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

Microsoft IT Academy & CTE Community: Closing the Skills Gap Together

September 25th, 2014

IT Academy-stacked-large

Technology plays an ever increasing role in our daily lives.  It changes how we communicate, how we learn and how we function in the world today. With all of the growth in the technology sector, workplace needs have shifted and technical skills have become vital to employment.

A current IDC study discovered that cloud-based companies will create 14 million new jobs by 2015, half of which will be in IT. The same study predicts over the course of the next ten years 77% of all jobs will require technology skills. That’s where Microsoft IT Academy and the Career Technical Education community join forces to close the gap.

Microsoft IT Academy provides industry-leading technology training and certifications. Currently, there are 13 Microsoft IT Academy statewide initiatives in place, and still more state programs to be deployed in the near future. Microsoft IT Academy and the CTE community are helping drive economic development by improving education outcomes for students and pathways for current workers to advance their careers. See our blog for recent success stories.

Microsoft certifications differentiate students in today’s competitive job market and broaden their employment opportunities. Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) exams prepare students to be more productive in school and business careers. For students considering IT careers, Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) exams provide an entry-level opportunity to explore various technical careers. Both MOS and MTA certification validates a student’s knowledge of specific technology concepts and helps them stand out when submitting college and internship applications.

With the Microsoft IT Academy program, academic institutions and their educators, students and staff get digital curricula and certification for fundamental technology skills as well as courses critical for students to be successful in today’s technologically evolving world. Microsoft IT Academy offers training at all levels: from basic fundamental computing to advanced technical courses for those who are interested in pursuing a career in IT. For more information on Microsoft IT Academy benefits visit:

Microsoft IT Academy is a proud sponsor of the 2014 NASDCTEc Fall Meeting.  Amy Merrill and Lance Baldwin will be representing Microsoft Learning and IT Academy at the conference. For the latest information on Microsoft IT Academy, follow us on social media!

Twitter: @MS_ITAcademy   |    Facebook:

Contacts: Amy Merrill – MS Learning, Business Deployment Manager: [email protected]

Lance Baldwin – MS Learning, Senior Solutions Specialist: [email protected]

This blog was contributed by Microsoft IT Academy, diamond level sponsor at the 2014 Fall Meeting.

Countdown to NASDCTEc’s Fall Meeting

September 22nd, 2014

Time is running out to secure your spot at this unique professional development event! Join State Directors of Career Technical Education and CTE leaders from across the country October 20-22 in Baltimore to build collaborative solutions to some of CTE’s stickiest problems.

Whether it’s your first or fiftieth year in CTE, the Fall Meeting offers a chance to broaden your professional network and content knowledge. Get examples from experts coming in from across the country while contributing your own unique perspective at our collaboration roundtables.

Network. Learn. Build. Join us at the Fall Meeting and help prepare for the future of CTE.


How Pathways Address the Motivation and Decision-Making Gaps

September 22nd, 2014

NC3T logo clean large Recently, I heard the U.S. described as a country where there are “workers without jobs” and “jobs without workers.” This is pithy way to describe the skills-worker mismatch that explains the paradox of our modern workforce.

In this paradox, America has millions of long-term unemployed who can’t find meaningful, gainful employment. America also has millions of jobs (mostly with specific skill requirements) that can’t find qualified workers.

When we play out a root cause analysis, there are many complicated and interconnected factors, such as globalism and the rise of internet-enabled and robotic technologies. These factors are disrupting entire industries and reshaping the way work is done, which has a tumultuous impact on staffing.

But we also know that one root cause of the workforce mismatch is that too few young Americans – only about 50 percent – are completing postsecondary degrees and earning skill credentials by their mid-20s. This low rate of postsecondary attainment occurs despite the fact that about two-thirds of them are enrolling in postsecondary education fairly soon after high school graduation.  At the same time that our young people are underperforming in attaining skills and degrees, our relatively higher-skilled baby-boomers are beginning to leave the workforce.

Further root cause analysis ultimately takes us back to the K-12 environment.

I’m going to focus on two essential gaps in the preparation of many teens. Based on the work of the Gallup Organization and Dr. William Damon respectively, we know that over one-half of high school students are disengaged learners, and that three-quarters of teens are disengaged, dabbling, or dreaming, whereas only one-quarter are “purposeful.” I believe we can safely estimate that at least one-half of our high school aged students are part of a personal motivation gap, a college-career decision-making gap, or possibly both.

