100 Years of Advancing CTE: John Fischer Shares His Journey

August 3rd, 2020

John Fischer has served as the President of the Advance CTE Board of Directors, State CTE Director and Deputy Secretary in Vermont, and most recently as Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. We talked to Fischer about his reflections on education and specifically Career Technical Education (CTE) over the past 40 years.

How did you begin working in CTE? How and why have you connected with and stayed involved with Advance CTE throughout your career?

During my tenure at the community college level, I engaged with the Carl Perkins Act during the reauthorizations in 1984, 1990 and 1998 before I moved to K-12 state administration. During the 2006 Perkins implementation, I became the state CTE director and engaged with Advance CTE (then NASDCTEc). I was at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation during the 2015 reauthorization and fortunate to once again engage Advance CTE to support states in planning and implementation of Perkins V. This organization proved to be and still is one of the most valuable partnerships I have experienced in over 40 years in all sectors of education, workforce, and philanthropy.

What did Career Technical Education (CTE) look like at the start of your career, and how has it changed over time?

In the 1980s, the “voc-ed” model persisted, meaning that there was an opportunity to raise the rigor of the programming and to better connect CTE with traditional high school academic programming on one end, and state-level workforce and economic development plans on the other end – a process that took about 15 years and continues in some ways today.

What role has Advance CTE played in that evolution?

Advance CTE has been instrumental in influencing the federal conversation and moving the conversation beyond the old way of doing things. The organization’s influence was especially meaningful during Perkins [V] reauthorization, framing the narrative and helping states make changes to the way they implemented CTE.

How do you envision the future of CTE?

In the 1980s and 1990s, there were changes in workforce demands brought on by rapid technological changes, for example, the shift from minicomputers to, eventually, microprocessors & desktop computers, which changed occupational areas students could learn about – different types of manufacturing, electronics, robotics and computer repair. We’re entering a similar cycle now with the advancements in artificial intelligence and automation. This will stress the educational system and workforce training system to meet employer demand. But, just as happened a few decades ago, this type of challenge pushes CTE programs in a positive direction. We will need to continue to address equity issues, access and opportunities in CTE across the country.

What advice do you have for future CTE leaders?

Educators must continue to break down silos and work across systems, building relationships with parents, the community, employers and government to advance policy and funding. State governments need to lead by example by co-designing education programs addressing in-demand careers.



This Week in CTE

August 1st, 2020

We have compiled a list of highlights in Career Technical Education (CTE) from this week to share with you.


This week, Advance CTE hosted a webinar providing a preview of the 2020 elections at both the national and state level and discussed how the results of the elections may impact policy overall, and specifically CTE-related policy. Panelists also discussed what state CTE leaders can do now to prepare for the elections in November. View the recording of the webinar and register for the next one: CTE’s Role in the Future of Work and our Economic Recovery.



The Rethink K-12 Education Models Grant will support states’ initiatives in creating innovative ways for learners to continue education in ways that meet their individual needs. States receiving the grant award include: Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, North Carolina, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas. The awards range from $6 million to $20 million. View the press release here.


One local CTE program in Michigan has added a new teacher academy for their learners, which will begin this fall! With the help of a grant award from the Michigan Department of Education, Alpena Public Schools are looking to recruit their own educators for the future of their district. Read more in this article published by The Alpena News.


To assist state leaders in developing and expanding equitable youth apprenticeship programs, the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE) and the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA) has developed a new toolkit, Equity in Youth Apprenticeship Programs

This toolkit strives to increase access and opportunities for high school students as they begin to transition into the workforce or a postsecondary institution. Read more here


Advance CTE in partnership with The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) has published a new resource as part of the Making Good on the Promise series, which outlines the five steps state CTE leaders can take to ensure secondary and postsecondary students with disabilities have access to and the supports needed to thrive in high-quality CTE programs. 

View the resource in our Learning that Works Resource Center.

Brittany Cannady, Digital Media Associate

Legislative Update: House Passes Appropriations Bill and Senate Introduces Stimulus Package

July 31st, 2020

This week, the full House voted on Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) appropriations bills, including the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-Ed) proposal. Read below to learn more about what was included in this bill and next steps, as well the newly introduced stimulus bill from Senate Republicans and the recipients of the Rethink K-12 Education Models Grant.  

