and the growing list of national partners. We heard from one of our newest supporters, Goodwill, Inc., who described CTE’s importance in serving all learners to bring them successfully into the workforce, the Association for Career and Technical Education who reiterated the success of the vision in speaking to the necessity of high-quality CTE educators, and FCCLA who continues to commit to the success of all learners. We also heard from states including Wisconsin and Nebraska who have worked hard to spread the vision far and wide in their states, and use it as a resource when strengthening their own state visions. We are thankful to our partners, members and meeting attendees who have wholeheartedly adopted this vision for CTE, and continue the imperative work of carrying out vision principles and strategies as we strive to ensure all learners are prepared for a lifetime of career success.

Katie Fitzgerald, Senior Associate, Communications

What’s the ROI on Industry Certifications?: How industry certifications yield a high return on investment for employers, schools, and students

October 10th, 2016

There’s no such thing as a risk-free investment.Certiport-Pearson-Logo-Final (1)

Or is there?

As employers, schools, and students contemplate how to invest their dollars to yield the greatest return, they may want to consider recent studies on the benefits of earning professional industry certifications.

While it’s true that there’s no such thing as an entirely risk-free investment, the numbers don’t fib: earning professional software certifications yields a high return on investment (ROI) for the workforce, schools, and students.

ROI for the Workforce

The findings of a Burning Glass study drew the attention of The Wall Street Journal in an article titled, “The Key to a Good-Paying Job Is…Microsoft Excel?”

Study highlights show that it’s practically imperative for workers entering the workforce to possess Microsoft Office skills. “The most commonly required skills are also the most basic ones,” the report states. “Spreadsheet and word-processing software such as Microsoft Corp.’s Excel and Word.”

The Burning Glass study also found that:

  • Spreadsheet and word processing proficiencies have become a baseline requirement for the majority of middle-skill opportunities (78%)
  • Digitally intensive middle-skill occupations offer 18% higher wages on average
  • Digitally intensive jobs have grown 2.5 times more rapidly than middle-skill jobs that do not require spreadsheets, word processing, or other digital skills (between 2003 and 2013, 4.7% growth for digitally intensive jobs compared to 1.9% growth for other positions)

Despite these benefits, workers entering workforce often come without the needed baseline digital skills. “Effectively, entire segments of the U.S. economy are off-limits to people who don’t have basic digital skills,” the report notes, suggesting that schools and other training sites should go back to the basics.

Supply and demand dictates that employers will seek and pay for those who have these proficiencies. Industry certifications, such as Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS), teach and test Microsoft software skills. Further, they provide recognized stamps of approval to those who earn their certification. For employers, the ROI on a digitally skilled employee will be greater than on one who enters the job at a remedial level.

ROI for the Education System

School systems have limited budget to invest in programs that will help prepare their students for higher learning and for pursuing a career.

As it turns out, the ROI is demonstrably high for school systems that invest in programs to train and certify students in Microsoft Office software.

The Florida Case

Florida schools have a CAPE program (Career & Professional Education Act). CAPE focuses on teaching professional-level skills that translate to workforce success. At Dunbar High School, for example, CAPE Academy students perform better than non-academy students. The school invested in a program to train CAPE students and help them earn industry-recognized certifications for Microsoft Office software.

CAPE Academy students who earned professional-level certifications—

  • Outperformed their peers in average GPA (see chart 2)
  • Showed lower dropout rates
  • Showed higher rates of graduation
  • Outperformed non-academy peers on Florida standardized testing (FCAT)

The conclusion? Industry-recognized certification works in academia to boost student performance and longevity. (Note: The study is not just for Microsoft certification, as CAPE Academy cuts across data for students studying in multiple industry segments and technology areas.)


Chart 2











ROI for the Student

The numbers show that student market value (salary) with industry certification is greater than without it (see chart 3).


Chart 3


What do industry certifications mean to me?

That’s the question asked by students, schools, and employers as they consider investing time and money into certification programs. While there’s no such thing as a risk-free investment, the numbers show that investing in such programs is about as close to a risk-free investment as one can get.

Would you like more discussion about this issue and how it affects you? If you happen to be attending the Advance CTE Fall Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, on Monday, October 17, stop by our hospitality suite from 8:00-10:00 p.m. We’ll be in Suite 1026 of the BWI Airport Marriott. We look forward to seeing you!

Contact: Mike Maddock
Director of Strategic Accounts

This post was written by Certiport, a Pearson VUE Business, is the sole provider of industry certifications such as Microsoft Office Specialist, Adobe Certified Associate, Autodesk Certified User, IC3 Digital Literacy Certification, and others. Certiport is a sponsor of the 2016 Advance CTE Fall Meeting. Thank you Certiport!