Vlog: Opportunity America on Leveraging Non-degree Programs During Workforce Development

November 17th, 2021

Opportunity America in partnership with Lumina Foundation and Wilder Research set out to explore the role of community colleges in providing job-focused education and training in their new community college study, The Indispensable Institution. Opportunity America is a Washington think tank and policy shop promoting economic mobility – work, skills, careers, ownership and entrepreneurship for poor and working Americans. 

Advance CTE’s newest video blog features Tamar Jacoby, President of Opportunity America, as we discuss the report and in particular delve into the study’s exploration of the potential of non-degree programs to serve the needs of a national workforce realignment.  

Our conversation focuses on the profile of a non-degree learner and the next steps for state leaders in greater utilization of non-degree programs, particularly in the areas of funding, data, and industry alignment.

The study reinforces that significant work ahead for the attainments of non-credit learners be fully counted by institutions in degree and non-degree pathways, as well as a high need for data infrastructure that fully documents participation in and outcomes of non-degree learners. The good news is that this study indicates non-credits learners are strongly aligned to job-focused programs, and there is great potential to strengthen and align these programs with industry as labor realignments continue. 

Gaining a better understanding of non-credit learners is critical for each learner’s skills and learning to be fully valued, counted and portable as outlined in Without Limits: A Shared Vision for the Future of Career Technical Education (CTE Without Limits)

It is clear there is more to learn about the non-degree arena and its learners in community colleges. Visit the Opportunity America report site to view the full study and interactive data portal.

Jeran Culina, Senior Policy Associate 

High School Graduates Reassessing Postsecondary Plans During COVID-19, Prioritizing Real-World Skills and Alternate Career Pathways

November 2nd, 2021

Postsecondary enrollment has seen dramatic declines during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, particularly for learners with low incomes and learners of color. A report recently published by the Strada Education Network sheds light on the experiences of high school graduates who have delayed their postsecondary education plans in 2020 and 2021. The report builds on survey data of 1,000 recent graduates previously covered by Advance CTE, as well as 17 in-depth interviews with learners. Strada finds that while these high school graduates remain committed to continuing their education, pandemic-related disruptions have caused them to reassess their initial plans and explore alternate pathways to career success. 

Learners across the board have experienced heightened uncertainty about college affordability and traditional career pathways as the labor market destabilized as a result of the coronavirus. Some learners said they were hesitant to enroll in coursework that would likely be conducted online, and concerns about taking care of family members amidst the health risks associated with the pandemic were also prevalent reasons for delaying enrollment, particularly among Black and Latinx learners. The report highlights three major priorities of high school graduates when considering when and how to re-engage with higher education: 

  • Personalizing college and career guidance. This includes learner-focused academic and career counseling services, peer models, and opportunities for open-minded exploration of diverse pathways. One-on-one attention from counselors centered on meeting learners’ unique needs and validating their goals and experiences is a crucial form of support. Learners also expressed a desire to hear and learn from the perspectives of alumni and industry professionals who have taken diverse college and career pathways.
  • Removing financial barriers. Financial concerns became even more pressing as the pandemic introduced more uncertainties for learners’ futures. A lack of funding to pay for college was a major factor in decisions to delay enrollment, and many survey respondents were no longer certain that a college degree would meet their needs. Learners increasingly fear accumulating student loan debt, and many found it difficult to navigate the application process for scholarships that might help to cover the costs. Streamlined and accessible financial aid is key to addressing these barriers.
  • Connecting college and career, and making academics relevant to real-world interests. Learners want to be prepared for a shifting and unpredictable workforce, and flexibility and career relevance in educational programs are critical concerns. Many recognize that a degree does not necessarily guarantee career success and hope to build work-ready skills through immersive hands-on and work-based learning experiences such as apprenticeships. Others hope that additional credentials and certifications will give them an advantage in the labor market. 

These priority areas shed light on effective supports that state Career Technical Education (CTE) leaders and educational institutions can implement to promote the success of aspiring postsecondary learners disrupted by the pandemic. Financial assistance, mentoring relationships and personalized advising supports are especially powerful tools for closing the opportunity gaps that hinder the success of learners with low incomes, learners of color and first-generation college students. Despite the uncertainties of today’s labor market, recent high school graduates still believe that postsecondary educational opportunities are essential for both personal and professional development, as well as preparing for and transitioning to meaningful careers. Recognizing the future-focused resilience of these recent graduates and addressing their central areas of concern are important first steps for re-engagement in postsecondary education and career pathways.