Fiscal Year 2021 Appropriations Bill Passes in the House

Today, the House passed an FY21 appropriations minibus, or grouping of appropriations bills, on party lines. This $1.3 trillion package (H.R. 7617) included the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-Ed) appropriations bill, which provides an increase of approximately $716 million for federal education programs and an increase of approximately $254 million for federal labor programs. This bill increases the Perkins Basic State Grant by about $18 million, or 1.4%, bringing the total amount of funding to about $1.3 billion. There are six appropriations bills that make up this minibus, in addition to Labor-HHS-Ed, the package also includes: Defense; Commerce, Justice and Science; Energy and Water Development; Financial Services; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. A summary of the full bill can be found here

Next, the Senate will introduce and vote on their own appropriations bills, which can be expected to differ from what was passed in the House. Ultimately, the House, Senate and administration must come to an agreement on FY21 federal funding.

Senate Releases Stimulus Bill Proposal
Written by Michael Matthews, Government Relations Manager, Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE). Full post can be found here

On Monday evening, Senate Republicans released the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protections, and Schools Act (HEALS Act), an approximately trillion-dollar proposal for the next round of relief funding aimed at quelling the economic and public health crisis ignited by the pandemic.

Some of the larger provisions of the HEALS Act include $200 per week in unemployment insurance, down from $600 in the previously enacted CARES Act, another round of stimulus checks, liability protection for businesses and schools, an additional round of Paycheck Protection Program loans, among other measures.

More specifically for education, the proposal calls for $105 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund, authorizes Emergency Education Freedom Scholarships, consolidates the nine current student loan repayment plans into two, and provides various emergency waiver authority to the Secretary for federal programs, including the Perkins Act. Of the $105 billion, the Elementary and Secondary Education fund would receive $70 billion, with two-thirds of that conditioned on local education agencies meeting certain requirements around reopening. Higher education institutions would receive $29 billion with funding being allotted based on the number of Pell Grant recipients. The last $5 billion would go to the Governors’ Emergency Relief Fund, which can be used for any emergency grants for any part of education. Although the proposal does not include dedicated funding for CTE programs, they are included in the allowable use of funds for money allocated to the Education Stabilization Fund.

Additionally, the bill authorizes additional funding for various workforce development activities.  The appropriations package provides a total of $950 million in the Department of Labor for adult and youth training programs.

This proposal will serve as the Senate Republicans opening bid with Democrats, who will most certainly seek to make changes prior to any relief proposal being signed into law. Democratic leadership in both chambers have voiced serious concerns with the proposal, saying that it “falls short of what is needed to help with the coronavirus recession.” Democrats will seek to include hazard pay for essential workers, further address the looming eviction crisis, provide additional funding for social safety programs, and have serious concerns with the conditioning school funding to physical re-opening and liability protection provisions. It is expected for negotiations to start immediately and could potentially drag out into August, forcing Congress to work through a portion of their recess.

We are continuing to advocate for these critical resources directly for CTE and workforce programs to be included in the next relief package to ensure learners are prepared for labor market needs, particularly as the economy begins to rebuild after the pandemic. We need your help quickly to emphasize this message with Congress as the congressional leaders come together in negotiations. Click here to ask your Members of Congress to support the inclusion of funds for CTE, as provided in the Relaunching America’s Workforce Act, in the next relief package.

Education Department Awards Rethink K-12 Education Models Grant 

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that 11 states will receive over $180 million in new grant funding through the Rethink K-12 Education Models Grant. This initiative will support states in serving their students during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic through new and innovative strategies. The participating states are Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, North Carolina, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas, and award amounts range from $6 million to $20 million. This program is through the Education Stabilization Fund of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. 

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate

New Resource: Prioritizing CTE Through and Beyond COVID-19

July 30th, 2020

Advance CTE released a new tool focused on supporting state Career Technical Education (CTE) leaders in prioritizing CTE learners and the delivery of high-quality programs as states prepare to reopen schools and campuses – be it in-person, remote or hybrid instruction – this upcoming academic year.

Earlier this summer, Advance CTE released, COVID-19’s Impact on CTE: Defining the Challenge and the Opportunity to identify the challenges that impact the design, delivery and assessment of CTE programs across the country. Now, as the next school year draws near, it is time to develop key action steps in preparing for and implementing strategies to provide quality, equitable CTE during the coronavirus and beyond.

State CTE leaders can leverage this tool when planning for short- and long-term priorities. The resource asks state CTE leaders to reflect on the past and future impact of the coronavirus on CTE learners and programs, consider how to use data and engage the field to make informed decisions, and identify key action steps to assist the state in preparing for and implementing strategies to provide quality, equitable CTE this coming year. 

