Reflections on President Trump’s Workforce of Tomorrow Event at the White House

June 28th, 2017

This post was written by John Cech, Ph.D., Deputy Commissioner – Academic & Student Affairs, Montana University System.  

On Thursday, June 15, 2017, I joined President Donald Trump and 20 people at the White House for a “Workforce of Tomorrow” meeting to discuss strategies for preparing more Americans to fill nearly six million vacant or soon-to-be-vacant careers.  The White House singled out 10 states as “exemplars,” which are creating new educational and apprenticeship opportunities for our citizens.  I am proud to say Montana was one of the 11 states to receive an invitation from the White House and I was honored to represent Governor Bullock and our great state at this meeting.

The meeting was facilitated by Ivanka Trump, Adviser to the President and included: Secretary Alex Acosta, Department of Labor; Secretary Wilbur Ross, Department of Commerce; several key White House staff; seven Governors; and representatives of three additional governors.  The President invited the Governors and participants to share some of the best practices and success stories from their states.

In a ceremony in the Roosevelt Room, President Trump signed an executive order nearly doubling taxpayer money spent on learn-and-earn programs under the grant system, ApprenticeshipUSA. The money, totaling $200 million, would come from existing job training programs.

Why is this work important?  States across the nation are facing serious workforce challenges.  In Montana, for example, our population is aging and estimates are that a quarter of the workforce are going to retire in the next ten years.  This, coupled with our strong economy and low unemployment (3.8%), poses significant complications for industries to find the skilled labor needed for 21st century jobs.

I believe our state was chosen to be recognized as a leader in this effort due to our long-standing culture of collaboration and creativity.  Thanks to the support and leadership of Governor Bullock, Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian and Commissioner of Labor Pam Bucy, we are a leading state in the development of new apprenticeship learning opportunities.  The Montana University System and the Montana Department of Labor and Industry have worked together to develop 20 new apprenticeship programs in fields such as healthcare, advanced manufacturing, information technology, accounting technology, and culinary services, with another 20 in development. These programs offer courses that result in college credits, work-based learning opportunities, prior learning assessment, industry recognized credentials, and a salary. In other words, students can ‘earn while they learn.’

This work has particularly impacted Montana’s rural and frontier communities with apprenticeship opportunities for fields in in-demand, living-wage industries, in some of Montana’s most remote areas, through innovative and thoughtful programming.

For example, MSU-Billings City College has partnered with a rural fire department employer in Miles City to develop the very first paramedicine apprenticeship program in MT. Cutting edge technology is used to ensure all learners have access to this program. IPad Robots (i.e. MedBots) enable EMT professionals at the rural fire department to complete MSUB City College paramedic coursework, as well participate in labs through real-time class discussions, small group breakouts and medical simulations with fellow students in the Billings-based classroom.

Montana is also working with our Office of Public Instruction to develop new statewide pathways for high school students interested starting early with their career development.  These new pathways include opportunities for dual credit, work-based learning, and pre-apprenticeships.

Our efforts are informed through concrete data including employment projections and wage and income records to ensure that we’re supplying the talent pipeline to high-demand careers with skilled employees from across the state.

While federal funding is a critical catalyst for identifying and developing work-based learning strategies, Montana is a fantastic example of how states can leverage these funds with state and private resources to create a new paradigm for workforce training.

I believe our successful partnerships and statewide collaborative efforts are what captured the attention of the White House this past week, and I was honored to share our many accomplishments.

Illinois, Missouri and Pennsylvania Adopt New Policies to Help Learners Graduate Career Ready

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:

  • In May the Texas state legislature passed SB22, establishing a statewide Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program. Starting fall 2017, districts and open enrollment charter schools will be able to apply for startup funding to establish a P-TECH program, which allows learners to graduate in six years with an associate’s degree or two-year postsecondary certificate and work-based learning experience.
  • Minnesota’s omnibus higher education appropriations bill for the 2018-19 biennium established a $1 million Workforce Development Scholarship pilot program and provides funding to develop new concurrent enrollment courses.
  • Vermont passed an economic development bill that, among other things, establishes a Career Pathways Coordinator position within the Agency of Education to serve as a point person for interagency efforts to develop curriculum and design statewide career pathways.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

Welcome to Harold Mackin, Connecticut’s New State CTE Director!

June 26th, 2017

If someone had told Harold Mackin 10 years ago that he would one day be the State CTE Director of Connecticut, he would have thought the person was crazy.

That’s because Mackin was firmly settled as a district-level director for Career Technical Education (CTE) in Washington state, where he had been born and raised and taught CTE for nearly 24 years. Yet as his youngest of five daughters was entering third grade, Mackin began to ponder his own future, and that set him on a course that eventually led him to interview and apply for an agricultural education position in the state CTE office in Connecticut.

The day of his interview was the first day he had set foot in New England. That was seven years ago, and now Mackin has been tapped as the State CTE Director. Moving from the local to state level was certainly a shift, Mackin said.

“When I first arrived, the learning curve wasn’t a curve at all,” he said. “The line was 180 degrees that went straight up.”

In those seven years, the state CTE office, which had seven staff members when he arrived, has changed significantly with retirements and budget shortfalls, and now has two staff members.

Despite those changes, Mackin said he sees opportunities to raise the profile of CTE in Connecticut, where the Ivy League schools dominate students’ post-high school plans. He hopes to bridge the divide between academic and technical courses through the state’s mastery-based learning initiatives. He said this work could bring more contextualized instruction into academic teaching and more academic recognition to technical courses.

Andrea Zimmermann, Senior Associate for Member Engagement and Leadership Development

H.R. 2353, the bill to reauthorize the Perkins Act, passes the House of Representatives

June 22nd, 2017

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted by voice vote to pass H.R. 2353, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. The bill would reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) through Fiscal Year (FY) 2023.

Kimberly Green, executive director of Advance CTE and LeAnn Wilson, executive director of the Association for Career and Technical Education praised the 100-year history of bipartisan support for Career Technical Education (CTE). They also commended Representatives Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), along with leadership from both parties, particularly House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA), for their strong commitment to support CTE.

While Advance CTE and ACTE supported the passage of H.R. 2353, they noted that there is one outstanding issue to be resolved around the bill’s proposed definition for a secondary CTE concentrator. Both organizations encourage the Senate to resolve this issue and capitalize on the momentum of the House-passed vote to reauthorize Perkins. Read the full statement here.

 

Both Green and Wilson spoke at a press conference immediately following the vote to reinforce the importance of CTE as a truly bipartisan issue that not only prepares learners for a successful future, but also contributes to our talent pipeline and efforts to narrow the skills gap. Representatives Thompson (R-PA), Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Langevin (D-RI), Byrne (R-AL), Ferguson (R-GA), Nolan (D-MN), and Smucker (R-PA) all spoke in support of the legislation. In addition, Stan Litow, Vice President, Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs, IBM and Eleanor Kerr, Director, Government Affairs, Siemens Healthineers provided brief remarks about the value of CTE.

 

“I want to thank everyone who said yes to today’s vote…It’s so important to remember that [there is] longstanding bipartisan support for CTE because it comes from a place of understanding that Career Technical Education plays an important role in making sure that learners of all ages get a chance to explore their talents, interests, career options, [and] that they get a chance to try out different careers, have hands-on experiences and real-world opportunities to find a lifetime of career and education success,” said Green. “There’s no doubt to me that this legislation will work to close the skills gap… As many others have said, I urge the Senate to act.” Watch the video here.

Perkins Vote on Thursday, Apprenticeship Executive Order Signed

June 21st, 2017

The focus on Career Technical Education (CTE) remains strong this week as attention shifts from last week’s “Workforce Week” events to action on Capitol Hill. More below on a vote on H.R. 2353, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (which would reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins)), the Executive Order on apprenticeship and new resources from Advance CTE and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE).

