ECMC’s Question the Quo Survey Reinforces Interest in Skills-Based Education Among High School Learners

October 20th, 2022

Advance CTE’s “Research Round-Up” blog series features summaries of relevant research reports and studies to elevate evidence-backed Career Technical Educational (CTE) policies and practices and topics related to college and career readiness. 

This month’s blog highlights results from the ECMC Group’s, “Question the Quo” national surveys. Conducted in partnership with Vice Media, ECMC Group launched the Question The Quo campaign to empower high school students to learn about the various postsecondary education options available and take the career path that’s right for them. This campaign supports a vision for the future of CTE where statewide systems are designed to equip learners with the knowledge they need to skillfully navigate their own career journey and utilize data to implement responsive programs.

Survey Overview

To inform this campaign, ECMC Group has conducted five national surveys to encourage teens to evaluate education beyond high school while considering cost, parental and role model influences, and societal norms. These surveys were conducted February 2020-February 2022 and polled over 5,000 teens aged 14-18. Learners were asked to share their thoughts and plans for their future education and careers amidst an ever-changing environment marked by hybrid classrooms and a rapidly changing economy.

Overall, the net survey findings uncovered that learners are focused on gaining the skills necessary to secure a job after graduation, and want more information on the avenues to do so. A majority (63 percent) of teens wish their high school provided more information about the variety of postsecondary opportunities available. A vast majority (89 percent) say higher education needs to make changes to place greater emphasis on career preparedness and exploration.

Key Finding: Career and technical education programs address learners’ desire for more skill-based education that aligns with the needs of the job market. 

Over half of survey responses indicated that learners view skills-based education programs (e.g nursing, STEM, trade skills, etc) as an intelligent choice in today’s labor market despite reporting a limited knowledge of CTE programs. Survey responses also showed a noticeable increase, 10 points from May 2020, in learners’ expressed likelihood to attend a postsecondary CTE institution. State leaders can leverage this type of learner data to rethink how they can assist learners in identifying the programs that will result in in-demand skill attainment. 

Additional results from the most recent survey in May 2022 can be found here.

Additional Resources

State leaders can capitalize on learners’ desire to build labor market skills by utilizing effective messaging to emphasize the connection to postsecondary CTE programs. Advance CTE’s report, “Communicating Career Technical Education: Learner-centered Messages for Effective Program Recruitment” provides insights on strategies for designing tailored messaging for recruiting each learner.  The accompanying message triangle serves as a guide for building effective messaging aligned with learner interests. 

State CTE leaders can find these and other resources about the strategies in the Learning that Works Resource Center.

Amy Hodge, Policy Associate

Advance CTE Fall Meeting Sponsor Blog: Platinum Sponsor, NCCER – Reconnecting Education with Employment

October 14th, 2022

At their core, educational systems should work toward career readiness. Education should impart the skills and knowledge needed for learners  to earn a living wage and become successful contributors to society. 

However, there appears to be a  disconnect between education and employment in the United States. There are massive labor shortages and skills gaps in key industries. The student loan crisis has put thousands in debt for degrees they aren’t using. Around 86 percent of parents and learners say they wish they could get more real-world knowledge and skills during high school, while 54 percent of business leaders do not think the education system is teaching the skills needed for the workforce.

The construction industry has long been feeling the strain from this growing disconnect. That’s why the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) was founded. This non-profit has developed a standardized system of construction craft training to educate at the speed of industry, allowing accredited programs to teach real-world skills needed for in-demand jobs. 

Here’s how NCCER’s system works to reconnect education with employment.

Standardization Across Construction

For industry and education to work seamlessly, they must be in sync with one another.

For much of construction history, the transfer of knowledge between generations has not been consistent, with different companies or master craftsmen teaching new people in many different ways. This style of training is not scalable or portable.

To overcome this issue, NCCER has established a common model for training, testing and credentialing in construction.

Now, NCCER curricula and programs are recognized and used by construction companies, associations, high schools, colleges, apprenticeships and other groups across the country. By having a consistent system in place nationwide, all parts of the construction training ecosystem can align together.  

Curricula Developed by Experts

To ensure its educational standards are accurate  and fulfilling the needs and expectations of the industry, NCCER’s curricula is developed with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

SMEs are experienced industry veterans who impart their wisdom by helping conceptualize, write and review components of NCCER curricula. Their influence can be seen in textbooks, module tests, performance profiles and more. As curricula are created or updated, these experts provide the guidance needed to ensure learners are learning the necessary skills to succeed in their career. 

