Last week the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) held its annual Fall Meeting where a distinguished group of panelists discussed a recent Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report. As we shared previously, the publication critically assessed the challenges facing the postsecondary Career Technical Education (CTE) system in the United States. The authors argued throughout the report that the diversity and inherent decentralization of the postsecondary CTE system was both the United States’ biggest strength and its greatest weakness.
Mary Alice McCarthy, Senior Policy Analyst for the New America Foundation, gave the keynote presentation on the report’s findings which framed the rest of the panel discussion. Three overarching policy recommendations were given:
- Tie funding to quality CTE programs
- Link certifications & credentials to needs of business and industry
- Build better transitions from postsecondary to the workplace
McCarthy examined each of these recommendations in greater detail and identified specific policies for achieving them. She argued that improvements in “quality, coherence, and transparency” would lead to better outcomes for students. Towards the end of her remarks McCarthy illustrated an alarming trend when comparing reading scores across generations—American’s scores, compared to the rest of the world, had plateaued or declined for the most recent generation of 16-24 year-olds. This “skill plateau” framed the remainder of the discussion and served as the basis of analysis for the rest of the panel.
The other members of the panel echoed many of the core sentiments found in the report and highlighted the many ways in which their organizations are helping to improve the postsecondary CTE system. Dalila Bonilla Wortman, Director of Engineering at Lockheed Martin, emphasized her company’s use of interns as a viable strategy for transitioning students from the classroom to the workplace. Michael Baumgartner, Vice President of Finance and Special Projects at Complete College America argued for the need to increase the number of U.S. adults with a postsecondary certification, credential, or degree to 60 percent or more and also noted the importance of programs, like Lockheed Martin’s, that provide work-based experiences as part of that process.
Scott Stump, Dean of Career Technical Education for the Colorado Community College System and current Vice President of the NASDCTEc Executive Board, brought the discussion full-circle by stressing the need for a “coherent postsecondary CTE system, when it was never designed to be coherent.” He and the other panelists remained optimistic about the future prospects of postsecondary CTE in the United States and agreed that the challenges facing them today can be solved with the right policies moving forward.
Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate