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Sec. Duncan: “Voc. Education Hit Its Heyday in the 60s and 70s”

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Leaders in industry and education convened last week to unravel factors contributing to the current skills gap and to debate possible solutions that would strengthen the workforce. Though many panelists, including heads of Google, Snap-On, and the Manufacturing Institute, and keynote speaker Senator Mark Warner (VA), voiced support for Career Technical Education (CTE), one major participant was less optimistic about the role of CTE.

After sharing her observations of successful vocational programs in countries such as South Korea and Finland, an interviewer asked her guest, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, why America doesn’t talk more about career readiness. Duncan replied that “Vocational education hit its heyday… in the 60s and 70s,” and that the country has backed off of the approach since then.

Duncan said that vocational training needs to prepare students for viable careers in fields like technology and healthcare, and not in outdated fields. When asked why he thinks the “heyday” of vocational education was a half-century ago, the Secretary stated that:

“At that point, we maybe had a clearer sense of what we were preparing students for. And my concern today – there are some amazingly high-performing ‘voc’ and career programs in high schools – but you honestly have too many schools today that are still preparing students for the jobs of 30 or 40 years ago. So for me, it’s – are you getting industry-recognized credentials? Are you getting a certificate? Are you getting a piece of paper? Are you getting the training that’s going to lead you to a good job and to a career coming out of high school? And we want to put a lot more resources behind places that are doing that.”

Click here to view Sec. Duncan’s interview (begins at 16:53).

Today’s CTE programs are vastly different than the vocational education programs offered 50 years ago. NASDCTEc developed a new vision for all CTE programs last year that clearly frames principles and actions to ensure high-quality CTE nationwide. States and CTE programs across the country have taken enormous steps to provide students with multiple options and transferable skills through innovative programs. CTE students can participate in a variety of pathways, each providing real-world opportunities for knowledge and skill attainment.

Still, Duncan continues to point to the same measures – rates for credential and certificate attainment, graduation and placement – as the most convincing evidence of a CTE program’s effectiveness. The lack of outcomes data for CTE programs was part of the Department of Education’s rationale for cutting CTE funding in FY 2011.

If your state or CTE programs can provide positive statistics in the above areas, please share this information with NASDCTEc and your Members of Congress. Providing this data is a critical step towards showing the impact of CTE on your state and saving CTE funding!

Please send examples of CTE success, including state or program data, to Kara Herbertson, Education Policy Analyst at [email protected]

By Kara in News, Public Policy
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