Posts Tagged ‘COVID-19’

Navigating CTE During COVID-19: What Are Credential Providers Doing to Respond to COVID-19?

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

Even as unemployment numbers climb steadily upwards and the stock market continues its volatile roller coaster ride, it is far too soon to measure the full effect of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic and its impact on Career Technical Education (CTE) and industry-recognized credential attainment in particular. High schools, community colleges, area technical centers and places of business have shut their doors to protect learners and to comply with state orders. It is fair to predict that, based on the challenges states have encountered in maintaining industry-recognized credentialing opportunities during this time, credential attainment among secondary, postsecondary and adult learners will fall precipitously during the second quarter of 2020.

The slowdown in industry-recognized credential attainment will have a twofold impact on our current crisis. For one, industry-recognized credentials – which verify that an individual is ready for work in a given occupation – can act as barriers to entry in essential industries when education and assessment opportunities are not widely available. This threatens to weaken the workforce pipeline in sectors such as healthcare where access to talent is urgently needed.

Second, as states and businesses start planning for the economic recovery, industry-recognized credentials will help to get millions of recently unemployed Americans retrained and back to work. But without efforts to sustain credentialing opportunities now, there is the possibility of a critical bottleneck as soon as states reopen.

As we covered in an earlier blog post, states have been swift to address industry-recognized credentialing amid the Coronavirus. But what are the credential providers themselves doing to adapt to the crisis? How are they extending flexibility to states and learners without compromising the rigor and validity of their credentials?

Scaling Up Remote Proctoring

Advance CTE examined nearly 20 common credential providers to understand how they are addressing the Coronavirus. These providers were identified using ExcelinEd’s Credentials Matter database and were corroborated using secondary and postsecondary credential lists in three states.

One major takeaway from this research is that many credential providers are making the shift from in-person to remote proctoring, albeit at an additional fee. There are three common approaches to remote proctoring, each of which requires a computer and access to high-speed internet:

Virtual proctoring is the best way that credential providers have been able to meet the sustained demand for industry-recognized credentials amid the pandemic. However, the strategy is not easily scalable and requires significant investment of funds as well as human capital. Not to mention, the reliance on computers and high-speed internet exacerbates the digital divide. States and credential providers should take an equity lens as they work to scale up these opportunities.

Extending Flexibility to Learners and Workers

Aside from virtual proctoring, credential providers have extended flexibility and resources to learners, educators and test takers. To encourage continuity of learning, many providers have made curriculum, resources and other supports and materials available online for free amid COVID-19. The CTE Coalition, a growing partnership of industry associations, non-profits and credential providers, is one example.

Many are also extending eligibility windows for testing, either for learners who have recently applied or met pre-qualifications, or veteran workers whose certifications are up for renewal. This added flexibility takes the pressure off of learners and workers and ensures they can wait to complete their assessments until it is safe to do so.

Additionally, some testing centers have been offering in-person credential examinations on a very limited basis, and only for credentials in essential occupations. In these rare cases, the testing centers have committed to enforcing social distancing and upholding a strict cleaning regimen.

Amid the uncertainty with the Coronavirus, one thing is clear: a qualified and credentialed workforce will be an essential building block for the forthcoming economic recovery. It will take a coordinated effort within and across states, and in partnership with credential providers, to ensure a robust, talented workforce is ready as soon as the doors are open once more. The actions that states and credential providers take today will facilitate a swift recovery once things return to normal.

Austin Estes, Manager of Data & Research

By Austin Estes in COVID-19 and CTE
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Navigating CTE During COVID-19: How Are States Addressing Industry-recognized Credential Attainment?

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

Industry-recognized credentials are an essential component of any high-quality Career Technical Education (CTE) program. They indicate the entry-level competencies learners need in a given career field and signal to employers that an individual is prepared for work. But in the midst of a global pandemic, with nearly every state issuing, to varying degrees, stay at home orders that have resulted in school closures and limited access to testing facilities, how can learners continue to earn industry-recognized credentials? 

Over the last decade, there has been a groundswell around industry-recognized credentials. Driven by the Lumina Foundation’s campaign to ensure that 60 percent of U.S. adults hold a credential beyond high school by 2025, nearly every state has set its own postsecondary credential attainment goal. What’s more, many states are also counting industry-recognized credential attainment in their high school accountability systems or are promoting credential attainment through programs such as Virginia’s New Economy Workforce Credential Grant Program. 

Challenges for Industry-recognized Credential Attainment

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) threatens to stall many of these policies and initiatives. The requirements for earning an industry-recognized credential vary by type and by provider, but are hard to deliver remotely. Industry-recognized credentials commonly require one or a combination of the following:  

As states have shut down one by one, credentialing opportunities have slowed to a trickle. School districts, institutions of higher education and training providers have been challenged to offer the learning and practical experiences learners need to be eligible for credential exams. Further, testing providers have had to shut their doors or limit access in order to comply with stay at home orders. 

