Earlier this week, the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) held its annual Fall Meeting, which had a strong focus on state policy. To lay out some of the major trends being led by legislatures, state agencies and state boards across the country impacting Career Technical Education (CTE), Amy Loyd, from the Pathways to Prosperity Network at Jobs for the Future, Jennifer Dounay Zinth, from the Education Commission of States, and Robin Utz, from the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) at the U.S. Department of Education participated in the State Policy Update session.
Dale Winkler, Associate Commissioner, Kentucky Office of Career and Technical Education, moderated the panel and opened by describing three major pieces of legislation passed over the last few years in Kentucky impacting CTE, strengthening the state’s CTE standards and accountability, pathways and governance. Jennifer Dounay Zinth provided an overview of cross-state legislation and governors’ agendas citing five overarching trends: career-ready performance indicators, governance structures to facilitate better CTE and industry alignment, finance through accountability and incentives, CTE pathways or industry-based credentials being embedded into high school graduation requirements, and greater coordination between K-12, postsecondary and workforce development/industry.
Amy Loyd shared some highlights from the eight states working within the Pathways to Prosperity Network to better connect their education and workforce development systems to support more seamless student transitions. An early takeaway from that work is the importance of cross-agency efforts. The most successful states are those that bring together the major state agencies – such as state departments of education, higher education commissions, workforce development boards, governors’ offices, and economic development commissions – to develop common language, common goals and metrics, and even common funding as possible.
Finally, Robin Utz discussed some of the work OVAE is supporting in states and trends emerging around career pathways and programs of study. Specifically, she mentioned performance-based funding, graduation requirements recognizing or even requiring programs of study, legislative support for Career Technical Student Organizations, and dual and concurrent enrollment as some of the major levers being pulled across states in support of CTE. She, along with the other panelists, all agreed that this widespread interest in CTE and improving career pathways is the result of the economic uncertainly and persistent skills gap, along with the broader support for the college- and career-ready agenda, which has led to CTE being “invited to the adults’ table.”
Among the common themes that emerged as policy areas that still need more attention were dual/concurrent enrollment, credit transfer and articulation agreements, career guidance and counseling, and structures and incentives for more work-based learning experiences.
Kate Blosveren, Associate Executive Director