Getting to Know Advance CTE and Early Postsecondary Opportunities

June 17th, 2021

The “Getting to Know” blog series will feature the work of State CTE Directors, state and federal policies, innovative programs and new initiatives from the Advance CTE staff. Learn more about each one of these topics and the unique contributions to advancing Career Technical Education (CTE) that Advance CTE’s members work on every day.

Meet Christina Koch! Christina serves in the role of Policy Associate for Advance CTE. Christina works on projects related to state policy, including the New Skills ready network, initiatives related to Without Limits: A Shared Vision for the Future of Career Technical Education (CTE Without Limits) and supports Advance CTE’s equity initiatives, which currently includes the CTE Learner Voice Shared Solutions Workgroup.

Q: This month, we are sharing resources and best practices for states engaging in Early Postsecondary Opportunities (EPSOs) for learners. How do you define EPSOs? 

A: EPSOs include dual enrollment, dual credit, concurrent enrollment and other related opportunities. I would define them as opportunities designed to give each learner a head start on college courses while still in high school to make postsecondary credential and degree attainment easier and more affordable.

Q: How does the shared vision for CTE call for states to create opportunities for each learner to have access to equitable EPSOs?

A: Many aspects of CTE Without Limits focus on removing barriers for learners to reach success in the career of their choice. For example, Principle 2: Each learner feels welcome in, is supported by and has the means to succeed in the career preparation ecosystem, calls for all learners to have equitable access to opportunities so that they can be successful in their career pathways. Increasing equitable access to EPSOs could include making postsecondary credit free to learners and removing grade point average requirements. On the local level, it also means doing targeted outreach to learners from special populations to ensure they are made aware of these opportunities and understand the potential benefits of getting a head start on college courses.

Principle 4 of CTE Without Limits: Each learner’s skills are counted, valued and portable also touches on an important part of ideal ESPOs, in that the credit earned by learners is portable and counted toward their chosen career pathway. It is important that states ensure there are EPSOs available for learners within every career pathway and that credit is easily transferable among public postsecondary institutions. 

Q: How are sites that make up the New Skills ready network leading in providing EPSOs? 

A: Ensuring that EPSOs are available within every career pathway is definitely a topic of interest among the New Skills ready network sites and some already have really strong initiatives in their states. For example, Nashville, Tennessee is one of the sites in the New Skills ready network and has been expanding their EPSO program for nearly a decade. The state identified EPSOs as one of the most significant ways in which high schools across the state could help prepare learners for postsecondary success and began developing a portfolio of EPSOs. As part of the portfolio approach, all high schools must offer two or more types of EPSOs to ensure that the opportunities are accessible to all high school learners. 

Q: Are learners interested in EPSOs? How can states communicate the benefits of EPSOs to increase learner interest? 

A: Recent communications research revealed that more than 80 percent of families involved in CTE were satisfied with opportunities to earn college credit and take advanced classes compared to 60 percent or less of families not involved in CTE. 

Learners are interested in EPSOs but the challenge is that many do not know that these opportunities are available to them or how to navigate the process of earning postsecondary credit that would be useful to them in their education and career pathway. 

New tools and messaging resources are available to help states and local CTE leaders communicate the benefits of EPSOs for secondary learners and recruit families.


Brittany Cannady, Senior Associate Digital Media 

This Week in CTE

May 22nd, 2021

Developed with input from nearly 200 national, state and local education and workforce development leaders and supported by 40 national organizations, Without Limits: A Shared Vision for the Future of Career Technical Education lays out five inter-connected and equally critical principles.

Only through shared commitment and shared ownership among leaders and practitioners at all levels can we realize the possibility and aspiration of a new career preparation ecosystem that provides each learner with limitless opportunity. The This Week in CTE blog series will highlight state and local examples where CTE Without Limits has been made actionable. If you would like to share how your Career Technical Education (CTE) program creates limitless opportunities for each learner in this blog series, please email Brittany Cannady,


This Week in CTE: May 17-21, 2021


Each learner engages in a cohesive, flexible and responsive career preparation ecosystem

“Tennessee is investing $30 million to encourage school districts to reimagine the possible and create innovative, high-impact high school experiences for all students by developing strategic partnerships with business and industry in their local community,” said Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn.

21 school districts in Tennessee will receive grants for the new Innovative High School Models program. The goal of this new program is to intentionally connect Tennessee public school districts, postsecondary institutions and local employers to work together and create  a career preparation ecosystem for each learner. 

This grant program is funded with federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) stimulus funding. 


Each learner feels welcome in, is supported by and has the means to succeed in the career preparation ecosystem

Congratulations to the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA) 2021 grant recipients! Advance CTE is proud to be a PAYA National Partner and excited to watch the grantees launch opportunities that build more inclusive local and regional economies.

Youth apprenticeships will be an extremely important strategy in ensuring each learner has the skills and supports needed to succeed in the career preparation ecosystem and the career of their choice. Not only do they provide opportunities for young people to access affordable postsecondary credentials, they also allow employers to tap into a rising generation of talent. The 17 PAYA grantees will expand their programs over the next 18 months as they develop ambitious strategies, accelerate implementation and connect with partners to expand and strengthen the field of youth apprenticeship.

Advance CTE recently published the first blog in a series in partnership with New America through the PAYA network. The blog series will highlight how the PAYA sites are using data to improve youth apprenticeship quality and equity. 


Each learner skillfully navigates their own career journey

Culper Technical Education Center (CTEC) in Virginia has an intentional focus on preparing each learner for their future careers through hands-on instruction and authentic workplace experiences. Learners enrolled as a CTEC student commute from their home school to participate in CTE programs, on-site, for half of their school day.

This week, we congratulate learners who have made the decision to begin the next step in their career journey at CTEC! 


Each learner’s skills are counted, valued, and portable

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education announced the 57th class of U.S. Presidential scholars. This week we continue to celebrate the accomplishments of those receiving this honor, particularly the 20 U.S. Presidential Scholar in Career Technical Education. 

This year, Raymond A. Slifer of Quakertown Senior High School became Pennsylvania’s first-ever CTE student to receive the award.

“I am proud of Raymond for becoming Pennsylvania’s first U.S. Presidential Scholar in Career and Technical Education since the inclusion of CTE in the Presidential Scholars program in 2015,” said PDE’s Director of the Bureau of Career and Technical Education Lee Burket. 

“Raymond demonstrated his academic accomplishments, ingenuity, and problem-solving, and is being recognized at the national level. I congratulate him for being an outstanding student who demonstrates excellence in CTE.”


Each learner can access CTE without borders

Four mentoring programs based in California, Iowa, Massachusetts and Minnesota have been an asset for learners amidst barriers presented by the pandemic. Regardless of social distancing guidelines and mandates, virtual mentoring opportunities still provided learners with access to networking, financial literacy, training for workplace skills and more. 

This article published by The 74  shares more about how youth across borders, particularly those from historically marginalized communities, were able to connect to adult mentors during the pandemic through the networks provided by these programs.

Brittany Cannady, Senior Associate Digital Media  

This Week in CTE

May 15th, 2021

Developed with input from nearly 200 national, state and local education and workforce development leaders and supported by 40 national organizations, Without Limits: A Shared Vision for the Future of Career Technical Education lays out five inter-connected and equally critical principles.

Only through shared commitment and shared ownership among leaders and practitioners at all levels can we realize the possibility and aspiration of a new career preparation ecosystem that provides each learner with limitless opportunity. The This Week in CTE blog series will highlight state and local examples where CTE Without Limits has been made actionable. If you would like to share how your CTE program creates limitless opportunities for each learner in this blog series, please email Brittany Cannady,


This Week in CTE: May 10 – 14, 2021


Each learner engages in a cohesive, flexible, and responsive career preparation ecosystem

This week we extend congratulations to the 57th class of U.S. Presidential Scholars! Of the 161 high school seniors selected, 20 outstanding learners from CTE programs have been awarded this honor for their accomplishments. The 2021 class of U.S. Presidential Scholars in CTE represent the following states: Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

A full press release can be found here

Each learner feels welcome in, is supported by, and has the means to succeed in the career preparation ecosystem

This week career tech centers in Ohio received a visit from Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted, who serves as the Director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation. During the site visits, learners shared reasons for participating in career pathways and early postsecondary opportunities (EPSOs). 

Reflecting on his visits Lt. Gov. Husted stated, “We have to have more students who are taking their career seriously at an earlier age, gaining some real world experience, preparing for work, earning college credits without having to run a bunch of debt, and make the education affordable and effective.”

Read more from learners and about the career tech site visits in this article published by Dayton Daily News.

Each learner skillfully navigates their own career journey

“Some students are already working in the field part time…students who are skilled in masonry will always be able to find work because of demand.”- Holly Pore, District Career Technical Education Director, Rowan-Salisbury Schools.

North Carolina CTE students competed this past week at Skills Rowan, a skills-based competition where Rowan-Salisbury schools showcase their industry skills. Despite the challenges due to the pandemic in hosting a competition that mimics years past, students were still able to feel value from competing and receiving the opportunity to be the true navigator of their career journey. 

Read more in this article published by the Salisbury Post.

Each learner’s skills are counted, valued, and portable

Advance CTE’s newly released communications research indicates that learners who participate in CTE are more prepared for and more likely to plan to complete college. When states build more cohesive systems where early EPSOs such as dual enrollment are fully counted, valued and portable, learners have more equitable paths to college and career success.

Intentional Acts of Dual Enrollment: State Strategies for Scaling Early Postsecondary Opportunities in Career Pathways provides the following four key strategies to achieve this goal and highlights effective programs in Ohio, Tennessee and Utah

  • Advancing buy-in and systems alignment through institutional partnerships; 
  • Building robust and streamlined state policy that builds EPSOs into career pathways;
  • Funding EPSOs on the margins through state incentives to remove financial barriers for learners; and
  • Prioritizing equity and removing burdensome admissions and administrative barriers to participation. 

View this brief and other New Skills ready network resources here.

Each learner can access CTE without borders

Learners with a career interest in agriculture can register to attend a free virtual internship experience with industry professionals. Do you need career experiences for students despite the pandemic? Attendees will learn:

  • How to pursue jobs in agriculture and more;
  • How to sustainably source and deliver a variety of meat and seafood to peoples’ homes; and
  • How to add seaweed to cattle’s diet to reduce methane emissions.

Educators should attend with learners to explore agricultural jobs and practice asking questions live!
Date: Thursday, May 20
Time: 12:30 pm ET/9:30 am PT.

Register here.

Brittany Cannady, Senior Associate Digital Media

Staff Reflections from 2021 Spring Meeting Part 1: Advancing CTE Without Limits

April 22nd, 2021

It was so exciting to kick off this year’s Spring Meeting – after not having a full Advance CTE meeting in almost two years! – with sessions on Advance CTE’s new vision, Without Limits: A Shared Vision for the Future of Career Technical Education. The opening session helped set the stage for the rest of the meeting, with its focus on equity, innovation and skills, while remaining anchored in what learners most need for success. The themes were present and prominent in the two days of the meeting as our members reset, reconnected and reimagined CTE.

Hearing from members of Advance CTE Board of Directors on what the vision and its principles mean to them was so inspiring, as was seeing all of the ideas and enthusiasm from members in the chat.

Among my favorite sessions were the “Turning the New CTE Vision into Action” breakout sessions. Organized around the five principles in the new CTE vision and led by the five regional representatives on the Advance CTE Board of Directors, these sessions gave participants the opportunity to learn more about the vision and begin to identify strategies for implementing the vision at the national, state and local levels.  Across these five breakouts, some major themes emerged:

  • The need for more regional and cross-state collaboration to expand access and innovation.
  • Investments need to be made in resources, professional development and other supports that promote equity and inclusion.
  • The importance of data – in telling the CTE story, identifying and closing equity gaps and empowering learners.
  • The need for buy-in across and within states to continue to advance this vision.

To help build awareness within our members and the broader community around CTE Without Limits, Advance CTE has already developed and shared a promotional toolkit, short thought pieces that elevate certain stakeholders’ roles in advancing the vision, and a one-minute video that provides a brief overview of the vision.

Looking ahead, Advance CTE will:

  • Share a “session in a box” to help members present the vision at upcoming events and meetings
  • Launch a blog series, elevating the work of vision supporters, a lunch and learn series focused on the vision, and a member kitchen cabinet to advise Advance CTE on how best to support members
  • Release the first part of a vision roadmap to unpack the vision and identify critical early steps to begin implementation, which will be accompanied by a repository of national initiatives and investments aligned with the vision.

Stay tuned for more resources and supports coming your way soon!

Kate Kreamer, Deputy Executive Director

A Center for Career & Technical Education for Kansas and Beyond

April 20th, 2021

Fifteen years ago, Dr. Greg Belcher and Dr. Julie Dainty were pondering the question, “If we had unlimited resources to help Career Technical Education (CTE) teachers in Kansas, what would we do?” That daydream led to a conversation with the President of Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas, and in 2014, they opened the Kansas Center for Career & Technical Education (KCCTE). The Center is supported by a $1 million continual enhancement from the Kansas state budget each year.

For states or institutions looking to build a pipeline and otherwise support qualified CTE educators who are skilled in the newest technology and teaching effective lessons in their classrooms, the KCCTE is a model. However, KCCTE isn’t only for Kansas instructors. In fact, the Resource Portal has seen users from 48 states and more than 20,000 curricular downloads since the inception of the center.

The KCCTE exists to fulfill four central missions:

First, they host workshops for educators to ensure their technical skills are cutting-edge. These workshops are especially helpful for educators who have left jobs in their industry to go into teaching and may need more experience with the newest technology; or for educators who are new to teaching a certain subject matter and need to focus on learning the technology. KCCTE aims to keep workshop costs low, knowing that local districts may not have funding for professional development.

KCCTE provides ready-made materials through the maintenance of an online resource library. This portal includes turnkey lesson plans for at least 60 courses, many of which fit into multiple pathways. KCCTE hired professionals to write these curricula and engaged reviewers before the content was uploaded to the library. Individuals are also able to upload their own resources which allows for greater collaboration and helps educators focus more on teaching skills instead of designing lesson plans. The best part? This library is accessible to all CTE educators (not just educators in Kansas) so long as they create an account.

The third cornerstone of their program is connecting new CTE educators to an experienced mentor network. The Center’s 57 mentors are nominated by school districts across the state and represent diverse content areas and experiences, which allows them to provide rich guidance to their mentees. Over 100 individuals have been matched with a mentor and participate in an online forum to share best practices and build community with other new educators. The mentorship program has received funding through a The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) grant.

Finally, KCCTE offers Technical Teacher Education coursework via the Technical Teacher Education program at Pittsburg State University to ensure that graduates of the program are prepared to be competent CTE educators. This is an online program which makes it accessible to individuals to seek degrees in Career and Technical Education at the Associate, Bachelor and Masters levels. The teacher education program enrolls students from multiple states.

When asked what advice he would give to a team looking to start their own Center, Dr. Belcher praised the work of the Center’s staff, who coordinate workshops, review resources and market the Center across the state and beyond. He advises planning a budget that will support qualified personnel, as capable staff continue to be critical to the Kansas Center for CTE’s success.

You can explore the Center here:


A Decade of Visions for Career Technical Education and Why it is Time for CTE Without Limits

March 5th, 2021

Advance CTE is looking forward to releasing Without Limits: A Shared Vision for the Future of Career Technical Education, a new vision supported by 38 national organizations that pushes Career Technical Education (CTE) to its full potential by dismantling systems that silo stakeholders and perpetuate inequalities so that each learner has access to and the means to be successful in the career of their choice. 

This shared vision is the culmination of over a decade of efforts by our organization and our members to better connect systems of learning and work to advance learner success. CTE Without Limits takes that work to the next level by providing a framework for system-wide transformations that have held CTE in providing high-quality and equitable experiences to each learner regardless of their background or where they live.

A Decade of Visions for the Future of CTE

 In 2010, Advance CTE released Reflect, Transform, Lead: A New Vision for CTE. This vision emerged from the economic crisis of the late 2000s and strived to place CTE at the forefront of preparing learners and workers with the skills to achieve sustainable careers in a global economy. This vision focused on achieving excellence in program quality through improving program alignment with the National Career Clusters® Framework, increasing industry participation in program development, developing national programs and assessments to increase skill portability and connecting data systems across learning and work to identify and elevate high-quality CTE programs.

Successful initiatives related to this vision include: 

  • Creation of the Common Core Technical Core, a consistent set of CTE program quality standards based on input from 42 states, the District of Columbia and Palau; 
  • Launch of the CTE: Learning that works for America®  campaign to provide states dynamic and uniform branding for CTE that is still widely used today across the country; 
  • Leading federal policy efforts to preserve Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) funding and prioritize individualized learner success plans                                                        

In 2016, Advance CTE and 11 supporting organizations released Putting Learner Success First: A Shared Vision for the Future of CTE. This vision elevated the emphasis on creating learner-centered and learner-supported systems and introduced the need for a shared commitment among CTE stakeholders to advance program quality and system alignment across each learner’s journey. 

This vision also shifted its focus from national initiatives to improving state systems to fully serve learners and position them for potential scaling. Significant new action areas included the development of an integrated career advisement system, expanding work-based learning for all learners, removing barriers to recruitment and retention of quality instructors and enhancing accountability measures in federal and state policy across programs where learning and work intersect. 

One of the most important accomplishments of this vision was the reauthorization of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V). The updated legislation successfully included elements to build learner-centered systems, including streamlined performance targets and program quality measures to better define and track learner success; an increase in the reserve fund set-aside to encourage innovation and flexibility; and the creation of a new comprehensive local needs assessment that compels state CTE leaders to conduct regular, collaborative evaluation of program and learner needs.

The Need for a New Vision for CTE 

The national crises of the past year has brought to the forefront issues that have held learners and workers back for too long. Our new vision, CTE Without Limits, will be released next week and is inspired by the ideas of more than 200 CTE leaders and partners that participated at our CTE Forward Summit in Fall 2020. 

This vision names solutions that not only bring together actors across K-12 and postsecondary education, workforce development and business and industry, but also lay the groundwork for CTE to lead in addressing the most pressing issues facing learning and work as a whole, including breaking silos among systems; dismantling barriers that perpetuate racism and inequalities that inhibit learner success; and empowering the individual to contribute to and direct their path to career success. We are most proud that this vision takes a much-needed step in prioritizing equity not only as a principle, but also as a theme that unites all five vision principles and action areas. 

Take the first step to bring this new vision to life – register to join us on March 18 at 2:00 pm ET to celebrate CTE Without Limits virtually featuring Sara Allan, Director of Early Learning and Education Pathways at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Adrienne Battle, director of the Metro Nashville Public Schools, Emily Fabiano, Director of Strategy and Operations, Ohio Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation, and Dr. Nicole Smith, Chief Economist, Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

We hope to see you there! 

Stacy Whitehouse, Senior Associate Communications and State Engagement