Prioritizing CTE Through and Beyond COVID-19 is organized around the following key topics that must be addressed for learners to access high-quality CTE experiences: 

  • Equity and access;
  • CTE teachers and faculty;
  • CTE instruction;
  • Assessments and credentials;
  • Work-based learning;
  • Counseling and advisement; and
  • Career Technical Student Organizations.

The final section of this tool includes an optional action plan template to help organize the various short- and longer-term priorities and lay out an implementation plan. 

Download Prioritizing CTE Through and Beyond COVID-19 here (Word, PDF).

Kate Kreamer, Deputy Executive Director

Improving Equity and Access to Quality CTE Programs for Students with Disabilities

July 28th, 2020

In 2017-18, nearly 11.8 million students in the United States participated in Career Technical Education (CTE) — 8.8 million in secondary and 2.9 million in postsecondary. Of those students, 877,938 were secondary learners with disabilities, and 126,110 were postsecondary learners with disabilities.

When students with disabilities have access to and the supports needed to thrive in high-quality CTE programs, the outcomes are promising. In general, participation in CTE courses has been tied to “a positive impact on wages, with an increase of 2 percent for every high-level class” in which a student participates.[1] This effect is reinforced for students with disabilities. Recent research links “concentrated CTE participation to improved graduation and employment for students with [physical and learning] disabilities.”[2]

However, state leaders still face challenges when attempting to equitably serve students with disabilities. Advance CTE’s latest resource, developed in collaboration with the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), outlines five actions state CTE leaders can take to ensure that secondary and postsecondary students with disabilities have access to and the supports needed to thrive in high-quality CTE programs. Specifically, Making Good on the Promise: Improving Equity and Access to Quality CTE Programs for Students with Disabilities examines how state CTE leaders can:

  • Leverage the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) to ensure that secondary and postsecondary learners with disabilities have access to high-quality CTE programs and instruction;
  • Ensure that systems are in place to provide high-quality career guidance and advisement to secondary and postsecondary learners with disabilities;
  • Leverage data to identify and close equity gaps;
  • Provide professional development to staff, instructors and support personnel; and
  • Ensure that learners with disabilities have access to high-quality work-based learning opportunities.

This resource is part of the Making Good on the Promise series, which confronts the negative aspects of CTE’s legacy and defines the key challenges learners face today. The series provides promising solutions to help state leaders close equity gaps in CTE to ensure that each learner is able to attain the promise of CTE — a high-skill, high-wage, in-demand career. 

Brianna McCain, former Policy Associate

[1] Kreisman, D., & Stange, K. (2019). Depth over breadth: The value of vocational education in U.S. high schools. Education Next, 19(4), 76-84.

[2] Theobald, R. J., Goldhaber, D. D., Gratz, T. M., & Holden, K. L. (2019). Career and technical education, inclusion, and postsecondary outcomes for students with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 52(2), 109–119.

This Week in CTE

July 24th, 2020

We have compiled a list of highlights in Career Technical Education (CTE) from this week to share with you.


Many took to social media to advocate for the next COVID-19 (coronavirus) relief package to include funding for the E-rate program. You can take action, today, by emailing your members of Congress addressing the need for the inclusion of the Emergency Educational Connections Act (S. 3690/H.R. 6563). 


Earlier this year, one Florida college was awarded the opportunity to expand their current apprenticeship program into new territories. College of the Florida Keys (CFK) will now offer Construction Technologies, Plumbing and Carpentry, Electrical and HVAC and Electrical and Carpentry as new apprenticeship programs at varying locations beginning this fall. Learn more about the opportunity awarded to CFK and the benefits of apprenticeship by reading this article published by Keys Weekly. 


The U.S. Department of Education invites high schools and local educational agencies to propose technology education programs that use competency-based distance learning. Finalists will be chosen to develop, implement and evaluate their programs. A panelist of judges will convene to select an overall competition winner and award an additional $100,000. Submit your program proposal today! The Rural Tech Project is open to any publicly funded school or local educational agency that delivers education to a rural community and to students in grades 9-12. 


The Education Commission of the States released a new 50-state comparison tool for states to leverage when considering how state policies approach funding for postsecondary institutions. Alongside the comparison tool are individual state pages where you can find a detailed view of one state’s policy. Click here to view the comparison tool and individual state pages. 


One of the core components of a high-quality CTE program is that it culminates in a credential of value. But with more than 4,000 credentialing organizations in the United States today, states are grappling with the challenge of narrowing down the field. Credentials of Value: State Strategies for Identifying and Endorsing Industry-Recognized Credentials highlights promising practices from Florida, Kansas and Louisiana, which have each made considerable progress developing a system for students and employers to navigate the tangled universe of credentials. View the policy brief in our Learning that Works Resource Center

Brittany Cannady, Digital Media Associate

Legislative Update: House Continues Appropriations Process and Administration Announces New Initiative

July 17th, 2020

This week, the House Appropriations Committee marked up and passed the Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-Ed) appropriations bill. Read below to learn more about what was included in this bill and next steps, as well as a new campaign from the administration that supports skills-based training.  

House Passes Fiscal Year 2021 Appropriations Bill

On Monday evening the House Appropriations Committee marked up and passed the FY21 Labor-HHS-Ed funding bill on party lines. This bill included an increase of approximately $716 million for federal education programs and an increase of approximately $254 million for federal labor programs. This proposal would provide an increase of $18 million, or 1.4%, to the Perkins Basic State Grant, bringing the total amount of funding to about $1.3 billion. Some other notable provisions of the bill  include: 

  • An increase of $10 million for Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) State Grants under Title IV-A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA); 
  • An increase of $150 to maximum Pell Grant awards; 
  • An increase of $49 million for Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs); 
  • An increase of $20 million for Federal Work-Study; 
  • An increase of $15 million to Federal TRIO and GEAR Up programs; 
  • An increase of $50 million for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) State Grants; 
  • An increase of $10 million for registerested apprenticeships; and
  • An increase of $10 million for the Strengthening Community College Training Grants.

The House also released the full report on the Labor-HHS-Ed appropriations bill this week. Next, this bill will go to the full House of Representatives for votes. The Senate also needs to go through this process, and will introduce, markup and vote on their own appropriations proposals. 

Administration Announces “Find Something New” Campaign

Written by Hannah Neeper, Policy Research Analyst, Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE). The original post can be found here

The White House has released its long awaited ad campaign “Find Something New” as an effort to encourage people who are unemployed or unsatisfied in their current occupation to find a pathway to a new job or career. The campaign is a product of  the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, created in 2018, in collaboration with the Ad Council, IBM, Apple and members of the Business Roundtable, and a number of other partners. 

This ad campaign seeks to meet the need for skills-based training as an alternative to four-year degree programs in order for workers to find jobs. This ad campaign is accompanied by a companion website. The website provides resources ranging from self-assessments to professional development, and links to education and training options. A number of videos are also available that may be useful for students as they engage in career development activities. 

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate

Education, Training and Skill Development to Support an Equitable Recovery

July 16th, 2020

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, in partnership with the W. E. Upjohn Institute and the Penn Institute for Urban Research at the University of Pennsylvania, is conducting a webinar series highlighting strategies to promote an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. The first webinar focused on the impact of the pandemic on workers and the need for job training and skill development during the recovery. A full recording of the webinar and the speakers’ slides can be found here.

Recent data indicates that about 20 percent of the U.S. labor force has lost employment or earnings since February 2020, and about half of all job losses have taken place in the retail, leisure and hospitality industries. Some demographic groups have been disproportionately impacted by employment or earnings losses, including Black and Latino workers, workers with a high school education or less, and female workers. Notably, a large percentage of recent job losses may be permanent, meaning the worker won’t go back to employment at that particular job; Steven Davis from the University of Chicago shared recent calculations suggesting that 32-42 percent of job losses that have resulted from the coronavirus may be permanent. 

To date, most policy responses to the coronavirus have taken the form of relief, but Harry Holzer from Georgetown University urged a shift toward recovery-related policies that support job creation and strategies to ensure that workers can obtain available jobs. Holzer encouraged policymakers to focus on three important points when deciding which education and training policies to enact:

  • Policy proposals should target support to the highest-need workers, including permanently displaced workers, workers who have experienced involuntary reductions in their hours, low-wage workers in “essential” jobs, and young workers who are new entrants into the labor market.
  • Policies should support education and training for work in high-demand fields.
  • Policies should implement education and training approaches that research has shown to be effective, such as work-based learning and apprenticeship, occupational and career guidance, and financial aid for higher education.

Davis suggested that many of the massive shifts in consumer spending, working arrangements and business practices that have occurred as a result of the pandemic will not fully reverse. For example, working from home, online shopping and delivery, and virtual meetings and interactions may become the norm as people are getting used to these practices and as businesses realize that virtual interactions are often easier and less expensive. Davis encouraged policymakers to think ahead to the future and enact policies that facilitate the shift toward virtual, rather than enacting policies that try to return to the pre-pandemic status quo. 

