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

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 

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