New Resource: Connecting CTE Students & Apprenticeship Programs

June 21st, 2017

Last week was certainly a big one for apprenticeships! In the midst of White House announcement, U.S. Department of Labor memo and the introduction of legislation in the Senate was the release of a new report form Advance CTE – Opportunities for Connecting Secondary Career and Technical Education Students and Apprenticeship Programs.

This new report was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education and prepared by Advance CTE with support from Jobs for the Future, Vivayic and RTI International to help state and local leaders begin to understand the ways in which they could expand access to apprenticeships for high school students, and bring the CTE and apprenticeship systems into better alignment.

At the center of this paper are eight case studies of aligned CTE-apprenticeship programs, which Advance CTE and its partners visited last year to see how they were providing opportunities for high school students to engage directly in pre-apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships and/or registered apprenticeships.

While the eight sites differ in structure, intensity and the state policy environment, there are common lessons learned that apply to any state and local leader looking to build such programs in their own communities.

For example, when it comes to program design, we found there is no inherently “right” or “wrong” approach to connecting CTE students to apprenticeship programs. The sites’ geographic, socioeconomic, and resource characteristics, and differing administrative or legislative policies, all impacted program structure. That being said, when considering program design, a few takeaways emerged:

  • Programs must align with workforce demand, at the state, regional, and local levels – an lead to real employment options for students.
  • Effective programs require meaningful collaboration and buy-in from all partners. Teachers, employers, parents, and students must see the value of their participation if the program is going to succeed
  • At most sites, the drive for the program came from employers and/or labor associations seeking to bolster their pipeline of workers – and this was key to their launch and success.
  • There is no minimum or maximum number of students who should participate in a program. Program size simply has to be a function of regional demand and available placements with apprenticeship sponsors- and so some program just need to stay small

Advance CTE & Apprenticeships
From Advance CTE’s perspective, aligning CTE and apprenticeship programs, policies and systems is simply common sense. It comes down to providing more pathways to college and career success for more students and for strengthening our overall talent pipeline in key industries like advanced manufacturing, IT and construction, which leveraging existing structures. But, we still see too many missed opportunities due to largely disconnected systems.

This is why, even as this project winds down, we will continue to support efforts to strengthen apprenticeships, and their connections to CTE at the secondary and postsecondary levels, through partnerships like Apprenticeship Forward and ongoing discussions with OCTAE and the U.S. Department of Education Office of Apprenticeship.

Related Resources
In addition to the report, OCTAE also commissioned supportive resources to help state and local leaders turn this research into action, including two recently-released videos on Expanding Opportunities: Aligning CTE and Apprenticeship and Elements of CTE and Apprenticeship Alignment. Later this summer, OCTAE will be releasing a planning guide, templates and mini-guides to bring all the key partners to the table.

Kate Kreamer, Deputy Executive Director

Two Surveys Examine Perceptions of and Concerns about Postsecondary Education

June 13th, 2017

The Princeton Review recently released the findings of their annual survey of college applicants and parents discussing their perspective on the admissions process. When asked about their biggest concerns about college, the biggest worry was the debt students and their families will take on to pay for a degree. Parents and students prioritized overall “fit” and a match with the student’s career interests when choosing a college. These results fit with the perceived biggest benefit of a college education – a better job and higher income. Given this information, communications about the opportunities CTE provides in these categories would be very beneficial as students begin to plan for their futures.

New America also just released national survey data about perceptions of higher education. This survey contains some promising data for community colleges. 64 percent of respondents believe that two-year community colleges “are for people in my situation.” More people (80%) believe that two-year community colleges prepare people to be successful. This is higher than four-year public (77%) four-year private (75%) and for-profit (60%). Additionally, 83 percent of respondents believe that two-year community colleges contribute to a strong workforce. This is higher than four-year public (79%) four-year private (70%) and for-profit (59%).

U.S. Teens Fall Behind International Peers in Financial Literacy Exam

The results of the 2015 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exam on financial literacy have been released, and the results are less than promising. The financial literacy exam has been administered twice now to a select number of participating Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. US teens scored an average score of 487, two points below the international average. In 2012, American students received average scores of 492, while the OECD average that year was 499.