Michelle Miller-Adams from the W. E. Upjohn Institute encouraged a focus on policies that facilitate a better match between labor supply and demand, including identification of skills shortages and training to meet those needs. She shared a number of state and local examples of programs that support individuals who are disconnected from work, including the concept of neighborhood hubs as a supplement to the workforce system’s one-stop job centers, and the use of technology to provide career guidance and information to job seekers. Miller-Adams also encouraged the expansion of high-quality tuition-free college programs, which include elements such as universal eligibility, embedded student support, strong alignment with employer needs and stable funding; she highlighted the Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect programs as best practices. 

Meghan Wills, Director of Strategic Initiatives

2020 Presidential Election: Policy Recommendations from the Biden Campaign

July 15th, 2020

As part of his presidential campaign platform, former Vice President Joe Biden recently released new policy recommendations ranging on topics from education to climate change to criminal justice reform. These proposals make up the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force Recommendations, and were developed through joint task forces that included Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and supporters of his most recent presidential campaign. 

This document includes a section on “Providing a World-Class Education in Every Zip Code.” There are many intersections with Career Technical Education (CTE) in these policy proposals. For one, Biden calls for expanding access to CTE programs and specifically points out the need to increase CTE funding. The task force states that the country’s education system should prepare learners for “college, careers, and to be informed, engaged citizens of our communities, our country, and our planet.” This means reimagining the education system, for example understanding the many different ways that learning can be demonstrated. The recommendations also cover how to make higher education affordable and accessible- looking to strategies such as doubling the maximum Pell Grant and increasing federal funding for wraparound services. CTE, and apprenticeships in particular, is pointed to as a strategy to offer opportunities for lifelong learning. 

The recommendations include strategies for “Building a Stronger, Fairer Economy.” One piece of this section discusses how to respond to the economic recession and COVID-19 (coronavirus). It has become more clear than ever that a huge gap in Internet access exists, and this is detrimental to educational success and opportunities. The task force recommends that each person in this country have access to high-speed and affordable broadband service. This is a position that Advance CTE agrees with, and has been advocating for in coronavirus response and recovery bills. 

As we near the 2020 presidential election, Advance CTE will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available on candidate platforms. 

You can register for our upcoming webinar: 2020 Elections Landscape: Implications for Career Technical Education to hear from a panel of experts will provide a preview of the 2020 elections at both the national and state level and will discuss how the results of the elections will impact policy overall, and specifically the Career Technical Education system.

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate

This Week in CTE

July 10th, 2020

We have compiled a list of highlights in Career Technical Education (CTE) from this week to share with you.


Advance CTE hosted a webinar with the Aspen Institute to provide state and local leaders with support in their recruitment and communication strategies for diverse student populations. Questions were addressed around access and equity for CTE postsecondary opportunities at the state and local levels.

View the recording here, and sign up for our next webinar, 2020 Elections Landscape: Implications for Career Technical Education on July 30! 


South Carolina graduate of Bonds Career Center, Josiah Wright, will soon begin his apprenticeship. Josiah will become a full-time employee and student at Greenville Tech, will learn and earn from industry professionals and become certified as an industrial electrician. 

Congratulations Josiah! 


This week, the House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies introduced their Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations bill. The bill proposes a 1.4% increase for CTE, bringing the funding level to about $1.3 billion. The full House Appropriations Committee will vote on this bill on Monday at 1:00pmEST, you can watch here.


The Committee for Education Funding (CEF) hosted a twitter chat on Tuesday, July 7,  highlighting the importance of increasing federal education funding right before the House Labor-HHS-Ed Appropriations Subcommittee went into their mark-up for the FY 2021 funding bill. Follow the #HearOurEdStories hashtag on Twitter to read responses on why education funding matters.


The National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE) has launched a national campaign to help states recruit and maintain females and underrepresented student populations in the field of manufacturing. Download free resources and learn more about the Making The Future, Connecting Girls to Manufacturing Campaign here.


To expand access to CTE and advanced coursework more generally, the Idaho legislature authorized Idaho Career & Technical Education to work with Idaho Digital Learning Academy (IDLA), a fully-accredited online school serving students in all of the state’s 115 districts, to develop CTE Digital. Through IDLA, Idaho students all over the state can access online CTE coursework. 

Check out the Idaho CTE Digital policy profile in the Learning that Works Resource Center.

Brittany Cannady, Digital Media Associate