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

Research Review: Value of Higher Education

May 28th, 2015

The value of higher education has been a hot topic lately, and the following research and reports provide insight into returns on an investment in higher education.

  • Career Technical Education and Labor Market Outcomes: Evidence from California Community Colleges released by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) discusses how Career Technical Education (CTE) impacts students’ future earnings in California. The study of 112 community college campuses with 2.6 million students is critical to helping students decide the worth of attending higher education for their desired career field. Health careers were one of the occupations that students found extremely high returns on their college investment.
  • A study of employers through the recent CareerBuilder survey found that 65 percent of employers are looking to hire recent college graduates and the most sought after candidates will have skills in IT, customer service, finance, sales and business development.
  • The Aspen Institute released From College to Jobs: Making Sense of Labor Market Returns to Higher Education exploring the ways in which labor market data are collected and used to determine the value of higher education. A collection of eight short papers resulted in a variety of findings, one of which was that the skills valued by employers are not always found within one field. For example, skills associated with STEM degrees are valued across non-STEM fields.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate 

CTE Research Review

April 30th, 2015

teachersToday in CTE research … a scan of career pathway models, a peek into employers’ views on competency-based education, recommendations to strengthen the teacher pipeline, and research into the labor market’s return on investment for higher education.

First up – MDRC’s new research, “New Pathways to Careers and College: Examples, Evidence, and Prospects

Over the years, the high school reform debate has evolved to view CTE as a means to prepare all students for success in college and careers, and CTE programs are changing along with it. More programs are emerging that blend CTE, rigorous academic coursework and opportunities for career exploration. With that in mind, MDRC researchers took a first-ever scan of the most prominent career pathway models and their underlying principles, the localities where they are most popular, and some evidence of success.

At least one career pathway model can be found in high schools in virtually every state and most large cities, the researchers argue, and yet still only a small percentage of students are enrolled in pathways that include the key elements of success. Much work remains to scale programs that are anchored by infrastructure that ensures high-quality implementation, sustainability and continuous improvement.

NASDCTEc Executive Director Kimberly Green and Oklahoma State CTE Director Marcie Mack were among the national experts interviewed for this report.

The Pipeline of Teachers

ACT and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) have published new research that takes a closer look at the pipeline of future
teachers as well as how they fare during their first five years in the classroom.

In “The Condition of Future Educators 2014,” ACT examines which students are expressing interest an education career from administration to classroom teachers, and found that the number of students interested in becoming educators continues to drop significantly – just five percent of all ACT-tested graduates. There continues to be a lack of men and diversity among those who expressed interest in the profession. The study was based on the 57 percent, or 27,000 students, of the U.S. graduation class who took the ACT test in 2014.

Among the findings, just one percent, or 224 students, planned to make CTE teaching a focus of their postsecondary pursuits.

The report offered three recommendations to help drive more high-achieving and diverse students into the teacher pipeline:

  • Recruit high-achieving college students who are undecided about their future careers;
  • Promote alternative pathways to teaching; and
  • Improve educator benefits.

At NCES, researchers provided a first look at the results of a nationally representative study of 2,000 teachers who entered the profession in 2007-08. After five years in the field, 17 percent of the teachers were no longer teaching, the study found. Salary was one of the greatest reasons why teachers remained in the profession. Education level had little impact. Those teachers who started with a $40,000 salary were more likely to still be teaching a year later.

Competency-based Education

Competency-based education (CBE) is gaining traction in communities across the country, particularly within higher education. But what do we know about how employers see it?

The American Enterprise Institute recently published a first-of-its-kind survey of 500 hiring managers to better understand how employers view CBE. The study found:

  • Overall employer awareness of CBE was low despite engagement efforts;
  • Those who were aware of CBE, a small minority, generally viewed the model and its graduates favorably;
  • The lack of awareness correlated to employers’ lack of understanding the benefits of hiring graduates of CBE programs;
  • Employers struggle to articulate discreet needs as competencies, and rather continue to hire based on generalizations of a new hire’s “fit”, which makes it difficult to create an effective competency map;
  • Two-thirds of employers believe they could be doing a better job of identifying students with the specific skill set required for the job.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

CTE Research Review

March 18th, 2015

SkillsIndustry-related research is leading the news this month with new reports from the manufacturing and technology sectors.