H.R. 2353 Vote on Thursday

Following unanimous approval from the House Education and the Workforce Committee on May 17, we anticipate that H.R. 2353, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (which would reauthorize Perkins, find our summary here) will come to a vote this Thursday, June 22. Once the vote occurs, we will share the final vote count. We will also analyze the bill and share out any technical changes that were made between the Committee mark up and floor vote as soon as possible. Timing and consideration of the bill in the Senate are not known at this time.

President Trump Signs Executive Order

On June 15, President Trump signed the “Expanding Apprenticeship in America” Executive Order (EO). Key components of the EO include:

  • “Establishing Industry-Recognized Apprenticeships”: Directs the Secretary of Labor to consult with the Secretaries of Education and Commerce to “consider proposing regulations… that promote the development of apprenticeship programs by third parties. These third parties may include trade and industry groups, companies, non-profit organizations, unions, and joint labor-management organizations.”
  • “Promoting Apprenticeship Programs at Colleges and Universities. The Secretary of Education shall, consistent with applicable law, support the efforts of community colleges and 2 year and 4 year institutions of higher education to incorporate apprenticeship programs into their courses of study.”
  • “Establishment of the Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion: The mission of the Task Force shall be to identify strategies and proposals to promote apprenticeships, especially in sectors where apprenticeship programs are insufficient.”
  • “Improving the Effectiveness of Workforce Development Programs”
    • “The head of each agency shall submit a list of programs, if any, administered by their agency that are designed to promote skills development and workplace readiness” and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget “shall consider the information provided… in developing the President’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget.”
    • “The head of each agency administering one or more job training programs shall order… an empirically rigorous evaluation of the effectiveness of such programs, unless such an analysis has been recently conducted.”

The EO provides broad contours and policy direction. Advance CTE will watch for more information and provide updates when details are available, which are particularly important given the lack of details in the EO. Of particular note is the direction to OMB, given the rationale used to justify the 15% proposed cut in the President’s budget. To learn more about the flawed justification and Advance CTE’s response to it, read this opinion piece written by Advance CTE and ACTE.

New Resources on Apprenticeship

To learn more about the connections between apprenticeships and secondary CTE, check out the resources from Advance CTE and the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) here, including two new videos.

Kathryn Zekus, Senior Associate, Federal Policy

New Resource: Connecting CTE Students & Apprenticeship Programs

June 21st, 2017

Last week was certainly a big one for apprenticeships! In the midst of White House announcement, U.S. Department of Labor memo and the introduction of legislation in the Senate was the release of a new report form Advance CTE – Opportunities for Connecting Secondary Career and Technical Education Students and Apprenticeship Programs.

This new report was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education and prepared by Advance CTE with support from Jobs for the Future, Vivayic and RTI International to help state and local leaders begin to understand the ways in which they could expand access to apprenticeships for high school students, and bring the CTE and apprenticeship systems into better alignment.

At the center of this paper are eight case studies of aligned CTE-apprenticeship programs, which Advance CTE and its partners visited last year to see how they were providing opportunities for high school students to engage directly in pre-apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships and/or registered apprenticeships.

While the eight sites differ in structure, intensity and the state policy environment, there are common lessons learned that apply to any state and local leader looking to build such programs in their own communities.

For example, when it comes to program design, we found there is no inherently “right” or “wrong” approach to connecting CTE students to apprenticeship programs. The sites’ geographic, socioeconomic, and resource characteristics, and differing administrative or legislative policies, all impacted program structure. That being said, when considering program design, a few takeaways emerged:

  • Programs must align with workforce demand, at the state, regional, and local levels – an lead to real employment options for students.
  • Effective programs require meaningful collaboration and buy-in from all partners. Teachers, employers, parents, and students must see the value of their participation if the program is going to succeed
  • At most sites, the drive for the program came from employers and/or labor associations seeking to bolster their pipeline of workers – and this was key to their launch and success.
  • There is no minimum or maximum number of students who should participate in a program. Program size simply has to be a function of regional demand and available placements with apprenticeship sponsors- and so some program just need to stay small

Advance CTE & Apprenticeships
From Advance CTE’s perspective, aligning CTE and apprenticeship programs, policies and systems is simply common sense. It comes down to providing more pathways to college and career success for more students and for strengthening our overall talent pipeline in key industries like advanced manufacturing, IT and construction, which leveraging existing structures. But, we still see too many missed opportunities due to largely disconnected systems.