Allie Pearce, Graduate Fellow

Research Review: CTE Course Taking Is the Norm Among High School Graduates, but Equity Gaps Remain 

December 1st, 2020

Eighty-eight percent of high school graduates earned Career Technical Education (CTE) course credit in 2013. That’s the major takeaway from a new data brief published by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The data brief provides a glimpse into how course taking patterns have changed over time and how participation in CTE varies by race, ethnicity, gender, disability and English learner status.

While states publicly report information on CTE participation, concentration and performance, the methods states use to identify CTE concentrators and categorize programs can differ, making an apples-to-apples comparison across states and over time challenging. The data brief from NCES cuts through some of the noise by coding student transcripts using the School Courses for the Exchange of Data (SCED) and Secondary School Course Taxonomy (SSCT) codes. The research uses comparative longitudinal data from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988, the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 and the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009. 

CTE Course Taking Is the Norm for High School Graduates in the U.S.

The major finding from the research is that CTE course taking is the norm for high school graduates in the U.S. However, while 88 percent of high school students graduate with some CTE credit, this has declined from 95 percent in 1992. The most popular subject area is business, finance and marketing. 

Additionally, high school students are more likely to sample CTE courses as elective credits than concentrate in a specific program. Approximately two in five high school students graduated with at least two credits in a specific CTE area, and only one in five completed at least three aligned CTE credits. 

Equity Gaps Remain 

The data brief also illuminates disparities in CTE course taking by subgroup. For decades, CTE — historically called “vocational education” — prepared learners who were determined not to be “college material” for dead-end jobs after high school. Overwhelmingly, learners of color and learners from low-income families were tracked into these programs and shut out from the opportunity for postsecondary education and a pathway to career success. 

Tracking continues to take place in some schools across the country today, but as CTE has strengthened in quality and rigor, access to high-quality CTE programs in some cases have been closed off to learners from diverse backgrounds through “gatekeeping” practices such as the use of admissions requirements or the placement of programs in affluent communities. 

According to the NCES data brief, learners with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and learners whose parents had lower levels of education earned more CTE credits than their peers. Conversely, the report found lower levels of CTE course taking among English learners, female learners and learners of color compared to learners whose first language was English, male learners and White learners respectively.

Unfortunately, the report does not include information about program enrollment by subgroup or the quality and rigor of different programs, which would illuminate whether these patterns are cause for concern or celebration. Under enrollment could be an indication of gatekeeping policies and practices, just as over enrollment could be an indication of tracking.

The data brief from NCES illuminates a trend, but more investigation is needed to understand whether there are disparities by discipline or quality of the program and to what degree course taking patterns result from specific policies or practices at the state or local level. 

Austin Estes, Manager of Data & Research 

Navigating CTE during COVID-19: Best Practices for Distance Learning

April 27th, 2020

As education moves online in response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), Career Technical Education (CTE) programs are looking for ways to continue supporting learners virtually and offer high-quality educational opportunities. This edition of the CTE Research Review will synthesize some of the research on best practices for delivering distance learning. While these examples predate the pandemic, they can be a guide to CTE programs looking to implement or scale distance learning in response to the Coronavirus. 

A 2010 U.S. Department of Education meta-analysis of experimental and quasi-experimental studies from 1996-2008 found that distance learning is at least as effective as traditional classroom instruction and most successful for undergraduate and adult learners. Despite being a little dated, the findings from the studies examined likely hold true today. Some best practices identified for distance learning included giving learners an element of control over their learning (such as offering multiple options of learning tools), providing online simulations and building opportunities for individualized instruction and learner reflection.

In 2015, Hanover Research released a report outlining best practices in the development and implementation of high-quality distance learning. Some of the key findings included giving learners the opportunity to collaborate with each other as a means to further learner engagement and ensuring the course platform is easy to use with necessary information such as syllabi, schedules, readings and videos. Additionally, the authors examined the literature of best practices for online instruction specifically at the postsecondary level and cited Penn State’s World Campus’ recommended principles of effective online instruction. The original recommendations in detail are linked here and explain how to effectively engage in online instructing for the following teaching principles: actively engage in online instruction; practice proactive course management strategies; establish patterns of course activities; prepare for potential course interruptions; respond to student inquiries in a timely manner; establish a timely process for returning assignment grades; use the Learning Management System for communication and ensure course quality.  

A 2018 edition of Library Technology Reports focuses on the accessibility of distance learning programs for students with disabilities. Using the University of South Carolina’s Center for Teaching Excellence as a case study, the article identified best practices in online learning and accessibility for students with disabilities. Their recommendations are as follows:

  • “Provide step-by-step instructions for accessing the course and all course materials;
  • Offer multiple formats of materials, including Word and PDF documents;
  • Provide transcripts and closed captioning for all lectures, talks and synchronous or asynchronous interactions with students;
  • Use Sans Serif fonts to increase visibility and accessibility;
  • Use bold to display emphasis rather than color (for students with color blindness); and
  • Maintain ongoing one-on-one and group communication with students and offer accessible opportunities for interaction.”