First up, new data from the National Federation of Independent Business shows that while 98 percent of small business owners say they are optimistic overall, but finding qualified workers remains a problem. In fact, 29 percent reported difficulty in finding and hiring skilled workers – the highest since April 2006 – and of that number, 89 percent said they are seeing few to no applicants.

However, despite this struggle to attract skilled workers, only 20 percent reported raising wages over the past three months and 14 percent plan to raise them in the coming months.

Manufacturing Industry

The Manufacturing Institute, in partnership with Deloitte, released two parallel studies that explore at the manufacturing skills gap and public perceptions of the industry.

In the skills gap study, researchers predict that the United States will need to add nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs over the next 10 years, but roughly 2 million of those jobs will go unfilled due to a shortage in skilled labor.

The second survey is part of The Manufacturing Institute’s Public Perceptions Index, which first started in 2009. The 2015 update found that the U.S. public greatly supports the manufacturing industry and would choose a manufacturing plant be built in their region over other employers. However, the same public said they were “unwilling to encourage their children to pursue careers in manufacturing.”

Also, from the Brookings Institution, a new report looks at the German manufacturing industry for shareable lessons and strategies to aid the U.S. manufacturing industry.

Technology Industry

IBM released a new study on Millennials (those aged 21-34) and how they and others view their effect in the workplace. The survey looked at the preferences and behavioral patterns of Millennials, Gen X (aged 35-49) and Baby Boomers (aged 50-60), and found that Millennials “want the same things their older colleagues do. While there are some distinctions among the generations, Millennials’ attitudes are not poles apart from other employees’.”

The findings are categorized around five common myths about Millennials and three “uncomfortable truths”.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate



CTE Research Review

February 25th, 2015

Nursing Shortage Projected

Select figures from the report, “Making Skills Everyone’s Business: A Call to Transform Adult Learning in the United States.” Georgetown University’s Center for Education and the Workforce (CEW) has released a new report, “Nursing: Supply and Demand Through 2020,” which says the country will soon face a shortfall of 193,000 nursing professionals. Yet despite the coming shortage and a growing interest in the nursing profession from young people, the report finds that postsecondary programs reject up to half of qualified applicants.

The researchers cite inadequate faculty, facilities and clinical placements as barriers to training all of the qualified applicants. Programs providing training for Associate’s Degree in Nursing rejected 51 percent of qualified applicants, while programs for a Bachelor’s in Nursing rejected 37 percent.

New PIAAC report: Making Skills Everyone’s Business

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) has launched a new report, “Making Skills Everyone’s Business: A Call to Transform Adult Learning in the United States.” Using data from the 2013 Survey of Adult Skills report, the report renews the call to “upskill” those 36 million U.S. adults with low skills in numeracy, literacy and problem solving in technology-rich environments.

As a result of a nationwide listening tour to solicit feedback on the state of U.S. adult education and the 2013 survey findings, this new report takes a deeper look at the 2013 data and outlines seven strategies to transform U.S. adult education. The recommended strategies are:

  • Act collectively to raise awareness and take joint ownership of solutions
  • Transform opportunities for youth and adults to assess, improve and use foundation skills
  • Make career pathways available and accessible for every community
  • Ensure that all students have access to highly effective teachers, leaders and programs
  • Create a “No Wrong Door” approach for youth and adult services
  • Engage employers to support upskilling more front-line workers
  • Commit to closing the equity gap for vulnerable subpopulations

In Case You Missed It

Image Caption: Select figures from the report, “Making Skills Everyone’s Business: A Call to Transform Adult Learning in the United States.”

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

CTE Research Review

February 18th, 2015

Although so-called millennials are on track to be the most educated generation in American history, they are still lagging behind their international peers in critical skill areas such as literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments, according to a new report.

The report, “America’s Skills Challenge: Millenials and the Future,” takes a closer look at Americans born after 1980, ages 16-34, and finds that not only do they lag behind those in other countries, the numbers show millennials are lagging behind previous surveys of U.S. adult skills.

Researchers drew from data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, (PIAAC). The researchers looked not only at the lower quartile of Americans, as in previous PIAAC work, but also found alarming results for the best-educated U.S. millennials as well.

The answer is not simply to acquire more education, the authors argue, but rather a greater focus on skills in order to combat growing inequality for current and future Americans.