This is why, even as this project winds down, we will continue to support efforts to strengthen apprenticeships, and their connections to CTE at the secondary and postsecondary levels, through partnerships like Apprenticeship Forward and ongoing discussions with OCTAE and the U.S. Department of Education Office of Apprenticeship.

Related Resources
In addition to the report, OCTAE also commissioned supportive resources to help state and local leaders turn this research into action, including two recently-released videos on Expanding Opportunities: Aligning CTE and Apprenticeship and Elements of CTE and Apprenticeship Alignment. Later this summer, OCTAE will be releasing a planning guide, templates and mini-guides to bring all the key partners to the table.

Kate Kreamer, Deputy Executive Director

This Week in CTE

June 16th, 2017

TWEET OF THE WEEK

RESOURCE OF THE WEEK

By integrating classroom instruction and hands-on learning, both apprenticeships and CTE can enhance the high school experience and better prepare learners for future career success. Not to mention, secondary apprenticeships equip students with skills in high-demand career pathways, helping to strengthen the talent pool and close critical skills gaps.

A new report, Opportunities for Connecting Secondary Career and Technical Education Students and Apprenticeship Programs, commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education and prepared by Advance CTE with support from Jobs for the Future, Vivayic and RTI International, profiles eight secondary apprenticeship programs to identify strategies to connect CTE with apprenticeship programs. The report classifies each program as either an apprenticeship, youth apprenticeship or pre-apprenticeship and maps each by the degree of instructional alignment and program articulation.

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE WEEK

The Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program is conducting a survey to learn the perspectives of individuals focused on preparing young people ages 16- 24 for work. If you provide services to youth in this age range, complete this survey.

AWARD OF THE WEEK

On Monday, applications open to the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, which includes over $500,000 awarded to 10 outstanding skilled trades teachers in American public high schools and the skilled trades programs in their schools.

Judges for the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence will look for those programs that are led by a teacher who clearly loves the subject matter and is both highly knowledgeable and skilled; where the curriculum is matched to a relevant career pathway and future work choices, and is designed to flow seamlessly into next step options, whether to employment or college; that encourages exploration and experimentation among students in a safe environment; and that connects students to new relationships and worlds outside the classroom.

Katie Fitzgerald, Senior Associate, Communications 

Push for Apprenticeships is Focus of Workforce Development Week

June 14th, 2017

It’s “Workforce Development Week” for the Trump Administration. Events throughout the week have involved remarks from key officials and a visit to a technical college in Wisconsin, but the biggest news is expected later this week.  See below for additional details on the week’s events, a new report from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) and Advance CTE, and an announcement from Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Monday: Ivanka Trump Talks Perkins, Apprenticeship Raised in Cabinet Meeting,  

On June 12, Ivanka Trump appeared on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends” and provided an overview of Workforce Development Week. She discussed the skills gap, the upcoming visit to a technical college in Wisconsin, apprenticeships, and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins). Ivanka Trump commented on the Carl D. Perkins Act noting that, “It’s a very good piece of legislation. They’re refining it and extending it, but it’s all about skills-based education and really making sure people have the technical skills to succeed in this modern economy.”

Also on June 12, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta presented on apprenticeships and distributed this policy memo, which outlines the need for skilled workers, highlights key facts about apprenticeship in the United States and requests that, “each Agency head support the Administration’s apprenticeship initiative by removing obstacles to apprenticeship growth that may be present in current regulations or practices.”

Tuesday: Visit to Waukesha County Technical College

On June 13, President Trump, Ivanka Trump, and Secretaries Devos and Acosta visited Waukesha County Technical College in Wisconsin and then held a roundtable discussion with Governor Scott Walker and students and instructors from the college. Topics addressed in the discussion’s opening remarks from President Trump, Ivanka Trump, and Governor Walker included the skills gap, the importance of skills-based programs and apprenticeships to address that gap, and the Governor’s recent announcement about a grant to support apprenticeships for high school students. Members of Congress have been weighing in on Workforce Development Week and we appreciate Senator Baldwin’s response that called attention to the President’s proposed cuts to Career Technical Education (CTE).

Wednesday: New Apprenticeship Bill, Report

Senators Cantwell (D-WA) and Collins (R-ME) introduced the Apprenticeship and Jobs Training Act of 2017 on June 14 (find the summary here). According to a press release from Senator Cantwell’s office, the bill would:

  • “Create a $5,000 tax credit for up to three years for companies that hire and pay employees enrolled in a federal- or state-registered apprentice program. Additionally, employers participating in a multi-employer apprenticeship program, the credit rate would be $3 per hour each individual works.
  • Allow senior employees near retirement to draw from pensions early if they’re involved in mentoring or training new employees. Workers must be at least 55, and have reduced work hours to spend at least 20 percent of their time training or educating employees or students.
  • Help veterans get into skilled jobs that match their military experience sooner by allowing credit in apprenticeship requirements for previous military training.”

Curious about how apprenticeship programs relate to CTE? Check out this new resource from OCTAE and Advance CTE that details how eight programs connect secondary CTE to apprenticeship.

What’s Next for Workforce Development Week?

News reports from Inside Higher Ed and others anticipate that President Trump will make an announcement this week about expanding apprenticeship efforts and increasing the federal investment in apprenticeship. In addition, the President is expected to sign an executive order related to apprenticeships.

Secretary DeVos Announces Rulemaking Committees

On June 14, Secretary DeVos announced that the Department of Education (ED) would create two rulemaking committees on regulations surrounding Borrower Defense Repayment and Gainful Employment. With regard to Gainful Employment, the press release noted that “As the Department worked on implementing this regulation, it became clear that, as written, it is overly burdensome and confusing for institutions of higher education.”

Kathryn Zekus, Senior Associate, Federal Policy

Two Surveys Examine Perceptions of and Concerns about Postsecondary Education

June 13th, 2017

The Princeton Review recently released the findings of their annual survey of college applicants and parents discussing their perspective on the admissions process. When asked about their biggest concerns about college, the biggest worry was the debt students and their families will take on to pay for a degree. Parents and students prioritized overall “fit” and a match with the student’s career interests when choosing a college. These results fit with the perceived biggest benefit of a college education – a better job and higher income. Given this information, communications about the opportunities CTE provides in these categories would be very beneficial as students begin to plan for their futures.

New America also just released national survey data about perceptions of higher education. This survey contains some promising data for community colleges. 64 percent of respondents believe that two-year community colleges “are for people in my situation.” More people (80%) believe that two-year community colleges prepare people to be successful. This is higher than four-year public (77%) four-year private (75%) and for-profit (60%). Additionally, 83 percent of respondents believe that two-year community colleges contribute to a strong workforce. This is higher than four-year public (79%) four-year private (70%) and for-profit (59%).

U.S. Teens Fall Behind International Peers in Financial Literacy Exam

The results of the 2015 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exam on financial literacy have been released, and the results are less than promising. The financial literacy exam has been administered twice now to a select number of participating Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. US teens scored an average score of 487, two points below the international average. In 2012, American students received average scores of 492, while the OECD average that year was 499.

Though the U.S. has scored close to the OECD average in both exams, the results are still concerning, given that an average score signifies that one in five American teens do not meet the financial literacy benchmark, and are therefore unprepared for the complex financial decisions that come with choosing postsecondary and career options. This data becomes more concerning when examined through the lens of socioeconomic status. Students from lower-income families were less likely to score high marks on the exam, indicating that schools are not doing enough to close gaps in knowledge.