The State Policy Response

The implications of this credentialing slowdown are myriad. For one, many states have baked credential attainment into high school graduation requirements, accountability systems and postsecondary performance-based funding structures. These requirements will need to be waived or loosened in a way that limits harm to learners. In Ohio, the Department of Education has already amended high school graduation requirements for learners pursuing industry-recognized credentials and is allowing learners to earn credentials as soon as it is safe to do so – even if they already have been awarded a diploma. 

Other states are exploring remote proctoring so learners can sit for an industry-recognized credential exam at home. Florida issued guidance for at-home testing for industry certifications, which will allow learners to access exams for credentials on the state-approved Career and Professional Education Act (CAPE) list as long as the credential providers meet certain conditions. However, while a number of credential providers are now offering online proctoring opportunities that are secure and monitored, the technology is expensive to scale and requires the learner to have access to a computer and reliable internet at home. 

The second implication is that credentialing is slowing down at a time when states hit hardest by the coronavirus are experiencing a critical shortage of licensed healthcare workers. In response, governors are issuing emergency licensing waivers in order to permit nursing and medical students as well as retired professionals or those with expired licenses to support the relief effort. In California, for example, the state Board of Registered Nursing has developed guidance on different roles nursing students can play in the field based on competencies developed through prior course taking. 

Finally, with economists already predicting a severe economic downturn as a result of the coronavirus, states will need to accelerate credentialing opportunities for learners transitioning back to work. Even as schools and testing facilities remain closed, states can start thinking now about their economic recovery plan and how to bolster industry-recognized credential attainment in the months and years ahead. 

Austin Estes, Manager of Data & Research

By Austin Estes in COVID-19 and CTE
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TAACCCT Legacy for Healthcare Programs

Monday, May 4th, 2020

The Trade Associated Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program, originally created in 2010, was at the time the largest-ever federal investment in community colleges. TAACCCT awarded grants for community college programs that enhance job-driven skills through innovative workforce development programs, with a focus on creating or updating programs of study to improve the ability of community colleges to provide workers with the education and skills to succeed in high-wage, high-skill occupations.

Between 2011 and 2018, The U.S. Department of Labor made 256 awards through four rounds of competitive grants. Of the 729 postsecondary institutions funded, 630 (85 percent) were community colleges. Of all community colleges in the U.S., approximately two-thirds secured TAACCCT funding to engage in reforms to build capacity to deliver integrated education and workforce training.

Although the grants have run their course, the legacy remains. The programmatic infrastructure created through the TAACCCT program continues today in addressing the education and workforce needs of these local programs. Additionally, new legislation introduced builds on the success of this program for future economic recovery. The Relaunching America’s Workforce Act was introduced in the House of Representatives last Friday and includes proposing $2 billion to restart the TAACCCT grant program.

As communities nationwide are responding to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), the need for training a robust health care workforce has become even more urgent, and healthcare industry programs created as part of TAACCCT can help to offer guidance for future programs. 

On April 16, New America hosted a webinar that explored the role and legacy of TAACCCT created programs and the impact these programs have in continuing to innovate and support building a strong healthcare workforce. 

One of the highlighted TAACCCT grantees includes a consortium program in Missouri called MoHealthWINs. MoHealthWINs created programs that included creating scalable, online and virtual learning platforms to expand access to learners that weren’t previously available. Additionally, enhanced advising helped to ensure learners remained on-track along their career pathway to achieve their goals. One of the most successful components of MoHealthWINs focused on the creation and maintenance of strong relationships with local employers, which helped learners to be prepared with the skills needed in their local community. The success of the program included over 88 percent of attempted credit hours completed, and 75 percent of completers who started as unemployed were able to find employment upon completion.

As the national focus shifts from immediate pandemic response to economic recovery, our nation needs a program like TAACCCT to help to ensure that postsecondary institutions have the resources to create nimble programs that can respond to changing labor needs and equip learners with the skills they need to succeed.

Advance CTE promotes including a TAACCCT-like program as a priority in any next round of stimulus legislation and in our recommendations for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Samuel Dunietz, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

By Samuel Dunietz in COVID-19 and CTE, Public Policy, Uncategorized
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COVID-19 Resources from the U.S. Department of Education: Part Two

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

dThe U.S. Department of Education added a page to its website with COVID-19 (Coronavirus) resources and updates for elementary and secondary schools and institutions of higher education. You can access this information at  www.ed.gov/coronavirus. The page will be continuously updated by the Department. Below are brief overviews of what can be found in some of the materials on issues with civil rights and students with disabilities. Advance CTE will continue to share posts with a breakdown of the resources, so keep checking the blog!

By Samuel Dunietz in Legislation, Resources
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COVID-19 Resources from the U.S. Department of Education: Part One

Thursday, March 26th, 2020

The U.S. Department of Education added a page to its website with COVID-19 (Coronavirus) resources and updates for elementary and secondary schools and institutions of higher education. You can access this information at www.ed.gov/coronavirus. The page will be continuously updated by the Department. Below are brief overviews of what can be found in some of the K-12 materials. Advance CTE will continue to share posts with a breakdown of the resources, so check back here for future blogs!

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate

By Meredith Hills in COVID-19 and CTE, Uncategorized
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