Some of the highlighted findings include:

  • In literacy, U.S. millennials scored lower than 15 of the 22 participating countries. Only millennials in Spain and Italy had lower scores. In numeracy, U.S. millennials ranked last, along with Italy and Spain.
  • In problem-solving in technology rich environments, U.S. millennials also ranked last, along with the Slovak Republic, Ireland, and Poland.
  • The best-educated U.S. millennials — those with a master’s or research degree — only scored higher than their peers in Ireland, Poland and Spain.

CHART: Average scores on the PIAAC literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments scales for adults age 16–34 (millennials) and adults age 16–24, by participating country/region

Average scores on the PIAAC literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments scales for adults age 16–34 (millennials) and adults age 16–24, by participating country/region

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

CTE Research Review

February 12th, 2015

A lot of new research and resources have been released over the past month. Here’s what you may have missed:

New Studies

Georgetown’s Center for Education and the Workforce has published two new reports of interest to the CTE community. The first, “College Is Just the Beginning,” examines the world of post-secondary education and training and found that roughly $1.1 trillion is spent annually.cew

Researchers split the sum between colleges and universities ($417 billion) and employers ($177 billion in formal training; $413 billion informal on-the-job training). However, that employer number comes with a caveat – employers spend more because education providers may only have a student for a handful of years while an employer may have them for decades. The study also found that federally funded job training is the smallest component, ringing in at $18 billion.

The cost of training also varies widely among industries depending on the intensity of the training. Manufacturing, for example, was found to be the most training intensive.

The center also released a new report called, “The Undereducated American,” which looks at the country’s number of college-going workers and claims that supply has failed to keep pace with growing demand since the 1980s, resulting in widening income inequality.

Other studies of note:

New Surveys and Forecasts

A new public opinion poll from the Association of American Colleges and Universities found strikingly large gaps between employers and recent college graduates regarding career readiness.

While the survey found that employers continue to overwhelmingly endorse the need for broad learning and cross-cutting employability skills, they gave their recent hires very low marks on 17 learning outcomes related to being well-prepared for careers.

Meanwhile, recent graduates held a very different view of their preparedness with some of the largest gaps being critical thinking, written communication and working with others.

Another survey of note:

New Data

A new report from the Government Accountability Office takes aim at state data systems. Despite the $640 million federal investment, the results are state systems linking education and workforce data that are riddled with holes. While the systems have had some success, there are many challenges remaining and questions about sustainability when federal funding goes away.

Other data of note:

  • The National Center for Education Statistics has updated two data sets of interest
    • Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education at the national and state level (FY 2012)
    • Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education School Districts (FY 2012)

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

Interest in State CTE Policy Growing Across the Country

February 5th, 2015

spr1For the second consecutive year, a significant number of states have developed and implemented new policies and programs to advance Career Technical Education (CTE) at the secondary and postsecondary levels.

In a new publication, “State Policies Impacting CTE: 2014 Year in Review,” legislative and regulatory bodies in 46 states and the District of Columbia approved roughly 150 policies relevant to CTE. The paper was jointly authored by NASDCTEc and the Association for Career and Technical Education.

This continued interest shows a growing awareness in using CTE as a means to increase postsecondary credential attainment, provide students with real-world experience and prepare a workforce with the knowledge and skills necessary to maintain the nation’s competitive edge, the paper argues.

The paper is the second installment in the “Year in Review” series. The inaugural paper from 2013 can be viewed here. The legislation and policies collected in these papers does not imply an endorsement by NADSCTEc, ACTE or state CTE leaders. Rather, the hope is that by collecting these policies into one document, NASDCTEc and ACTE can continue to inform the community and in turn lead to the adoption of positive CTE policies across the 50 states.

While funding activity grabbed the top spot for the second year in a row, industry partnerships and work-based learning emerged as a newly popular category, with 28 states passing legislation or approving policies designed to accelerate employer engagement with CTE and offer real-work experiences for students.

Policymakers maintained their interest related to high school students earning college credit as well as how credit transfers across institutions. States such as Nevada approved a new policy in 2014 to develop statewide articulation agreements for all CTE programs of study to ensure that earned credit in an approved program has total transferability.