Odds and Ends

What is a community college degree worth? A research brief from CAPSEE aims to answer that very question. The report examines independent state evaluations and finds that, on average, the quarterly earnings for men and women earning associate degrees are $1,160 and $1,790 higher than non-completers respectively. Further, the study finds that degrees earned in vocational fields, as opposed to arts and humanities, yield higher earnings, with degrees in health-related fields the most lucrative.

Speaking of skills learned in college, a recent Gallup poll — conducted for the Business-Higher Education Forum — finds that, while 69 percent of employers will prefer candidates with data science and analytics skills by 2021, only 23 percent of college and university leaders say their graduates will learn those skills. The report provides eight strategies educators and employers can use to help close the skills gap.

Ashleigh McFadden, State Policy Manager

CTE is Not an Either/Or – A Response to “General Education, Vocational Education, and Labor-Market Outcomes over the Lifecycle”

June 12th, 2017

A new study came out recently that is garnering some media attention and calling into question the long-term value of CTE for students internationally. In a nutshell, this study, General Education, Vocational Education, and Labor-Market Outcomes over the Lifecycle, finds that the labor market advantage associated with participation in vocational education diminishes over time as the vocational individuals’ skills become outdated,making them less able to navigate the ever-changing world of work, compared to those students who completed a general education (or non-vocational) path in high school.  

Needless to say, this is raising questions for some about what this means for U.S. CTE system. While the study raises some important questions about the consequences of a truly tracked system, it also validates the direction CTE has been going here in the U.S.  In particular, this paper reaffirms so much of the exciting work going on – led by states and supported by the federal government, advocacy organizations like Advance CTE, and philanthropic partners like JPMorgan Chase – to raise the quality and rigor of CTE programs and pathways so that they serve as effective platforms to both college and careers for students.

The study compared students on the “vocational” track to those on a “general-education” track in 11 individual European countries. Right off the bat, the idea of a “track” is one that we have been very intentional about moving away from. And, the researchers freely admit this:

The United States, for example, has largely eliminated vocational education as a separate track in secondary schools on the argument that specific skills become obsolete too quickly and that it is necessary to give people the ability to adapt to new technologies. On the other hand, many European and developing countries, led by Germany’s “dual system,” provide extensive vocational education and training at the secondary level including direct involvement of industry through apprenticeships.”

This is hugely important, but also a bit ironic. I can’t tell you how many articles I have read or conversations I have had about how we can better replicate the German model for CTE. The fact is, CTE and academics are not an either/or in the U.S. system – all high school students are still required to take an academic core and, in many states, a college- and career-ready course of study, in addition to having the option to pursue a CTE pathway. From this perspective, CTE is a “value add” to the traditional high school experience, offering opportunities for specialized, career-focused coursework, hands-on learning and access to a network of mentors inside and outside the classroom, in addition to core academics.

Equally important is that high-quality CTE programs are designed to develop lifelong learners. Programs of study, by design, begin with foundational knowledge and skills and then progress to more occupationally-specific expectations over an intentional sequence of courses that extend across secondary and postsecondary. Programs of study like our Excellence in Action award winners offer opportunities for early postsecondary opportunities, meaningful work-based learning experiences and are anchored in credentials of value. These are programs not focused on short-term labor market needs – although they may fill them – but rather on the lifetime success of their students.

There is undoubtedly real value in this paper. It identifies important trade-offs and offers a potential cautionary tale of focusing on the short-term needs of an economy when designing a career preparation system. While it is important to continue to study international models – or, really study any models, policies or strategies that we think can help us get smarter about designing effective and meaningful career-focused pathways – this study also reaffirms that the efforts across the U.S. to drive quality CTE programs deserve just as much attention, if not more.

Kate Kreamer, Deputy Executive Director

 

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