Here’s what I mean by personal motivation gap and the college-career decision-making gap.

Personal motivation gap: Too many students lack the personal motivation to put forth personal effort into their education. They may be students of average achievement who could be higher performers with stronger personal motivation. They could be students from difficult economic circumstances who need extra internal motivation to make the effort needed to strengthen their personal academic skills and find a way to participate in postsecondary education and training. The clear fact is, if students aren’t personally invested in the purpose of education, many simply won’t do the work. Their personal options will be limited as a result, and the education system won’t attain its goals of higher rates of student proficiency.

College-career decision-making gap: Too many students don’t have the knowledge and skills to make reasonable, well-informed choices about education and training after high school. The result of this gap is that students enroll in postsecondary education without clear purpose, and often drift from one major to the next. If they do graduate, it takes significantly longer than it should – but many never graduate at all. And many other students who should consider education and training after high school write it off entirely, because they feel it’s unaffordable or they just don’t like school.

Not surprisingly, the personal motivation gap and the college-career decision-making gap are intertwined. If students have more knowledge and positive experiences with skills, careers, and how postsecondary education could be affordable and attainable, it would have a positive impact on their personal motivation.

The Solution?

The Pathways System approach, which includes intentional and sustained career development, high quality pathways programs of study that reach all students, extensive employer engagement with students, and a partnership structure among community stakeholders, is a key organizing strategy to address the twin challenges of motivation and informed decision-making.

I believe that offering signature pathway programs that only reach a small percentage of students is a good start, but it’s not enough: Having programs for the elite students or the very needy students or so-called “pocket” career academies, existing within a general high school system, simply perpetuates the notion of college OR careers.  It perpetuates the idea that career-themed programs are for those students who can’t cut it in the traditional college-prep environment, rather than promoting the concept that pathways will also boost the achievement and engagement of higher achieving students. The Pathways System will work to engage all students, strengthening personal motivation and informed decision-making.

Please take a look at how we’ve laid out the pathways concept and the process for communities to develop a Pathways System plan. PATHWAYS SYSTEM OVERVIEW

Let’s continue our work at strengthening the quality of CTE and STEM programs, and integrating them into comprehensive Pathways Systems.

This blog post was contributed by Hans Meeder, President of the National Center for College and Career Transitions, a participant and gold level sponsor at the 2014 NASDCTEc Fall Meeting.

Why Is Workplace Safety Training Important?

September 19th, 2014

According to the CDC, there were approximately 18.1 million young people entering the workforce under the age of 24 in 2013—but this does not mean that these young workers are necessarily prepared and able to handle risks and hazards that can occur in a work environment.[i] Not being knowledgeable of hazards related to a specific job or knowing how to assess and correct a problem can lead to devastating injuries or even death for a worker.

Safety training can make workers more conscious of hazards and risks such as falls, vehicle accidents, overexertion injuries, and workplace violence. Unfortunately, workplace safety has the potential to be unintentionally overlooked which can leave workers and others on the job site unprotected. Every nine minutes, a U.S. teen is injured on the job.[ii] By preparing students for their first entry-level jobs and future career opportunities with safety and health training, young workers will be more capable protecting themselves and others.

The Department of LabCareerSafe Logo Orange Blueor reports that nearly 600,000 workers miss work each year because of muscoskeletal disorders related to work injuries alone; the collective cost to employers, insurance companies, and the government is estimated at $50 billion each year.[iii]

Workplace injuries not only affect the company, but can also lead to devastating consequences for a worker. Being injured while at work can lead to lost wages, large medical bills that may not be completely covered by workers’ compensation, and even disabilities that result in long-term unemployment. In addition to learning how to identify safety and health hazards, workplace safety training, especially OSHA training, provides workers with information regarding their rights in the workplace. First and foremost, workers are entitled to working conditions that are safe and do not pose a risk of serious harm or injury.