Though the U.S. has scored close to the OECD average in both exams, the results are still concerning, given that an average score signifies that one in five American teens do not meet the financial literacy benchmark, and are therefore unprepared for the complex financial decisions that come with choosing postsecondary and career options. This data becomes more concerning when examined through the lens of socioeconomic status. Students from lower-income families were less likely to score high marks on the exam, indicating that schools are not doing enough to close gaps in knowledge.

Odds and Ends

What is a community college degree worth? A research brief from CAPSEE aims to answer that very question. The report examines independent state evaluations and finds that, on average, the quarterly earnings for men and women earning associate degrees are $1,160 and $1,790 higher than non-completers respectively. Further, the study finds that degrees earned in vocational fields, as opposed to arts and humanities, yield higher earnings, with degrees in health-related fields the most lucrative.

Speaking of skills learned in college, a recent Gallup poll — conducted for the Business-Higher Education Forum — finds that, while 69 percent of employers will prefer candidates with data science and analytics skills by 2021, only 23 percent of college and university leaders say their graduates will learn those skills. The report provides eight strategies educators and employers can use to help close the skills gap.

Ashleigh McFadden, State Policy Manager

CTE is Not an Either/Or – A Response to “General Education, Vocational Education, and Labor-Market Outcomes over the Lifecycle”

June 12th, 2017

A new study came out recently that is garnering some media attention and calling into question the long-term value of CTE for students internationally. In a nutshell, this study, General Education, Vocational Education, and Labor-Market Outcomes over the Lifecycle, finds that the labor market advantage associated with participation in vocational education diminishes over time as the vocational individuals’ skills become outdated,making them less able to navigate the ever-changing world of work, compared to those students who completed a general education (or non-vocational) path in high school.  

Needless to say, this is raising questions for some about what this means for U.S. CTE system. While the study raises some important questions about the consequences of a truly tracked system, it also validates the direction CTE has been going here in the U.S.  In particular, this paper reaffirms so much of the exciting work going on – led by states and supported by the federal government, advocacy organizations like Advance CTE, and philanthropic partners like JPMorgan Chase – to raise the quality and rigor of CTE programs and pathways so that they serve as effective platforms to both college and careers for students.

The study compared students on the “vocational” track to those on a “general-education” track in 11 individual European countries. Right off the bat, the idea of a “track” is one that we have been very intentional about moving away from. And, the researchers freely admit this:

The United States, for example, has largely eliminated vocational education as a separate track in secondary schools on the argument that specific skills become obsolete too quickly and that it is necessary to give people the ability to adapt to new technologies. On the other hand, many European and developing countries, led by Germany’s “dual system,” provide extensive vocational education and training at the secondary level including direct involvement of industry through apprenticeships.”

This is hugely important, but also a bit ironic. I can’t tell you how many articles I have read or conversations I have had about how we can better replicate the German model for CTE. The fact is, CTE and academics are not an either/or in the U.S. system – all high school students are still required to take an academic core and, in many states, a college- and career-ready course of study, in addition to having the option to pursue a CTE pathway. From this perspective, CTE is a “value add” to the traditional high school experience, offering opportunities for specialized, career-focused coursework, hands-on learning and access to a network of mentors inside and outside the classroom, in addition to core academics.

Equally important is that high-quality CTE programs are designed to develop lifelong learners. Programs of study, by design, begin with foundational knowledge and skills and then progress to more occupationally-specific expectations over an intentional sequence of courses that extend across secondary and postsecondary. Programs of study like our Excellence in Action award winners offer opportunities for early postsecondary opportunities, meaningful work-based learning experiences and are anchored in credentials of value. These are programs not focused on short-term labor market needs – although they may fill them – but rather on the lifetime success of their students.

There is undoubtedly real value in this paper. It identifies important trade-offs and offers a potential cautionary tale of focusing on the short-term needs of an economy when designing a career preparation system. While it is important to continue to study international models – or, really study any models, policies or strategies that we think can help us get smarter about designing effective and meaningful career-focused pathways – this study also reaffirms that the efforts across the U.S. to drive quality CTE programs deserve just as much attention, if not more.