The standards set by NCCER aren’t designed to meet some arbitrary minimum threshold; they’re built by industry, for industry. 

Modular Training and Credentials to Build Upon

Most construction learners don’t receive all their training at the same place or pace – many start in high school, then move to a community college or apprenticeship. To account for this, NCCER’s training is modular by design. Many curriculum tracks are also tiered, with up to four levels of advancement. This system offers a straightforward and logical progression of training.

The module and level-based system also sets the foundation for NCCER’s portable credentials, which are awarded to trainees upon completion of educational benchmarks. These credentials allow an individual trainee’s progress to be tracked in NCCER’s Registry System.

This model allows for a more efficient and effective training process. One program can hand off someone’s training to their next program and pick up exactly where they left off. Construction employers also receive clear insight into potential hires to understand their training status and receive recommendations for ongoing education.

Returning to Career-Oriented Training

Reconnecting the talent pipeline from education to employment doesn’t require reinventing the wheel. Career Technical Education (CTE) systems such as NCCER are based on classic models of career-oriented training that have built nations throughout history.

State CTE Directors can get connected to NCCER to start implementing its comprehensive construction education system. Reach out to your state’s designated workforce development representative or Pearson executive director to learn more about NCCER. 

With the right focus and mentality, the American education system can once again be fully in sync with the needs of the economy and hiring companies across all trade sectors. 

Jonathan Arnholz, Digital Communications Manager, National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER)

jarnholz@nccer.org

Advance CTE Fall Meeting Sponsor Blog: Diamond Sponsor, SME – Manufacturing CTE’s Role in Job Creation

October 11th, 2022

In the next decade, job seekers in manufacturing will find plenty of openings. It’s projected that nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled in the next 10 years.  The challenge, however, is that there aren’t enough qualified workers to fill the positions. An aging workforce, changing technologies, and misperceptions about the industry all contribute to the shortage. This has serious consequences for the manufacturing industry, which is overwhelmingly not prepared. In fact, nearly nine out of 10 manufacturers say that their company is having problems finding skilled workers in manufacturing. 

When it comes to filling this pipeline of manufacturing talent, state Career Technical Education (CTE) leaders play an essential role in developing the next generation. 

It is important for industry and education to partner together to bring industry-relevant knowledge and skills to the classroom.  Aside from learners, manufacturers are the most important customers of CTE programs, and programs should be aligned with the skills manufacturers need and want.  

It’s critical to embed manufacturers into the education process to ensure the curriculum and equipment aligns with their needs, asking questions such as: What is the market need? Which positions need to be filled? Which machines are you using? Which skills do you require? Which type of training programs do you use? Which certifications do you need?

Matching your state’s programs to local industry needs will ensure well-trained learners from your schools are in demand.  Moreover, it can also lead to other opportunities like on-site tours, mentoring, equipment donations, internships, jobs, and even funding. 

Organizations like the SME Education Foundation can be valuable partners in such a process.  The Foundation’s SME PRIME® program is predicated on partnering private industry with academia to build transformational hands-on manufacturing education experiences.  Informed by private industry, SME PRIME builds customized manufacturing and engineering programs in high schools across the country, providing equipment, curriculum, professional development, scholarships and STEM-focused extra-curricular activities to learners and teachers. 

Last year, the SME Education Foundation partnered with the Michigan Department of Education to introduce SME PRIME to 16 high schools across the state, engaging 150 manufacturers in the process.  Nationwide, SME PRIME® provides manufacturing and engineering education to more than 81 schools in 22 states, and 89 percent of graduates pursue manufacturing post-graduation. To learn more about SME PRIME®, click here.

The bottom line is that by working together, manufacturers and CTE leaders can move forward together and create limitless opportunities for a generation of learners. 

Rob Luce, Vice President SME Education FoundationSME

New Skills ready network Site Highlight: Cultivating Strong State-Local Partnerships in Indianapolis, Indiana

October 4th, 2022

This post is part of a blog series highlighting promising practices from the New Skills ready network, an initiative of JPMorgan Chase & Co. For more information about the initiative, please see the bottom of this post.

For this post, Senior Policy Associate Dan Hinderliter interviewed Indiana State CTE Director Anthony Harl and Ascend Indiana Vice President and Co-founder Stephanie Bothun about driving intentional connections between state and local partners. In Indiana, the Office of Career and Technical Education (CTE) is embedded in the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet (GWC), which serves as the state’s workforce board. Ascend Indiana (Ascend) is an initiative of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership and acts as a non-profit talent and workforce development intermediary connecting education and industry.

Building Systems Around Common Goals

One major component of the New Skills ready network is a focus on systems-level change involving a variety of stakeholders at both the state and local levels. The Office of CTE in Indiana naturally sits at the intersection of education and work, but the creation of the GWC in 2018 and the subsequent move of the Office of CTE underneath the umbrella of the GWC further allowed the Office of CTE to have a foot in the talent development space and a foot in education. This change spurred many of the partnership conversations that may not have sparked otherwise. The New Skills ready network subsequently sparked an official partnership between the Office of CTE and more local partners, like Ascend. 

While state-level initiatives were designed to be relatively independent, both the Indiana Office of CTE and Ascend were clear that participation in and development of these initiatives were about building a larger ecosystem to create linkages and build relationships that support young people on their education and career path. Though Ascend and the Office of CTE did not have an initial objective of an intentional partnership, they quickly connected over a shared understanding of a core mission – that all young people in Indiana, especially those from underrepresented and underserved populations, have access to the skills and pathways that allow them to get to postsecondary or in-demand training opportunities, ultimately as a route to the career they want.

Review of Indianapolis outcomes data revealed further CTE completion and postsecondary attainment gaps that disproportionately affect Latinx and Black learners, illustrating specific needs in the Indianapolis community that Bothun, Harl, and other New Skills ready network team members knew needed to be addressed.

This mutual touchstone allows for open and regular conversations that build between and across initiatives. In turn, this creates a connection, coordination, and cohesion between stakeholders working towards this similar goal and objective. Because partners are often the same on different state initiatives, conversations from one initiative carry across other conversations. The trust and goodwill built through collective work toward common goals allows each initiative and project to be successful as each partner recognizes the commitment each other partner has toward the overarching goal. 

“It’s about a web of connections and networking – a really passionate group of individuals that are all trying to, through their own little niche, just make things better for Indiana.” – Anthony Harl, State CTE Director, Indiana Governor’s Workforce Cabinet

Collaborative Problem-Solving 

Since this initial partnership developed through the New Skills ready network, Ascend and the Office of CTE have collaborated on quite a few other initiatives to solve specific problems connected to this core mission. Ascend  was already building out programs around modern youth apprenticeship; as a result of existing work and new relationships, Ascend was able to connect directly to statewide apprenticeship initiatives and help support whole-scale progress at the state level. Ascend also now helps organize and collaborate with the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet on a statewide youth apprenticeship community of practice, initiatives around career advising, and on federal Department of Labor grants. They have also previously collaborated on a state-wide subcommittee to provide recommendations to support work-based learning.

Both local and state leaders realize that while individual challenges of overhauling career pathways, improving equity in CTE programs, or creating statewide modern youth apprenticeship programs might be overwhelming, collaborations between partner levels allow teams to tackle issues collectively. As a naturally positioned convener of these groups, the Office of CTE can regularly help inform on who is best positioned to take on what work across the state. Because of their long-standing role in education and workforce development, the state can also provide historical context to many of the challenges, including what work has been tried before and what stakeholders had previously been consulted. The GWC also has a more comprehensive understanding of what work is in whose locus of control including what policy or funding levers can be activated or who can best be mobilized to take on specific workstreams and can provide insight into scalability and feasibility for larger scale initiatives. 

“We’ve rallied to this point in our community, we all know the problems are too big for anybody to solve individually. And it’s really been such a powerful motivator, I think for all of us to say, ‘What are all the ways we’re collectively tackling these issues, maybe from slightly different lenses?’” -Stephanie Bothun, Ascend Indiana

On the other hand, local groups like Ascend can provide specific insight into implementation, including what works well in a pilot, what specific resources might need to be developed or what unforeseen challenges are arising. This interplay allows for expanded collaboration around all areas and facilitates progress that would not otherwise have been possible independently.

Successful Strategies and Lessons Learned

As part of the conversation, Bothun and Harl shared a few key strategies for developing and maintaining the partnerships and communicated some takeaways for other states and local partners working to build better partnerships of their own:

  • While natural collaboration is possible, an initial spark is necessary. Federal law, like the Comprehensive Local Needs Assessment component of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), or grant-funded initiatives like the New Skills ready network require cross-level collaborations. It’s often these mandated conversations that provide the impetus for collaboration. As state leaders create programs or initiatives, building in components that require stakeholders to have regular, collective conversations can be the spark that an initiative needs to begin the partnership process.
  • Partnerships are relational, not transactional. Participating in these conversations and collaborations requires a recognition that one group is unable to do everything alone. This means showing up, participating, and demonstrating commitment to the work. Both Bothun and Harl reiterated that explicit and demonstrated investment of one’s time, energy and expertise indicates to other partners that a stakeholder is committed, which in turn brings others more wholly into the project.
  • Constant communication is key. Regular communication efforts not only help exhibit the commitment of a group to an initiative, but also help those stakeholders be proactive about upcoming work. Open communication channels can further be a way of remaining transparent about delays, removing surprises, or easing barriers to difficult to access information, like student data.
  • Partnership means a shared value add for both parties. In order for both partners to fully commit to the work, there must be a demonstrated value add, whether that’s pushing to bring a greater visibility to others work, aligning objectives on other projects, or even just challenging one’s thinking.

Dan Hinderliter, Senior Policy Associate

About the Blog Series

In 2020, JPMorgan Chase & Co. launched the New Skills ready network across six domestic sites to improve student completion of high-quality career pathways with a focus on collaboration and equity. As a national partner in the New Skills ready network, Advance CTE strives to elevate the role of state capacity and resources in advancing project priorities and gain a unique perspective on promising practices to strengthen state-local partnerships across the country. 

This blog post continues a series that highlights innovative tools and initiatives produced across Boston, Massachusetts; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Nashville, Tennessee, that advance the initiative’s four key priorities and serve as a guide for state leaders in their work to create cohesive, flexible and responsive career pathways. 

For more information about the New Skills ready network, please visit our Learning that Works Resource Center.

 

 

Workforce Development Month: A Spotlight on CTE’s Role In Building A Strong Workforce

September 29th, 2022

September is Workforce Development Month, a time for the nation to reflect on how workforce development programs provide Americans with the skills needed to obtain good jobs with family-sustaining wages. Career Technical Education (CTE) has been a hallmark of providing that skill training and workforce for learners of all ages for over a century. In observance of this month, and in alignment with the CTE Without Limits vision, this post highlights two strategies to establish shared, statewide goals for a cohesive career preparation ecosystem: 1) Establish clear career pathways and 2) Unify data systems.

Establishing Clear Career Pathways

From career days to summer youth employment programs, learners often have opportunities to engage in work-based learning and job exposure. But do these experiences lead to a meaningful exploration of potential careers? Establishing clear career pathways at a state level allows for CTE curriculum design to not only be uniform, but also intentional. That intention should not only take into account the specific skills needed to excel in a career pathway but also the removal of barriers to a learner’s success throughout their academic-to-career journey.

Elementary learners should have the opportunity to explore different careers through field trips and career days. Secondary and postsecondary learners should have work-based learning experiences, including internships and apprenticeships, that are not only academically aligned but aligned and documented as part of their individual learning plans. California’s Linked Learning Approach provides learners industry-based pathways that they can explore through college-aligned academics, work-based learning opportunities, CTE and comprehensive support which includes career counseling. A clear alignment of these experiences, including the ability to earn credit for prior learning, are the hallmarks of a strong career pathway and make for a more prepared workforce.

Unifying Goals and Data Systems

Creating a unified data system, and shared ownership among the parties involved, is important for the successful statewide implementation of CTE programs. Alabama, for instance, uses the SuccessPlus credential attainment goal which charges Alabama with adding 500,000 workforce-ready employees to the labor market by 2025. This goal was based on recommendations from an inter-agency working group led by the Alabama Workforce Council. This initiative shows the importance of postsecondary CTE data in statewide workforce development goals. However, it is important to also have inter-agency cooperation to build the data systems and routines that monitor program-level implementation of state goals. Through the Advancing Postsecondary CTE Data Quality Initiative (PDI), Florida is working to strengthen data aligned to its state goals by collecting new data on the postsecondary work-based learning opportunities that residents have access to.

Developing a skilled workforce is an ongoing commitment. By clearly defining the pathways to high-paying careers and making sure that data systems are aligned across agencies, state directors and CTE leaders can create an ecosystem that nurtures learners and creates a pipeline from the classroom to the boardroom.

If you are interested in learning more about the strategies highlighted, follow the links:

Brice Thomas, Policy Associate 

Vision Spotlight: Implementing CTE Without Limits at the Local Level

September 27th, 2022

In March 2021, Advance CTE released Without Limits: A Shared Vision for the Future of Career Technical Education (CTE Without Limits) to empower “leadership at all levels to reflect on, refine and even rebuild many of the systems and structures that are limiting learner success.” Later that year, we subsequently released Pushing the Limits: A Roadmap for Advancing CTE Without Limits to help leaders assess, prioritize and implement strategies for one or more vision principles.

One school district – Utah’s Davis School District (DSD), just north of Salt Lake City – has taken both CTE Without Limits and Pushing the Limits to heart. DSD is recognized across the state for strong pathway programs. After their Comprehensive Local Needs Assessment (CLNA) process revealed achievement and enrollment gaps for special populations in CTE, DSD administrators sought bold solutions and turned to CTE Without Limits as a framework to close these gaps. Leveraging these resources, DSD supported professional district training and strategic school plan development with the express purpose of increasing equitable enrollment in CTE programs districtwide. 

Implementing CTE Without Limits

Once DSD administration began conversations with educators and staff, they recognized the need to create schoolwide “Without Limits Teams,” comprised of a school administrator, special education staff, school counselors, and the school’s CTE coordinator. Last spring, school staff from each of the 25 DSD schools were each brought together in full day district-wide workshops structured on the five CTE Without Limits principles and designed using Advance CTE’s CTE Without Limits implementation assets. After the training, the teams were asked to create a Without Limits plan to implement these principles in their building; 19 of the 25 have already submitted their plans as a result of the training.

The plans were created using a district-wide rubric to help sharpen and focus action areas. Learner voice was also incorporated into the conversation, with the district conducting twelve focus groups with 54 students, asking similar questions as the workshops for district staff. The district also conducted pre- and post-surveys to help develop priorities for these action plans and help administrators learn where schools need the most support. 

Collaboration is Key

In a recent interview with Advance CTE staff, Davis School District CTE Supervisor Tim Peters and Without Limits Project Lead Melanie Allen reiterated the value that the collaborative nature of these Without Limits Teams has for CTE district-wide and with state and community partners. Because of the composition of the Without Limits Teams, the cross-departmental work has become a key strength of this initiative. The Layton High School team gave high praises to the Without Limits initiatives and said, “The impact of everyone being on the same page can’t be overestimated for the teachers and the students. We are already seeing growth in course requests for welding tech, accounting and computer programming.”  Local CTE Coordinator Kristen Davidson noted, “We’re having conversations now that we’ve never had before, and it’s changing the way we serve students.” 

Utah State CTE Director Thalea Longhurst is a strong supporter of DSD’s model. “Davis School District is leading our state in focusing on truly embedding CTE Without Limits in their daily work,” she shared. “Their work is led by strong leaders who understand the importance of collaborative conversations and truly using data-driven decision making to improve programs. They have shown that even small changes can be incredibly impactful while still considering and implementing larger systemic changes. Their work is exactly what we hope others will follow as we all strive to implement this vision for the future of CTE.”

Lessons Learned

After their first iteration of workshops, DSD shared a few lessons learned that they hope other Utah school districts or other districts nationwide consider before starting this work in earnest. 

  • Plans don’t have to make world-changing shifts. Instead, these workshops and subsequent action planning helped the district see the small, most impactful changes that could happen first while working toward larger systemic changes. 
  • Workshops also revealed the necessity of reviewing data as a part of the process. Because the district considered their data and opportunity gaps in conjunction with action planning, they could focus their efforts on learner populations that require the most support. 
  • A shared framework and regular collaborative conversations served as a forcing event to share important, consistent information with school educators and staff, disseminate resources, and provide updates about CTE programs. This allowed for opportunities to address myths about CTE programs and initiatives.

Next Steps

As a result of the workshops, plan feedback, and learner focus groups, the district is working on a toolkit to support the school plan action steps. DSD administrators also hope to make this an iterative process, conducting ongoing training and coaching to help their Without Limits Teams revise and refocus their plans on a yearly basis. 

For more information about CTE Without Limits as well as communication and implementation resources, please visit the CTE Without Limits page on our website.

Learn more about Career Technical Education at Davis School District in Farmington, UT.

Dan Hinderliter, Senior Policy Associate 

 

 

 

 

Research Round-up: Addressing Stop-Out to Reengage Students and Increase Credit Completion 

September 27th, 2022

Advance CTE’s “Research Round-Up” blog series features summaries of relevant research reports and studies to elevate evidence-backed Career Technical Educational (CTE) policies and practices and topics related to college and career readiness. This month’s topic, Addressing Student Stop-Out, supports a vision for the future of CTE where statewide systems and supports are in place for each learner to feel welcome in, supported by and prepared to succeed in the career preparation ecosystem, and identifies some effective strategies for supporting learners to increase postsecondary retention and completion.

Defining “Stop-Out” and Learner Demographics

“Stopped out” students are those adult learners with some college experience but no credentials. 

According to a recent National Student Clearing House report, approximately 39 million individuals in the United States qualify as having Some College, but No Credentials (SCNC). Unfortunately, this often leaves learners with the debt of attending a postsecondary institution or program without any benefits from earning a credential.

Based on 2020 National Student Clearinghouse data, learners enrolled full-time achieved a retention rate of 59.5 percent and a persistence rate of 68.7 percent. Those metrics, however, were significantly lower for part-time learners, at 42.3 percent and 49.3 percent respectively.

Retention is defined in this report as the continued enrollment  (or degree completion within the same higher education institution in the fall terms of a learner’s first and second year. Persistence is defined in this report as the continued enrollment (or degree completion)  at any higher education institution– including one different from the institution of the learner’s initial enrollment– in the fall terms of their first and second year.

Who is the most vulnerable to stopping out? Data trends from the National Student Clearinghouse show that racial and ethnic minorities are overrepresented among SCNC learners. Based on a subset of the 39 million SCNC students who entered college in 2013 or later, this report found that Black and Latinx SCNC students collectively made up 42.8 percent, compared to 34.3 percent of undergraduates. 

Source:  (National Student Clearinghouse 2022) 

Wraparound Services and Other Supports to Address Student Stop-Out

Persevering to Completion, a report published in collaboration with the Lumina Foundation and Higher Ed Insight (HEI), uses survey data to understand better the experiences of SCNC learners and the supports that helped them return to college.

For this study, HEI surveyed students from a cohort identified by the National Student Clearinghouse as having stopped out and then returned to college between 2013 and the end of 2018. In 2021, HEI surveyed a subgroup of these students to learn more about whether they’d completed a credential in the interim, what their reasons were for re-enrolling, and what happened when they re-enrolled. 

Among the key findings:

  • Students reenrolled for personal and professional reasons;
  • Financial barriers were significant factors for students completing their credentials; 
  • Flexible institutional supports like academic counseling, opportunities for credit transfer and a rolling admissions process had an impact on adult learners; and 
  • Key supports related to the timing and delivery of courses included the availability of online and/or hybrid courses, classes that were offered frequently, and convenient class times.

Factors that respondents identified as helping to facilitate their return to college included:

  • Proactive outreach by postsecondary institutions to their stop-outs and other adults who are researching degree programs; 
  • Messaging focused on the needs of returning adult students, particularly regarding the cost and time required to complete a credential;
  • Access to easily navigable admissions and degree program information; and 
  • Readily available assistance to answer questions and support returning students through the process of re-enrolling. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

State CTE leaders can lead on this issue by taking a supporting postsecondary leaders in systemic evalutions of current supports for stopped out learners to facilitate their re-enrollment. Additional resources about the strategies to equitable support postsecondary learners can be found in the Learning that Works Resource Center.

Amy Hodge, Policy Associate 

Welcome Kevin O’Farrell as the New State CTE Director in Florida!

August 9th, 2022

The Florida Department of Education recently named Kevin O’Farrell as its new Chancellor of Career and Technical Education (CTE). He brings a wealth of experience from the higher education and postsecondary sector, which will illuminate his new strategy for CTE in the Sunshine State. 

Kevin’s work in education has ranged from being an instructor in political science to serving as provost at Pasco-Hernando State College, Porter Campus. He spent many years designing curricula, with particularly close work with health science. The arts were also on his priority list, and he led the creation of a new instructional performing arts center that offered programs beyond stagecraft, including theater technical arts. 

Florida has set the bold goal to be the top state for workforce education by 2030 – and Kevin is all in on this goal! He notes the state’s great potential, illustrated by the fact that Florida is the fifteenth-largest economy in the world. He plans to focus on workforce partnerships, with special attention to improving the entire pipeline of talent, including adult education and apprenticeships. He also has his eyes on the teacher pipeline shortage in his state, and notes that as a major challenge he wants to overcome. “CTE shouldn’t be an afterthought,” Kevin said, “It should be at the forefront.”

Kevin is excited by CTE because of the “multi-faceted benefits, in terms of earning potential and career exploration,” which he said he and his classmates weren’t exposed to in high school. That’s part of his overall belief that schools need to introduce the concept of CTE earlier in the educational system. And the benefits, he said, will expand beyond individual classrooms and learners: CTE can be the cornerstone of building stronger communities. 

Summarizing his approach, Kevin said, “I want to learn as much as I can, and do as much good as I can.”

Kevin earned a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University of South Florida, a Master of Arts in political science and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Central Florida, and a Bachelor of Science in interpersonal and organizational communication from Toccoa Falls College, GA. Today, Kevin is married with three children between the ages of two and six, is an avid fan of ancient Egyptian history, and participates regularly in tennis and running. Welcome to Advance CTE, Kevin!

Steve McFarland, Director of Communications and Membership

New Skills ready network Site Highlight: The Attainment Network Seeks to Scale Impact in Denver Statewide

August 2nd, 2022

In 2020, JPMorgan Chase & Co. launched the New Skills ready network across six U.S. sites to improve student completion of high-quality career pathways with a focus on collaboration and equity. As a national partner in the New Skills ready network, Advance CTE strives to elevate the role of state capacity and resources in advancing project priorities and gain a unique perspective on promising practices to strengthen state-local partnerships across the country.

This blog series highlights innovative tools and initiatives produced across the six sites that advance the initiative’s four key priorities and serve as a guide for state leaders in their work to create cohesive, flexible and responsive career pathways.

Senior Policy Associate Haley Wing interviewed Rana Tarkenton and Therese Ivancovich of The Attainment Network. The Attainment Network connects partners and drives collaboration to build education-to-workforce systems that support every learner on their path to earning family-living wage employment and economic opportunities through education and skills training. This post highlights The Attainment Network’s contributions to the Denver site as well as their growing impact in the state of Colorado.

 

 

 

 

Background

The Attainment Network, formerly known as Denver Education Attainment Network (DEAN), was founded in 2014 as a direct response to persistent equity gaps in educational attainment and economic opportunity. The Attainment Network is transforming education-to-workforce systems, erasing persistent and pervasive equity gaps, expanding opportunities for learners and meeting the economic demands for a highly skilled and educated workforce.

The Network mobilizes K-12, postsecondary institutions, state agencies, local municipalities, nonprofit, business and learners to ignite and accelerate education-to-workforce systems change.  The Network serves a crucial role in providing strategic consulting, technical assistance, funding and connection to ensure a prioritized and sustained focus on learner-centered, career-connected experiences that strengthen regional and state talent pipelines. The Attainment Network also serves as the site lead for the New Skills ready network Denver site and has supported development and movement toward implementation of high-quality career pathways for learners. 

Vision for Success

The Attainment Network envisions an innovative education-to-workforce system that develops a diverse, talented workforce for current and future jobs, meets economic demands and sustains thriving communities. As The Network pursues this vision, their measure of success encompasses key evaluation questions embedded in equitable outcomes for learners. This includes measuring the number of diverse learners completing high-value credentials and receiving opportunities for high-wage, in-demand careers.

In support of their work to close equity gaps along career-connected pathways, The Attainment Network engages deeply with communities they serve. The team recognizes the importance and impact of learner and community voice. To that end, they have prioritized community engagement in the development of career-connected pathways, both within the New Skills work and beyond.

Unique Components of The Attainment Network

The team identified a need to provide high-level strategy, on-the-ground technical assistance and funding to support partners that are engaging in the education-to-workforce work. The team is especially well-equipped to leverage data, equity and collaboration to guide partners in informing policy and communications. When engaging with partners, The Attainment Network identifies and engages senior leadership and helps to set a shared vision for how multiple organizations work together. The organization also supports education and skills alignment by helping partners to identify the connecting points between education and skills training and how these components can be built into seamless programs of study and coordinated learner supports. 

The Attainment Network is leaning strongly into the learner voice and ensuring that learners are remaining centered in the work. The organization has launched a side-by-side community of practice of learners, as well as their Pathways Leadership Community of Practice. The organization will continue to add more learners to this group over time and in the next few months will have five to seven learners participating in this group. The problems of practice are driven by the needs of learners that arise in the community of practice, and learners will provide their own contemplation and feedback that will then be shared to inform decisions around policies and how programs move forward.

Within their communities of practice, The Attainment Network engages multiple types of organizations, both formal and informal partners, to elevate best practices in career-connected pathways and to problem solve for barriers to learner success. 

The Network prioritizes equity through their use of a data framework which also serves as an equity framework. The data framework was developed in collaboration with New Skills Denver partners and focuses specifically on learner subgroup populations and how those learners are progressing through pathways and into a career. These specific details allow the organization  to target strategies and solutions to close equity gaps. This work is currently being used in the Denver site for the New Skills ready network initiative and in other communities in Colorado as well.

The Attainment Network is also elevating work-based learning as an accelerator to help learners on their career journey. The organization’s investments in data with intentionality around how they work with partners to build capacity and alignment has been instrumental in the team’s learnings. For example, The Network now requires data-sharing agreements as a funding condition for all partnerships. 

New Skills ready network Impact

The success of the New Skills Denver partnership led to an opportunity to expand The Attainment Network’s impact beyond Denver. With its recent expansion to a statewide organization, The Attainment Network now has more resources to support the Denver New Skills ready network site because the organization has a statewide network and a larger footprint in the state of Colorado. The transition brings more focus to the New Skills site to further highlight important relationships and varied strategies the organization and its partners are leveraging in continuous development of high-quality career pathways for learners. 

The site’s success has allowed The Attainment Network to refine their strategies and highlight the impact of the organization’s approach and pathway strategy to expand to other communities. The investment from JPMorgan Chase in the New Skills ready network initiative helps solidify the value-add with partners and scale the framework to support broader work in the state of Colorado. In the coming years, the organization will help the Denver site to expand their reach by lifting up the work that is being achieved and eliminating policy barriers to learner success.

Visions for the Future

Looking ahead to 2023, The Attainment Network is focusing on streamlining data collection and utilization, building models that can be successfully replicated and leveraging statewide collaboration opportunities to scale impact. The Network is focusing on connecting career pathways data to wage data in order to understand how education and skills training are contributing to the promise of family living wage employment. As the organization expands to a replicable model, a cornerstone of the work will be centering alignment between policy and practice. The transition to a statewide focus opens opportunities to cross-pollinate ideas from Denver to other communities.

Additionally, The Attainment Network is entering phase two of  their Individual Career and Academic Plan (ICAP) pilot, which demonstrated the value of K-12 ICAP data to learners and advisors during learners’ transition to postsecondary. The pilot will now be named the Student Transitions pilot. In phase one, the pilot was well-received by partners and the organization learned the usefulness of the data and the impact on the postsecondary advising sessions with learners. In phase two, the focus will be on scalability, streamlining the data sharing process and developing a “pathways indicator” to be included in student records. The organization plans to include opportunities for counselor/advisor professional development to increase the impact of the pilot across K-12 and postsecondary institutions.

For more information about initiatives being pursued by Denver and the five other sites that are part of the New Skills ready network, view Advance CTE’s Year Two snapshots.

Haley Wing, Senior Policy Associate 

Welcome Suela Cela to Advance CTE!

July 7th, 2022

Hello! My name is Suela Cela and I am excited to be joining Advance CTE as Senior Policy Associate. In this role, I will be supporting Advance CTE in various projects to advance equity and access in Career Technical Education (CTE), including the Opportunity Gap Analysis workshop and pilot, the College in the High School Alliance partnership and launching an initiative focused on the use of stimulus funds for CTE. 

I am originally from Albania and moved to the United State as an exchange student in high school in the beautiful state of Montana. I have earned a Bachelors in Business Administration and a Masters in Public Administration. I have over ten years of experience working in post secondary education within areas of enrollment management, academic affairs for both transfer and CTE, and accreditation. I have led and supported many initiatives and projects to best support learners to achieve their educational goals. My favorite initiative was launching a concurrent enrollment program, providing access to high school students to take courses for college credit. Through this program, many learners were able to explore college courses and get a head start on the college experience. 

This past year, I had the opportunity to work with the National Alliance for Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP) in supporting select states in advancing policies to expand access to higher education for historically marginalized learners, particularly learners experiencing low income. 

In my personal time, I love to spend time outdoors, read autobiographies and travel. My husband and I have visited over 20 countries together, and I have visited 27 countries. 

Suela Cela, Senior Policy Associate 

 

 

 

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