Successful occupational health and safety programs require the collaborating efforts and participation of employers and employees. Understanding and implementing safety and health standards related to the work environment is not only the responsibility of an employer but also an employee’s. Promoting health and safety as well as implementing training in the classroom can lead to young workers actively identifying, accessing, and correcting hazards in the classroom and at work. Incorporating a health and safety training program or OSHA safety training in the classroom is a way to lower risks to young workers and begin to prepare future business leaders and workers on practicing safe methods in the workplace. Online OSHA training, like the courses offered by CareerSafe Online, is an easy and affordable way to implement workplace safety training in any career and technical education (CTE) classroom. Because 80% or more of young workers are still in high school when they begin their first job, it gives educators an opportunity to prepare their students for employment as well as apprenticeships and internships related to their studies.[iv]

The more education and training workers receive, the more likely it is that there will be a reduction in injuries and the repercussions of those injuries. Young workers who have received OSHA safety training and possess an industry recognized credential are enhancing their resumes, becoming more employable, and may receive pay increase from employers. Employers want to hire individuals who not only understand the work involved in a position, but are also aware of the risks associated with daily tasks.

Students are our future. Let’s make safety a priority and enroll them in safety training today.

[i] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014) Young Worker Safety and Health.

[ii] Department of Labor, YouthRules. (2012) Are You a Teen Worker?

[iii] Jeffress, Charles N. (2000) BEACON Biodynamics and Ergonomics Symposium. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, United States Department of Labor.

[iv] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013) Health and Safety of Young Workers.


This blog post was written by CareerSafe Online, a participant and gold level sponsor at the 2014 NASDCTEc Fall Meeting

Poll finds overwhelming support for more CTE, internships in high school

September 18th, 2014

Research Image_6.2013A new PDK/Gallup poll released Tuesday showed 87 percent of Americans believe high school students should receive “more education about possible career choices.” Further, a majority of Americans agreed that the factors that help students get a good job include working on a real-world project, possessing employability skills such as teamwork and dependability, and having a mentor or advisor.

These results came from the second installment of the 46th annual PDK/Gallup poll. Be sure to check out our coverage of the first data release here, which primarily focused on the Common Core State Standards.

The findings add to a growing cadre of support for CTE in preparing students for success in both college and careers. The disaggregated survey results were filtered into the following categories: national total, public school parents and political affiliation.

Public school parents strongly agreed that high school students should be required to participate in at least one paid or unpaid internship and should be allowed to earn credits toward graduation from instruction they receive outside of school or online. However, results were mixed about whether students should specialize in a career area of their choice during high school.

Given the enthusiasm shown here for exposing students to more career opportunities, there are clear opportunities to continue educating parents and the public about the benefits of CTE and further breakdown the mentality of CTE as an either/or decision for students — particularly when it comes to preparation for college and careers.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

Senate CTE Caucus Hosts Briefing on CTE and the Skills Gap

September 17th, 2014

IMG_20140916_123050Yesterday morning, the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus hosted a panel briefing on the role CTE has in closing the nation’s persistent skills gap. As Congress begins to finalize the remainder of its legislative agenda for the year, this event was aimed at reminding lawmakers, their staff, and the general public about the important contribution CTE has in educating and training students across the country for careers most demanded by employers.

Senate CTE Caucus Co-Chairs, Tim Kaine (D-VA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Mike Enzi (R-WY) provided opening remarks to the event which touched upon this core message. A recurring theme throughout these statements emphasized the importance of reauthorizing the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) as a way to drive innovation and foster the growth of rigorous, high-quality CTE programs across the country. Sen. Portman in particular highlighted some of the core principles contained in recent legislation which he and some of his Senate colleagues hope to address through this reauthorization:

  • More clearly defining what constitutes a high-quality CTE program through the incorporation of key programmatic elements
  • Increasing opportunities for students to gain postsecondary credit in secondary school
  • Promoting greater collaboration between secondary CTE and postsecondary CTE
  • Supporting the attainment of industry recognized certifications, licenses, and credentials
  • Ensuring states and locals have the flexibility to cultivate and build relationships with employers to ensure clear links between the needs of the labor market and the CTE enterprise and relevant work experiences for students

Following these remarks a distinguished panel of leaders from education, business and the public sector shared their perspectives on how they have leveraged CTE to address the evolving demands of the modern economy and provided policy recommendations for improving upon the past successes of CTE to date. Panelists included:

  • Charles “Chuck” Speelman, Superintendent, Tri-Rivers Career Center, Marion, OH
  • Danny Hunley, Vice President of Operations, Newport News Shipbuilding, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Newport News, VA
  • Bryan Albrecht, President, Gateway Technical College, Kenosha, WI
  • Portia Wu, Assistant Secretary, Employment & Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor

A recording of this briefing can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

American RadioWorks Profiles CTE in Documentary Series

September 17th, 2014

Evidence is mounting that the public is waking up to CTE’s power to engage students and put them on a path to success (87 percent want more CTE in high schools, according to Gallup’s Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools). Through the years, a number of stories have attempted to document the shift in both the practice and perception of CTE, but often reveal only a fraction of CTE’s long and important story.