Kate Kreamer, Deputy Executive Director

Two States Report Positive Dual and Concurrent Enrollment Results

May 18th, 2017

Colorado and Washington both released reports recently citing positive numbers on participation dual and concurrent enrollment. In Colorado, 38,519 students, which equals 30 percent of all 11th and 12th graders, participated in concurrent enrollment during the 2015-16 school year. Nearly 40 percent of those students participated in Career Technical Education (CTE) concurrent enrollment courses, which allow students to apply credit towards a technical certificate or degree. Students passed 93 percent of all the credit hours attempted in any concurrent enrollment program.

In Washington, 190,000 students, or two-thirds of Washington high school students, earned dual credit in the 2015-16 school year, which is an increase of 18,000 students over the previous year. In addition to promoting Advanced Placement courses, the state provides supplemental funding for students who enroll in college-level courses at community and technical colleges. While this is an encouraging mark of progress, state officials were quick to note that work remains to be done in closing gaps between racial subgroups.

ACTE Releases Recommendations for Effective Career Counseling in Middle School

The Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE), in partnership with Career Cruising, recently released a report and set of recommendations related to career counseling in middle schools. Research has shown that middle school is an excellent time to explore different careers and take introductory CTE courses. The report goes on to describe six recommendations, which are listed in the graphic on the right, for effective career counseling programs and dives into some of the barriers middle schools can face in providing students with quality career exploration experiences. Though many of the recommendations are focused at the local level, the authors note that state leaders have an important role to play in supporting these local innovations and practices.

Odds and Ends

A new analysis out of the California Community College system finds high salary returns for students completing an associate degree. According to the study, which draws on public earnings data through Salary Surfer, 48 percent of students graduating with an associate degree and 44 percent of students graduating with a certificate earned $56,000 or more within five years of completing their credential.

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia allow computer science coursework to fulfill a core graduation requirement. That’s according to a new state scan from EDC and other research organizations examining state strategies for writing, adopting and implementing computer science standards. The report describes state policies related to ten policy priorities and identifies common challenges and approaches across the states.

A survey of entry-level employees, conducted by the Rockefeller Foundation and Edelman, finds that 49 percent of employees aren’t using skills they learned in college while 90 percent feel they are using skills they learned on the job. The authors suggest that screening candidates based on college degree may limit the talent pool and cut off high-quality employees who could be trained on the job.

Ashleigh McFadden, State Policy Manager

Measuring Career Readiness in State Accountability Systems: Where to Start

March 23rd, 2017

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) affords states the chance to strengthen their accountability systems by adopting multiple measures of school success rather than relying on an antiquated test-based system. Buoyed by this flexibility, state agencies across the country are exploring strategies to integrate career readiness indicators into their accountability systems. While some states have made considerable progress in this arena, others are left wondering where do we start?

To help states navigate this new territory, Education Strategy Group and the Council of Chief State School Officers convened a workgroup of accountability experts and tasked them with identifying and recommending robust metrics to measure career readiness. Their recommendations, released earlier this month in a brief titled Destination Known: Valuing College AND Career Readiness in State Accountability Systems, detail four possible measures of student career readiness:

  • Progress Toward Post-High School Credential
  • Co-Curricular Learning and Leadership Experiences
  • Assessment of Readiness
  • Transitions Beyond High School

The brief further outlines strategies for measuring and valuing each of these measures, demonstrating how states can implement and gradually increase the sophistication of their measurement indicators. Lessons are also drawn from states such as Ohio, Kentucky and California that have made headway toward adopting and implementing career-focused accountability indicators in recent years.

Moving forward, JPMorgan Chase & Co. aims to support state efforts to adopt these recommendations and enhance their career-focused accountability through New Skills for Youth, a cross-state initiative to dramatically increase the number of students who graduate from high school prepared for careers.

Expanding Access to Postsecondary Learning

Separately, students who earned dual credit in Oregon schools were more likely than their peers to graduate from high school, enroll in college and persist through their first year. That’s according to new research from the Research Education Lab at Education Northwest examining dual credit participation between 2005 and 2013. While the study reveals a correlation between dual credit attainment and positive outcomes, the authors note equity gaps in participation across student subgroups. Dual credit earners in the study were more often white, female and not on the federal free and reduced lunch program.

Equitable access to higher education is not a new issue, but it can often be exacerbated by performance-based funding formulas. Without careful design, such formulas can encourage two-year and four-year colleges to be more selective with who they admit into their programs. According to the Center for Legal and Social Policy (CLASP), states should adjust their postsecondary formula weights to counteract selectivity and encourage more open access to postsecondary education.

Odds and Ends

  • The Education Commission of the States published an analysis of State Longitudinal Data Systems, highlighting common approaches and challenges to instituting cross-system data sharing systems. The brief profiles successes in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
  • A study out of Mississippi State University exploring perceptions of CTE found that 45 percent of Mississippi residents were unable to name a single CTE program in their area. The authors put forward a series of recommendations including calling on educators to actively promote the many benefits of CTE participation, such as highlighting college-bound students, program flexibility, fast-track to careers and high-skill, high-demand job opportunities.
  • Two years after the California legislature launched the Career Pathways Trust — a $500 million grant program to finance collaborative career pathways — Jobs for the Future has released a summary of common successes and challenges across different grant sites.
  • A new paper from the Workforce Data Quality Campaign provides a quality assurance framework for short-term occupational training programs and makes recommendations for state and federal policymakers to strengthen such programs.
  • Two reports from America’s Promise Alliance, Relationships First and Turning Points, explore the role that relationship building plays in guiding students along their career pathways. The reports — the first two in an ongoing series — highlight Cafe Momentum in Dallas, TX; Per Scholas in the Bronx, NY; Urban Alliance in Washington, D.C.; and Year Up in the Bay Area.
  • A new study from the Online Learning Consortium examines six institutions in the United States that are experimenting with alternative credentialing strategies to provide flexible postsecondary learning opportunities, including digital distance learning and prior learning assessments.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

Analysis Suggests Metrics for Measuring Impact of Community Colleges

March 9th, 2017

March 9, 2017

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released a report in partnership with the Association of Community College Trustees examining which metrics best tell the story of the services community colleges provide and the supports they require. They determined that the three important indicators of community college progress are:

  • College Persistence
  • Transfer and Mobility
  • Certificate and Degree Completion

The report makes a distinction between measuring college retention and college persistence, as retention only measures how many students return for the following Fall semester at the same institution. Using persistence as a measure for community colleges captures the large number of students who transfer either to other community colleges or to four-year institutions. This requires a more systematic approach to tracking enrollment across different institutions and across state lines. When enrollment was tracked this way using Student Clearinghouse data, they found that almost half of all bachelor’s degree recipients were enrolled in a community college at one point before transferring to a four-year institution, a fact that demonstrates the clear role community colleges play in student success.

Study Finds Girls Turn Away from STEM Subjects Early

A new report published in Science found that girls tend to turn away from STEM subjects as early as first grade. The report attributes this partly to their findings that girls begin to associate boys as being smarter and therefore tend to shy away from subjects intended for more intelligent people. Boys around that age seem to also believe themselves to be inherently smarter. The findings in this study echo previous studies that correlated boys’ and girls’ performance in math and science with their self-reported levels of confidence and anxiety with the subjects.

The authors of the report suggest that schools must begin working to break down gender stereotypes far earlier than many might expect. They also recommend that families work to foster girls’ interest in STEM subjects as early as possible.

Odds and Ends

As you know, last month was CTE Month. To celebrate, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) launched a newly redesigned CTE statistics website, which provides national-level information on CTE at the secondary and postsecondary education levels, as well as information on occupational certification and licensure.

Several pieces related to equity have been released lately. CCSSO and the Aspen Institute released a report on the role SEA chiefs can and should play in defining and promoting equity in schools. Chiefs For Change also released a report on equity, with a focus on using ESSA and financial transparency to improve equity.

The U.S. Departments of Labor and Education recently released a technical assistance document to support communities working with in-school youth in accordance with WIOA. Additionally, the National Conference of State Legislatures launched a database that tracks state legislation related to WIOA implementation.

Ashleigh McFadden, State Policy Manager

State Research Shows Positive Outcomes for CTE Students

February 20th, 2017

In 2015, the most recent year data are available, CTE students nationwide graduated at a rate of 93 percent — approximately 10 percentage points higher than the average. Now, new research from Wisconsin and Washington adds to the growing body of evidence that secondary Career Technical Education (CTE) leads to positive postsecondary outcomes.

State Research Shows Positive Outcomes for CTE Students

The Public Policy Forum, a research organization based out of Milwaukee, recently published a report examining the CTE system in both Wisconsin and the local Milwaukee region. The study draws upon Wisconsin’s CTE Enrollment Reporting System (CTEERS) and district-level surveys of CTE graduates and finds that two-thirds of students in Wisconsin enroll in CTE courses. The most popular area of focus for these students was Business & Information Technology. The study also revealed positive outcomes for CTE students, including:

  • CTE Concentrators were six percentage points more likely to graduate from high school than non-participants.
  • Approximately 74 percent of CTE Concentrators went on to pursue further education, with about one-third attending a 2-year school and two-thirds attending a 4-year school.
  • Of those attending higher education, 72 percent reported pursuing fields of study related to their high school CTE courses.

However, the data revealed inconclusive results related to performance on academic assessments. Additionally, the report identified a 6.3 percent statewide decrease in CTE teaching assignments from 2009 to 2016 — a trend the state has been working to reverse through recent legislation making it easier for CTE teachers to get certified in the state.

Washington Audit Highlights CTE Student Achievement

A report from the Washington State Auditor’s Office examines outcomes data for students in both the 2012 and 2013 graduating high school classes and finds that secondary CTE students demonstrated high post-high school achievement. The study was commissioned to examine the impact of Washington state’s $400 million investment in CTE — a system that reaches 300,000 high school students statewide.

The study finds that, within the population of students that did not go on to a four-year degree, CTE students were 11 percent more likely to “achieve” than non-CTE students. According to the study, “achievement” is measured as persistence in apprenticeship programs, persistence in community and technical colleges, employment and certificate attainment. Additionally, CTE programs accommodated a higher proportion of students receiving free and reduced price lunch and students with disabilities than other non-CTE programs, indicating that CTE could be a strategy for students of all socioeconomic backgrounds and abilities to acquire the skills needed for high-demand, high-wage careers.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

New Research out of California Finds Higher Earnings for Students with Credentials in the Health Industry

January 5th, 2017

ca credentialsContributing to a growing body of research on the economic benefit of industry credentials, the Public Policy Institute of California last month released a study of employment outcomes for students in health Career Technical Education (CTE) programs in the California Community College system. In California, 18 of the top 25 wage-enhancing degrees are in health. As such, helping students obtain a health-related credential could be one strategy for closing achievement gaps and providing underserved students an on-ramp into the industry.

The authors of the study examined data for a total of 120,000 students enrolled in health CTE programs in California community colleges over the past ten years. Their research found that, despite variations in completion and persistence across different programs, students who obtained credentials increased their earnings by 51 percent compared to non-degree holders.

Earning a credential translates to real changes in earning opportunity. According to the study, students who were not previously employed in the health industry saw a median increase of $8,661 in quarterly earnings after completing a degree or credential.

While a health-related credential may create economic opportunity for underserved students, completion gaps between subpopulations persist. According to the study, there is a six point gap in completion rates for Latino students compared to white students, and a 12 point gap for African American students. However, the researchers also found that providing career guidance and support services could help close the completion gap by helping underserved students identify and complete pathways in high-demand career fields.

A Holiday Surprise from the National Skills Coalition: 50-State Skills Equity Policy Scans

Meanwhile, the National Skills Coalition released an early Christmas gift in the form of four 50-state policy scans. The scans are part of the organization’s Skills Equity series, which includes toolkits to help policymakers identify effective strategies for expanding access to middle-skills training.

One of the reports dives into an increasingly popular method of addressing basic skills gaps, known as Integrated Education and Training, or IET. Now a required activity under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), IET integrates basic academic education with workforce training in order to prepare adults with basic skills for the workforce. While these adults, who are often inhibited by limited English proficiency or mathematical skills, generally struggle to find job opportunities, research shows that IET programs can increase earning potential for students who take at least two credits and earn a credential.

Other scans in the series include state policies on Stackable Credentials, Alignment and Job-Driven Financial Aid.

Odds and Ends

A new report from the Center for Public Education provides a summary overview of CTE, including data and key questions to help policymakers make the case for expanding CTE offerings. While introductory, the report is essential reading for anyone new to CTE.

The National Opportunity Index – which examines education, crime rates, job availability and other indicators to determine a snapshot of economic opportunity by county and state – is out with new data for 2016. While overall opportunity has remained stagnant over the past year, the index demonstrates an increase of 8.9 percent since 2011.

In a series of policy papers released last month, the Education Commission of the States explores strategies for state and federal policymakers to form partnerships to support postsecondary education. One paper highlights opportunities to leverage the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA) to support community colleges, such as by using sector partnerships to create career pathways or offering programs that qualify for WIOA support.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

Strengthening the Teacher Workforce through Talent Management Pipeline Strategies

November 4th, 2016

teacher talent pipelinesTalk to any rural district about challenges facing their school system and they’re likely to cite a teacher shortage. Recruiting and retaining high quality educators who are equipped to meet the demands of a 21st century classroom is one of the most pressing challenges the American education system faces today, affecting communities of all sizes and geographies. Crucially, Career Technical Education (CTE) classrooms – which demand highly-skilled teachers – are struggling to fill open positions.

A new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF), released this week, examines teacher recruitment practices from school districts in Arizona and finds that many schools struggle to find teachers that are adequately prepared to support the diversity of student needs. Part of this preparation gap is due to the lack of formal systems to communicate teacher supply needs and build pathways into the classroom. Recognizing parallels with other industry workforce shortages, USCCF developed a set of recommendations for school districts to expand the pool of quality teachers through a talent pipeline management strategy. Recommendations include:

  • Schools should come together in groups to define collective demand for talent and define skills needed from candidates.
  • Analyze current ways of sourcing teacher talent.
  • Build and incentivize relationships with top talent providers.

These strategies aim to improve the quality and supply of the teaching workforce by streamlining the talent pipeline and increasing avenues of communication and collaboration from the preparation to the recruitment stage. In regions where teacher workforce gaps exist, states should consider strategies to reach potential teachers earlier in the pipeline and expand pathways into the profession.

Promising News for College Promise

In his 2015 State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress and the states to provide tuition free community college for students in the U.S. This proposal was inspired in part by the Tennessee Promise program, which provides last-dollar scholarships to eligible students in the state. In the time since then, free community college programs have expanded significantly, encompassing a total of 150 programs across 37 states. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania recently developed a web-based platform that maps and details each of these programs. Additionally, the College Promise Campaign — a national, non-partisan initiative to research and advocate for Promise programs — released its 2016 annual report, profiling pioneer and emerging programs across the states. One example is the Oakland Promise program, which aims to reach back to early learning years in order to create a college-going culture and provide college and career advising supports throughout the K-12 education system. Students who qualify for the scholarship program can receive up to $16,000 towards their postsecondary education.

On a related note, the College Board released its annual “Trends in College Pricing Report” and found that in 2016-17, the average net tuition and fees paid by two-year college students was $920 less than before the Great Recession (though costs have increased since 2011-12). Over roughly the same period, state and local appropriations for higher education declined 9 percent.

Odds and Ends

talent shortage surveyShort on Talent. Manpower Group’s 2016/17 Talent Shortage Survey reports the highest global talent shortage since 2007, largely in the skilled trades, IT and sales industries. As a result, more than 50 percent of surveyed employers are training and developing existing staff in order to fill open positions.

Data Linkages. All 50 states plus D.C. have the ability to connect data between systems — but only 17 (plus D.C.) have a full P20W system. That’s according to the Education Commission of the States’ 50-state comparison of statewide longitudinal data systems.

For the Equity Toolbox. The National Skills Coalition released a set of five policy toolkits with resources and recommendations for adopting and aligning policies to expand equitable access to training, credentials and careers. Toolkits include stackable credentials and integrating education and training, among others.

Standards for CBE. C-BEN, a coalition of more than 30 colleges offering competency-based education (CBE) programs, released draft quality standards for CBE. The standards will be finalized early next year and focus on eight areas, including clear, measurable, meaningful and complete competencies and credential-level assessment strategy with robust implementation.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

New Credential Registry Aims to Bring Transparency to a System in Crisis

October 18th, 2016

We’ve seen a lot of activity this year at both the national and local level to expand and systematize the use of industry-recognized credentials (including our own brief on credentials of value, which you can check out here). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics even released a helpful guide that describes different types of credentials and their prevalence in different industries. While credentials can serve as a useful signal of workforce competency that is recognized by both educators and employers, many learners face a credentialing marketplace that is as confusing as it is expansive.

To address this crisis, the Lumina Foundation in 2015 helped launch the Connecting Credentials Initiative, a collaboration designed to advance a well-functioning and sustainable credentialing system. Last month, the initiative revealed a 7-point action plan, based on input from more than 100 stakeholders, that articulates a vision for such a system.

credential_registry_2016One group already working to advance this vision is an organization called Credential Engine (formerly the Credential Transparency Initiative), which last month announced the launch of a national credential registry. The registry is designed to allow job seekers, employers and educators alike to access information about myriad credentials in various industries. The registry uses common terminology and guidelines for organizations to publish comparable information, and provides free and open access. While the system is currently being piloted in 60 sites with plans to expand in the future, we look forward to seeing how employers, job seekers and third-party accreditors alike will use the platform to contribute to a more transparent credentialing system.

Transparency is a key element in a successful credentialing system, particularly when it comes to identifying stackable credentials. According to new research, longer-term credentials are associated with higher earnings, though the return varies on a sliding scale depending on the length of time and effort required to earn the credential. Job seekers must be equipped with the right information to obtain stackable credentials that enable them to enter and exit the labor market at various points, building on their education and experience as they go.

Promising Practices in Work-based Learning

Meanwhile, the National Skills Coalition (NSC) and New America have both sparked dialogue about engaging the nation’s youth in work-based learning. NSC recently released a report titled “Promising Practices in Work-based Learning for Youth” that profiles four exemplar programs using work-based learning as a strategy to engage underserved and at-risk youth. One of the organizations profiled in the report, Urban Alliance, is a youth services organization operating out of Baltimore, Chicago, Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. Urban Alliance not only connects youth with paid internships through its flagship High School Internship Program, but also provides professional development and linkages to career and postsecondary pathways as well. NSC draws on this and other examples to identify four common policy elements for a strong work-based learning program:

  • Paid work-based learning opportunities, with wages provided either through employer, provider, or combination of the two;
  • Strong partnerships with business and other community stakeholders;
  • Positive youth development and continued support services; and
  • Linkages to career pathways either through future employment opportunities or future education and training opportunities.

In a similar vein, New America announced a project to study opportunities and challenges facing the nation’s youth apprenticeship programs and to develop a set of recommendations. In a blog post, the organization lays the groundwork and begins to identify the most prevalent challenges to expanding apprenticeships to youth. For one, the American apprenticeship system is aimed primarily at adults. With the average apprentice at nearly 30 years old, New America aims to challenge the old guard and find a way to extend these opportunities to younger learners.  

Odds and Ends

pew collegeWhose Job Is It? According to the Pew Research Center, 60 percent of Americans believe the public K-12 education system is responsible for ensuring the workforce has the right skills and education to be successful in the economy. Interestingly, the same study found that 67 percent of four-year degree holders believe their education prepared them for the workforce, compared to 58 percent for two-year degree holders and 78 percent for professional and technical certificate holders.

Rate Yourself. Building on its College and Career Readiness Organizer, CCRS released a self-assessment scorecard to help state policymakers identify gaps and opportunities for preparing K-12 students for postsecondary success. Based on the needs identified in the survey, the scorecard provides additional resources to help states and districts in their college and career readiness efforts.

The STEM of Success. The Education Commission of the States released a STEM Playbook last month as part of its “SepSTEMber” campaign. The playbook identifies three core components of a successful STEM strategy: statewide coordination; adequate, reliable funding; and quality assurance or program evaluation.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

 

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