In addition to these best practices, Advance CTE has compiled resources for distance learning. As the educational environment remains online to flatten the curve of the Coronavirus, these research-based best practices and resources can help guide CTE programs as they continue to provide high-quality learning opportunities. In future blogs we will highlight best practices related to delivering work-based learning and CTE-specific coursework online. 

Brian Robinson, Policy Associate

What Works in Postsecondary Work-Based Learning?

March 24th, 2020

Learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom. As the labor market changes and demands for a skilled workforce increase, there is renewed interest in work-based learning (WBL) programs across the country. Earlier this month The Urban Institute released a report on the topic, titled Expanding and Improving Work-Based Learning in Community Colleges. The report draws on national data and interviews with six community colleges and documents what is known about the implementation and outcomes of WBL models in community colleges, what strategies community colleges are adopting to measure WBL, and potential steps to improve measurement and address key challenges in expanding and improving WBL in community colleges. 

At the postsecondary level, WBL consists of opportunities such as apprenticeships, internships and cooperative education (co-op), which provide career preparation and training in a work setting that involves supervision or mentoring and connects to classroom or academic experience. Community colleges are vitally important institutions in preparing learners for the workforce, as they award most of the career-oriented credentials in the country. However measurement of WBL in community college contexts is limited and, as such, we know little about how common WBL programs are in these institutions, what models and approaches work best and for whom, who is able to access opportunities, and what outcomes and impacts they deliver for learners, businesses partners and colleges. 

Findings from the report suggest several challenges facing WBL programs including access, equity and diversity. These challenges are even more pressing given the evidence of positive outcomes for learners who are able to experience WBL. The report found that participants in Registered Apprenticeship programs earn higher wages, are more productive, and are less likely to use public benefit programs compared to comparable workers. 

In order to improve WBL at the community college level, the report recommends strategies for measuring WBL, evaluating progress toward diversity and equity goals, and improving data collection practices. For example Cincinnati State Technical and Community College has an institutional research staff member working in their career center. This person collects and analyzes data that in turn informs career services. The report specifically recommends state education and workforce officials develop state definitions of WBL, develop common data elements for tracking WBL, share employment data with colleges to support performance improvement, and incorporate WBL into the state longitudinal systems of data tracking. 

Community colleges are in a unique position to change the way WBL is experienced across the country. They serve about 12 million diverse learners, many of whom are women or learners of color. This makes these institutions ideal vehicles for closing long-standing equity gaps in the labor market, preparing the workforce, giving students the skills and knowledge for jobs and careers, and partnering with employers to provide the talent they need.

Brian Robinson, Policy Associate

New Research Shows Positive Employment Outcomes for CTE Learners

March 10th, 2020

One of the most important considerations for learners choosing to enroll in secondary and postsecondary Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs is whether that pathway will lead to a successful career and a good salary. The new Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) requires states and local recipients to set goals around post-program outcomes for CTE concentrators. Several recent studies suggest that learners are finding gainful employment and increased salaries after completing CTE programs. 

A study in the Community College Journal of Research and Practice analyzed data from the California Community Colleges CTE Outcomes Survey. Using three years of survey data from over 46,000 former CTE participants, the researchers found that these learners reported positive employment outcomes and obtained greater increases in wages than they were earning before beginning their program.

Another study using administrative data on a cohort of high school CTE concentrators from Washington State found that CTE learners who go on to college, compared to non-CTE learners, are significantly more likely to enroll in and complete vocational programs. They are also more likely to earn postsecondary credentials such as associate degrees and industry certifications, especially in the applied Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and public safety fields. Additionally, secondary CTE learners who do not go on to college are also more likely to obtain full-time employment within the first three years after graduation compared to non-CTE learners. 

Lastly, a study of admissions and learner outcomes within Connecticut’s system of 16 stand-alone CTE high schools found that males who attend a technical high school are 10 percentage points more likely to graduate than comparable males who attend a traditional high school. Male learners attending technical high schools in Connecticut also have approximately 31 percent greater post-graduation quarterly earnings, higher 9th grade attendance rates and higher 10th grade testing scores than comparable males. There was no evidence that female learners had significantly different outcomes based on the type of school attended. 

As CTE month comes to a close and states finalize their Perkins V plans and invest substantial resources in CTE programs, the findings in these three studies highlight the value that CTE programs have in positive academic and employment outcomes for learners. Additionally, these findings reaffirm the value CTE programs have in preparing learners for the real world and the many postsecondary paths they can pursue. The Washington State and Connecticut studies found that CTE concentrators were slightly less likely to go on to college than comparable learners but still more likely to earn vocational credentials, obtain full-time employment with higher earnings, and have better attendance and test scores than comparable learners. State leaders are encouraged to continue investing in these programs proving to work for learners in their states. 