In their one hour documentary Ready to Work, American RadioWorks takes a look at the transition from vocational education to CTE, the transformative effect modern CTE has had locally in districts like Metro Nashville Public Schools and the power of CTE to engage individual students like those at Minuteman Regional High School in Lexington, MA. In breadth, depth and understanding, Ready to Work exceeds most prior treatment of the subject, and is a must-listen for anyone concerned with the future of public education.

Get the whole story on American RadioWorks’ website here.

Evan Williamson, Communications Associate

Today’s Class: Partners for CTE Success

September 16th, 2014

Todays Class Logo- Registred Trademark-1-7-14(1)Today’s Class is a web-based educational program delivering interactive coursework to school systems and technical institutions. Today’s Class programs are designed to enhance an instructor’s curriculum with content, vivid animation, and interactive exercises. Supplying concepts and theory allows for up to 25% reduction in lecture time, which in turn allows instructors more time for hands-on lab work and in-class demonstrations.

Currently, Today’s Class offers automotive, cosmetology, health science, and agriscience programs.  Assessments are included for automotive, cosmetology, and health science programs.

The cosmetology program aligns with NIC standards that most states base their curriculum from, providing comprehensive theory and step-by-step methodology.

The health science program explores body systems, the protocol for vital sign measurement, emergency response, ethical & legal responsibilities, and other necessary health science courses.

The automotive program covers the eight core NATEF areas and the new MLR series.  Job sheets, crosswalks, and blueprints are included in the automotive modules.

The newest program by Today’s Class is agriculture-based and contains: Concepts of Agriscience, Science of Agricultural Animals, Science of Agricultural Plants, Science of Agricultural Environment and Science of Agricultural Mechanization.

Many attendees know Dr. Rod Boyes, a long-time NASDCTEc supporter and President of the organization. Also representing Today’s Class at the meeting will be Peggy Albano – please say hello to her and learn more about Today’s Class programs and initiatives. Today’s Class is a Gold Level Sponsor at the NASDCTEc 2014 Fall Meeting.

New CTE Legislation Introduced in the Senate, Caucus Event Highlights Confluence of CTE & Literacy

September 15th, 2014

CapitolLate last week Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), co-Chair of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, introduced the Career and Technical Education Opportunity Act (S. 2795)— legislation aimed at expanding eligibility for federal student aid programs to postsecondary CTE students. Co-sponsored by fellow Senate CTE Caucus co-Chair Tim Kaine (D-VA), the legislation amends the Higher Education Act (HEA) to allow students enrolled in shorter-term CTE programs that lead to an industry-recognized credential to qualify for federally backed student loans made available under Title IV of the law.

Specifically the CTE Opportunity Act amends current program eligibility requirements under HEA to incorporate programs that have at least 250 clock hours offered over a minimum duration of five weeks of instruction (a lower threshold than current law), so long as the program culminates in an industry-recognized credential in demand within a local, regional or state economy. NASDCTEc has supported this legislation and applauds the Senators’ ongoing commitment to ensure equitable access to federal student aid programs for postsecondary CTE students.

“As our nation works to educate and train students of today for the jobs of tomorrow, it is critical that we afford them the necessary resources to complete education and training programs that are most demanded by employers” said NASDCTEc Executive Director, Kimberly Green during the bill’s introduction last week. A press release and additional information on the bill can be found here.

Senate CTE Caucus Hosts Briefing on CTE and Literacy

Last Thursday, the Senate CTE Caucus hosted a briefing on strategies and approaches for integrating literacy services with Career Technical Education (CTE) coursework. The event aimed to highlight the interdependency between CTE and literacy programs—particularly technical literacy— provided by schools as a way to combine efforts to prepare students for the demands of the workplace. Three distinguished panelists, including Sheila Harrity Principal of Worcester Technical High School and a recent Principal-of-the-Year participated in the event.

The briefing began by highlighting an ongoing collaborative effort between two experienced CTE practitioners from the Arlington Career Center who have successfully integrated their Information Technology (IT) program with the school’s English Language Learners (ELL) department in a number innovative ways. For instance, students from Arlington’s IT programs developed a mobile app dictionary for students in ELL programs to use and also developed related games for ELL students to hone their vocabulary and grammar. For her part, Harrity highlighted her school’s journey to becoming a leading national CTE school, while highlighting the importance of strong partnerships with community businesses and other employers to the school’s success to date.

Following the panel’s presentations, Senators and CTE Caucus Co-Chairs Kaine (D-VA) and Baldwin (D-WI) gave remarks on several new bills they had recently introduced, including the CTE Opportunity Act outlined above and the Middle STEP Act introduced last week. Summing up the overall narrative of the briefing, Senator Kaine captured it succinctly in his remarks saying, “I detect an ongoing transformation in how we view Career and Technical Education.”

Odds and Ends

As we shared in May, the full House approved legislation which aims to reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA). Titled the Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA), the bill continues its support of education research programs and, of particular note to the CTE community, grants for state longitudinal data systems (SLDS). The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is set to hold a mark-up of this legislation this Wednesday, September 17th. The Chamber is also expected to bring last week’s Continuing Resolution (CR) to the floor for a House-wide vote tomorrow or Wednesday of this week.

The U.S. Department of Education awarded $14.7 million to 40 school districts in 20 states across the nation late last month to create or expand school counseling programs in elementary and secondary schools. More info on the program and project abstracts can be found here.

Next Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014, the U.S. Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services will host a National Dialogue on Career Pathways. Leaders from these agencies will provide insights into how to effectively develop and sustain these promising models. More information can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

NOCTI: Responding to the CTE Community

September 15th, 2014

NOCTI--Navy-11-2009NOCTI is proud to be an important member of the Career Technical Education (CTE) community. We have a long-standing history and commitment to providing the services that CTE needs. Data that accurately and objectively validates the competency of the nation’s technical training programs and the technically skilled individuals coming from these programs is critical for many reasons. Though we won’t discuss the specifics of those needs in this blog, we will mention how NOCTI is working to provide forward-thinking solutions for the CTE community.

Last spring our blog entry focused on a data-driven improvement book entitled “Putting Your Data to Work: Improving Instruction in CTE”, co-published with ACTE. In this entry we are excited to highlight our second book. This publication focuses on surviving and thriving in a CTE classroom during the first few months. It is written by four seasoned CTE practitioners with combined experiences totaling well over 150 years. In addition, this book contains the experiences of many others in the CTE community and provides examples of how they succeeded in their early years. Here are a few other resources worth mentioning.

Teacher Tests: We have made a commitment to expand our current teacher testing battery. This is in response to a number of states who requested the ability to use our test to assure that incoming instructors have experiences in all aspects of their particular industry. We have increased our teacher test offerings to include over 35 assessments, and more are on the way.

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA): By leveraging our association with the National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS) we are able to assess experiences that have occurred outside the classroom. This service has been particularly successful with our community college partners.

Open Badges:The beta test conducted in five states and discussed in last Spring’s blog was successfully completed. Any student taking any NOCTI assessment this fall who meets the established benchmark will be eligible for a college credit recommendation digital badge at no additional cost.

Curriculum Partners: Though NOCTI is a not-for-profit company, working in the field of industry credentialing we are often asked for curriculum resources for CTE programs of study. We have begun exploring potential collaborations with several companies who are able to tie their curriculum to our industry standards. Watch our web page and social media pages for further developments.

Industry Credentials: All NOCTI assessments are industry credentials. When utilized properly, NOCTI assessments compare student competence against current industry standards in over 100 unique programs of study and use local industry practioners to make that comparison. In addition, passing scores are determined by national industry experts. We collaborate with numerous Industry association groups to deliver their credentials as well.

Contact us at [email protected] to see how we can help you. NOCTI is also a Gold sponsor of the NASDCTEc fall meeting; be sure to seek us out and say hello!