While several of the policy areas that were active in 2013 were also prominent in 2014, there were a few exceptions, notably governance. Fewer states made changes to CTE governance structures or clarified regulatory authority in 2014 than in the year prior.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

CTE Research Review

January 14th, 2015

Research Image_6.2013In case you missed it, the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment, CAPSEE, has a slew of new reports focused on labor market outcomes for postsecondary education and certificates. Three of particular interest are:

New Briefs from ECS

Education Commission of the States has released a series of new briefs that may be of interest to the CTE community such as college guidance and student transitions. Be sure to explore the research database for new studies including a new examination of career professionals-turned-teachers.

O*NET Database Updated

The National O*NET Center has completed its annual update to their Tools and Technology database, which includes more than 60,000 tools and technologies and covers the 900+ occupations in its current taxonomy. Check it out today!

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

CTE Research Review

December 17th, 2014

GAO Study on State Funding of Public Collegeschart

In a report for the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a new study examining how state funding and policies have affected college affordability.

Between 2003 and 2012, the report found that state funding across all public colleges decreased by 12 percent, citing the recession’s impact on state budgets as a likely reason. At the same time, median tuition rose 55 percent, and as of fiscal year 2012, became a greater source of revenue for public colleges than state funding.

The GAO provided recommendations in particular about how the federal government could incentivize state action from Federal Student Aid changes, new federal grant programs, and providing consumer information on college affordability.

iNACOL State Policy Framework for Competency-based Education

The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), which advocates and supports quality blended, online and competency-based learning opportunities, has released a five-point state policy framework to support competency-based education.

According to the report, 36 states have adopted policies to enable competency based education such as allowing for proficiency-based diplomas, waiving seat time requirements or creating credit flexibility. As the impetus behind its policy framework, iNACOL predicts that the move toward mastery and competency will only increase moving forward.

To reach sustainable systemic change, iNACOL recommends the following:

  • Create competency-based education systems
  • Improve student access and equity
  • Measure and assure quality from inputs to outcomes
  • Support innovative educators
  • Support new learning models through connectivity, data systems and security

Nanodegrees and Stackable Credentials

On Tuesday, the Center for American Progress convened a discussion about reimagining the path to the workforce through nanodegrees and stackable credentials. The panel featured Eugene Giovannini of Maricopa Corporate College, Clarissa Shen of Udacity, and Anne Wintroub of AT&T. The event also focused on the think tank’s 2013 report, “A Path Forward.”

You can watch the discussion here.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

CTE Research Review

December 11th, 2014

The Manufacturing Institute’s “State Responses to the Skills Gap”: The Manufacturing Institute has collected promising state-level Research Image_6.2013best practices that encourage and promote a skilled manufacturing workforce in its newest report.

These areas, including state examples, are:

  • Industry Credentials
  • Industry Partnerships
  • Credit Articulation
  • Dual Enrollment
  • Comprehensive State Strategies

ACT Policy Platforms: Testing giant ACT recently rolled out a series of policy recommendations for K-12, postsecondary and workforce development.

“With more than 50 years of data to draw upon, ACT research suggests that for far too many individuals—often those from low-income, first-generation, or minority backgrounds—success along the K-career continuum is out of reach,” according to ACT.

In short the three platforms are:

  • K-12 policy platform: Focus on readiness for all students, support the implementation of a high school core curriculum and rigorous coursework and promote the use of high-quality student assessment systems.
  • Postsecondary: Support postsecondary readiness, advance efforts that reduce information barriers and adopt holistic approaches increasing postsecondary completion.
  • Workforce development: Improve foundational workplace skills, ensure that training is valuable to employers and employees and help individuals attain credentials.

Linked Learning 5th Year Evaluation: SRI International released its fifth annual report on California’s Linked Learning Initiative, which blends rigorous academics with career preparation including work-based learning.

This year’s report focused on the students themselves – Who participates? What are their experiences? How does their participation in a Linked Learning pathway affect their high school outcomes?

As such the report found:

  • Student Equity and Access: There is a pattern of disproportionately low female enrollment in engineering pathways and disproportionately high enrollment in health sciences. Also nearly 80 percent of all students who started out in a pathway in the lower grades remained in the same pathway in 11th
  • Student Outcomes: Students outperformed their non-Linked Learning peers in credit accumulation and to remain in the school district; there was no evidence of higher scores on standardized achievement tests, but minority student subgroup perform at least as well if not better on credit accumulation and test score outcomes than their peers at traditional high schools.

For another California-centric study, be sure to check out the new report from the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, “Recognizing College and Career Readiness in the California School Accountability System.”

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate