Posts Tagged ‘Career Exploration’

Communicating CTE: Washington’s Statewide Initiative for Secondary Career Exploration Empowers Educators and Learners 

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021

The third post in the Communicating Career Technical Education (CTE) series will focus on creative initiatives for career exploration for secondary learners by highlighting Washington’s State of Innovation Challenge. This is particularly timely as states continue to grapple with the difficulties of supporting long-term career exploration experiences in an environment of sustained uncertainty and student disconnect in virtual learning environments.

Background 

The State of Innovation Challenge, launched in November 2020 and open through March 2021, is a statewide initiative led by the Washington’s STEM Education and Innovation Alliance in partnership with the Office of Governor Jay Inslee, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Career Connect Washington. The initiative invites learners to offer solutions to policy issues related to hunger, mental health and community resilience that have emerged from the COVID-19 (coronavirus) global pandemic while also exploring pathways to careers and postsecondary education. 

Becky Wallace, Executive Director of Career and Technical Education at the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, shared that her office was inspired to join this initiative because of the widespread evidence that instructors were overwhelmed with the transition to virtual learning and did not have the capacity to fill the void of a lack of hands-on learning. The things that make CTE unique including work-based learning, real-world skill attainment and application have been challenging to replicate in a hybrid and virtual environment. As such, the Office saw this as an opportunity to elevate project-based and experiential learning for learners in all types of programs, empower the learner voice and leverage statewide resources to expand the career path students can name and see as a possible passion.  

The initiative proposes challenge cases covering three major policy areas questions: 

More detailed subtopics are given for each challenge case that can be aligned to CTE programs. For example, learners that choose the Food Chain case can develop projects addressing school nutrition, food waste, food production or restaurant and hospitality impacts that connect to the associated career pathways. 

Learners in middle school, high school, alternative education and out of school youth programs are able to participate. The initiative is also accessible for programs beyond the traditional classroom setting such as Career Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs), community organizations such as 4-H Washington and Junior Achievement, and specialized programs like the Road Map Project that supports homeless and foster youth. 

Julia Reed, Senior Consultant for social impact consulting firm Kinetic West that guided the formation and implementation of the initiative, shared that the biggest concern was convincing educators that this initiative could enhance, not burden, their virtual instructional goals. Flexibility and variety in lesson plan offerings were prioritized to make sure the initiative was easy to participate in and would enhance student engagement in their classroom.

In the Classroom 

After choosing a challenge case, students and educators take several steps to develop a policy solution: viewing videos created by teen filmmakers connected to each policy question; selecting one of the provided subtopics for their chosen challenge case; exploring careers associated with the policy area; and executing a lesson plan and policy tool that can range from one day to one or more months in duration. 

The project solutions themselves encourage exploration and skillbuilding across a variety of career pathways, as students are allowed to record videos, create apps, design websites and computer programs, write business plans and more as part of a proposed solution. Educators are provided instructional guides for each challenge to assist building lesson plans, and are able to share their lessons through a group lesson bank and submit final projects for state recognition.  

Students are able to directly interact with employers and learn about career pathways within industries through virtual weekly industry engagement webinars. Past employer engagement sessions include interactions with high-tech manufacturers, firefighters and government agencies all based within Washington. 

Exploring Postsecondary Pathways 

Students are able to build on their exploration of policy, skillbuilding activities and careers by researching postsecondary opportunities for further education. Rather than recreating the wheel, this initiative elevates pre-existing state college preparation and financial aid resources, including Career Connect Washington’s Career Launch paid learning program, Washington College Access Network’s College Knowledge Materials with handbooks in five languages for grades 9 to 12 on planning for a postsecondary education path, and Washington Student Achievement Council’s Ready, Set Grad step by step online portal. 

Marketing and Equity Considerations 

Reed emphasized that marketing this initiative focused on building sustainable partnerships and reaching underserved populations by utilizing existing peer-to-peer networks. More than 40 organizational partnerships were established with additional intentional outreach to underserved communities, particularly learners of color, learners in rural communities, and Native American learners. 

Equity was a major consideration not only in marketing but the design of the initiative itself. Several strategies pursued include: 

This initiative reflects the enormous potential of states to scale up local efforts to connect learning to work and bring these experiences to more learners. Additionally, the inclusion of lesson plans and engagement opportunities provides timely support for educators and local systems that face unprecedented burdens in coronavirus response. 

Additional information and resources for this initiative can be found on the State of Innovation website

Communicating CTE is a new series where Advance CTE is exploring how states are leading the way in communicating about the value and benefit of CTE to key stakeholders. Read the previous posts in this series. 

Stacy Whitehouse, Senior Associate Communications and State Engagement 

 

By Stacy Whitehouse in Communicating CTE
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Can Afterschool Programs Help Address CTE’s Equity Challenges?

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

Afterschool programs can give students access to enriching career exploration opportunities outside of the school day, but many of these programs are not accessible to all middle schoolers. Last month, the Senate Career Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, in partnership with the Afterschool Alliance, organized a panel on making the most of middle school career exploration. This panel’s particular focus was the important role that afterschool programs can play in exposing students to career pathways. 

The panel included:

Afterschool programs encompass a wide range of activities that keep students engaged in their own learning outside of the regular school day. When students participate in an afterschool program in middle school, they are more likely to graduate high school. These programs offer opportunities for students to improve their skills in subjects ranging from computer science to agriculture. Learning these skills and interacting with professionals in a variety of fields allows students to explore and pursue different career paths of interest.

Expanding Access to High-quality Career Exploration After School

Despite all these programs have to offer, there are still major barriers to creating and expanding access to high-quality, career-focused afterschool programming in middle school. When panelists were asked about the largest barriers facing afterschool programming, their responses ranged from the difficulties of creating community partnerships to the lack of funding. Andrew Coy—whose organization, Digital Harbor, focuses on developing technology skills like computer programming, video game design and 3-D printing— summed up these issues as the need to have “formal support for informal learning.” This problem remains largely in communities of lower socioeconomic status, limiting access to enriching learning opportunities for students who could benefit the most.

The impacts that these programs have on middle schoolers make them worth the investment. Student panelist Jacob excitedly talked about the experiences he had with Digital Harbor—such as going to museums, participating in the White House science fair and learning to 3-D print—showing how important it is to give students a place to be creative. Jacob even earned certifications in Information Technology through the program. Having such a space outside of the classroom to encourage hands-on learning and career exploration allows students like Jacob to develop real world skills and get a leg up on both college and their careers. 

Afterschool programs can also help close equity gaps by equipping learners with skills that may not be offered in the regular classroom but are highly valued in the job market. Exposing learners to new and different career pathways allows for diversity in these fields as more students can see themselves inhabiting those roles. Panelist Daniela Grigioni discussed how her organization, After-School All-Stars, engages middle schoolers, predominantly students of color, to help them build skills through programs in business and STEM. Early introduction to career exploration can help promote more equity within these fields.

By expanding career exploration in and out of the classroom, state leaders can foster creativity and passion among middle school students. This opens a pathway for students to imagine careers for themselves by giving them a sense of their options and what they do and do not want to do at an earlier age. 

To read more about middle school CTE, check out Advance CTE’s report, Expanding Middle School CTE to Promote Lifelong Learning Success

Jordan Dreisbach, Policy Intern

By Austin Estes in Uncategorized
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Illinois, Missouri and Pennsylvania Adopt New Policies to Help Learners Graduate Career Ready

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

Long after the tassels are turned, the podiums are packed away, and the diplomas framed and positioned on the wall, state policymakers are hard at work devising new policies to help the next class of high school students graduate career ready. Whether through career readiness expectations,  Career Technical Education (CTE) graduation endorsements or alternative CTE graduation pathways, helping learners build the skills they need to be successful in their future careers is a priority for policymakers in Illinois, Missouri and Pennsylvania.

In Illinois, a new Postsecondary and Career Expectations (PaCE) framework comes on the heels of 2016’s Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act. That legislation, designed to enhance the Illinois education system to better prepare learners for college and the workforce, adopted a number of strategies including a competency-based learning pilot, college and career pathway endorsements, and supports for educators and district leaders. Specifically, the law directed the Illinois State Board of Education and other state agencies to identify expectations for students between grades 8 through 12 to be prepared for success after high school. Under the law, these expectations would need to focus on career exploration and development; postsecondary institution exploration, preparation and selection; and financial aid and financial literacy.

Earlier this month, the Illinois State Board of Education formally released the newly-developed PaCE framework, outlining guidelines for college- and career-focused activities at each grade level. Many expectations are aligned to a student’s self-identified career pathway. By the end of 10th grade, for example, students are expected to participate in a mock interview, create a sample resume, and identify an internship opportunity related to their career pathway. However, career exploration is emphasized in earlier grades through Career ClusterⓇ interest surveys and career exploration days. Though use of the framework is voluntary, it is designed to empower local educators and administrators to better target supports to students to ensure they are on track for success after graduation.

Missouri’s New CTE Diploma Endorsement Celebrates Student Achievement

Meanwhile, the Missouri State Board of Education outlined requirements for the state’s new CTE graduation certificate. The certificate program, authorized under 2016’s SB620, is designed to recognize the value add that CTE provides, helping equip students with the technical and employability skills to be more competitive in both college and the workforce. The legislature specifically called on the State Board of Education to work with local school districts to ensure the certificate program does not incentivize tracking, or “separating pupils by academic ability into groups for all subjects or certain classes and curriculum.” Rather, the legislation emphasizes program quality, encouraging local school districts to rely on industry-recognized standards, skills assessments and certificates.

In June, the Missouri State Board of Education finalized requirements for a CTE diploma to recognize students who, in addition to completing their core graduation requirements, focus in a CTE area of study. True to the intent of the law, the requirements above all emphasize achievement. Students are only eligible to receive a CTE endorsement if they, among other requirements, maintain a 3.0 GPA in their CTE concentration, earn an industry-recognized credential or a passing score on a technical skills assessment, complete at least 50 hours of work-based learning, and maintain an attendance record of at least 95 percent throughout high school. By prioritizing student success and achievement, Missouri’s CTE diploma requirements appropriately recognize that CTE enhances the traditional high school experience.

Alternative Assessments for CTE Concentrators in Pennsylvania

Finally, CTE students in Pennsylvania will have more flexible pathways to graduation after lawmakers amended a yet-to-be-implemented examination requirement. The change comes in response to a 2014 State Board of Education rule that required students to pass Keystone examinations in Algebra I, Biology and Literature before graduating. Although the requirement was scheduled to apply statewide for the graduating class of 2017, the legislature last year decided to delay implementation to give the Department of Education enough time to identify alternative assessment opportunities for CTE students.

Under the original policy, students who failed to pass the Keystone examinations could demonstrate competency through project-based assessments in order to meet graduation requirements. However, with low Keystone pass rates and high participation in the burdensome project-based assessment alternatives, the legislature soon realized that additional options needed to be explored.

The new law, HB202, provides CTE concentrators an exemption to the Keystone graduation requirement if they 1) complete grade-based academic requirements and 2) either complete an industry-based certification or demonstrate likelihood of success based on benchmark assessments, course grades and other factors. To meet the industry-based certification requirement, CTE concentrators will be able to choose among state-approved credentials in their area of focus, including National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI) and National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) examinations.  

While alternative graduation pathways that recognize learners’ career goals help to expand options for high school students, it is important that academic rigor is not the price of flexibility. Graduation requirements should continue to be rigorous and ambitious to ensure all learners are set up for success after graduation, whether they choose to pursue college or careers. The Pennsylvania Department of Education can continue to uphold rigor in CTE programs by ensuring that grade-based academic requirements and selected industry-based certifications are high quality and appropriately reflect the competencies learners need to be successful regardless of their chosen pathway. 

Meanwhile other states have adopted new policies related to CTE and career readiness, including:

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

By Austin Estes in Public Policy, Uncategorized
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Legislative Update: Alternative Certification, Career Academies

Friday, July 27th, 2012

House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Alternative Certification

The House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing this week to examine alternative certification of teachers. The topic is a timely one given its connection to defining highly qualified teachers under the No Child Left Behind Act. In 2010, Congress passed legislation that allowed students enrolled in alternative certification programs to be considered “highly qualified teachers.” The House Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill seeks to extend this definition for two more years.

There was general support for alternative routes to certification on both sides of the aisle during the hearing. Chairman of the subcommittee, Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA) had this to say:

Alternative certification routes help address teacher shortages in particular geographic areas and subject matter, as well as strengthen the overall quality of the teaching profession. While Republicans know there is no one-size-fits-all federal solution to help put more effective teachers in the classroom, supporting the availability and acceptance of alternative certification programs is one way the public and private sectors can join together to ensure more students have access to a quality education from an extraordinary educator.

Cynthia Brown, Vice President for Education Policy at the Center for American Progress, agreed that alternative certification programs hold a lot of promise, but that there need to be policies in place to ensure that they are “high quality, innovative, and effective,” which also holds true for traditional teacher preparation programs. She suggested that Congress focus on teacher effectiveness rather than alternative routes to certification.

More Details on Career Academies Proposal

Last week Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke at the National Academy Foundation’s NEXT Conference about the President’s FY13 budget proposal to invest $1 billion in career academies. Funding at this level could increase the number of career academies by 3,000 and serve an additional 500,000 students.

According to Duncan, $200 million in grants to states would be available in FY13, and $400 million would be available in both FY14 and FY15. Grants to would total $4 million each to states, and would be given over a three year period. States would distribute those funds competitively to locals.

As part of the grant program, the Department of Education is proposing a definition of “career academy” that each state must use for the in-state competition:

  1. A career academy is a secondary school program as organized as a small learning com­munity or school within a school to provide the support of a personalized learning environment.
  2. The academy must begin in ninth grade and combine credit-bearing academic and techni­cal curriculum.
  3. The academy must organize curriculum around a career theme like those proposed by NAF — hospitality and tourism, IT, health, sci­ence, and engineering — and be aligned with states’ college- and career-ready standards.
  4. The academy must provide work-based learning and career exploration activities through partnerships with local employers.
  5. The academy must articulate entrance re­quirements of postsecondary education programs to ensure students graduate from high school ready to pursue a higher education degree or credential.

Nancy Conneely, Public Policy Manager

By Nancy in Public Policy
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Youth Explore Career Information From the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Friday, May 21st, 2010

It’s never too early to introduce school-age kids to choices they may consider in their future careers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Web site for kids, Exploring Career Information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, provides introductory career information for students in Grades 4-8.

The kids’ site is designed to give a quick introduction to a career, and most of the material on the site has been adapted from the Bureau’s Occupational Outlook Handbook—a career guidance publication for adults and upper-level high school students that describes the job duties, working conditions, training requirements, earnings levels, and employment prospects of hundreds of occupations. The occupations are organized into 12 categories, many directly tied to career technical education.

By Ramona in Publications
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