Other Notable Research 

A report on Idaho’s education and earnings gap revealed that those with bachelor’s degrees earn substantially more in income than those with less education. Among its recommendations, the report suggests the state adopt explicit policies encouraging school districts to develop secondary CTE course sequences or certified programs focusing on two to three specific career pathways that play to their local strengths. 

Brian Robinson, Policy Associate

New Survey Highlights a Persistent Skills Gap; What Can States Do to Strengthen the Talent Pool?

February 18th, 2020

As the economy continues to change with digitalization and automation, the needs of the labor market will continue to change too. In 2019 the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation commissioned a study surveying 500 human resource (HR) professionals with hiring decision authority in their organizations. An overwhelming 74 percent of respondents said that a “skills gap” persists in the current U.S. labor and hiring economy. 

These employers cite three major challenges they face when hiring: candidates lacking the appropriate or necessary skills, candidates lacking previous relevant work experience and not having enough applicants. According to these HR professionals, addressing the skills gap and truly transforming the talent marketplace would require:

1)      Greater upskilling initiatives within companies for existing employees.

2)      More educational/Career Technical Education (CTE) programs to build talent pipelines.

3)      Improving alignment between skills and competencies taught in educational/CTE programs and in-demand skills and competencies needed in the workforce.

A study by JFF further highlights the skills gap and the challenges to solving the problem. The report, Making College Work for Students and the Economy, follows JFF’s comprehensive policy agenda for addressing states’ skilled workforce and talent development needs.  The report examines a representative sample of 15 states to determine their progress toward adopting 15 policy recommendations. Of the recommendations made in their initial report, states have made the most progress on the following:

1)      Establishing expectations that community college programs align to labor market demand.

2)      Developing longitudinal data systems that provide the ability to track over time the educational and employment outcomes of students.

3)      Addressing barriers to college readiness.

Conversely, JFF finds that states have the most work to do in the following areas:

1)      Providing community colleges with sufficient resources and appropriate incentives.

2)      Addressing the holistic needs of students to strengthen their financial stability.

3)      Digging into labor market outcomes of students and postsecondary programs.

Both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the JFF studies highlight a need for state governments, the education sector and the labor sector to work collaboratively and do more to prepare the 21st century workforce to meet the needs of an ever-changing labor market. 

With implementation of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) underway, states are poised to make transformational changes to improve the quality of CTE programs and ensure equitable access and success. Opportunities like the comprehensive local needs assessment and the Perkins V reserve fund give state leaders leverage to ensure programs are meeting the needs of learners and employers.

Research Roundup

  • The University of Michigan Youth Policy Lab released a report last month finding disparities in access to CTE programs for economically disadvantaged learners and learners of color throughout the state. However, the report found that when CTE is offered in a single high school, there is very little disparity. This suggests that there is broad interest in CTE programs when offered and that states should do more to expand access for low-income and Black and Hispanic learners.
  • A report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce finds that students enrolled in certificate and associate degree programs make up 50 percent of the postsecondary student population. Students graduating with certificates in fields such as engineering and drafting can earn a median income up to $150,000. Black, Hispanic and low-income students were most likely to enroll in a certificate program. These findings suggest that certificate and associate degree programs can have great potential in closing earnings and opportunity gaps.

Brian Robinson, Policy Associate

Partnering with Researchers Can Help State Leaders Build the Case for CTE

November 12th, 2019

In Massachusetts, Career/Vocational Technical Education Schools (CVTE) are renowned for offering rigorous, high-quality programs of study across a variety of disciplines. While CVTE graduates have always experienced high rates of success academically and in their careers, state leaders in Massachusetts wanted to know whether these outcomes directly result from the CVTE model. In 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education partnered with Shaun Dougherty (at the time, a researcher at the University of Connecticut), and learned that CVTE students are significantly more likely to graduate from high school and earn an industry-recognized credential than similar students who were not admitted.

Demand for rigorous research on Career Technical Education (CTE) has increased as more policymakers ask questions about the impact on college and career readiness. State CTE Directors may be interested in similar questions as researchers (such as “Does CTE improve educational and career outcomes? Do different programs help different students? What types of programs offer students the highest economic returns?”) but may not think to seek out and collaborate with them or know how to prioritize among the many research requests they receive.

This blog series, a partnership between Advance CTE and the Institute for Education Sciences (IES) seeks to break down the barriers between State CTE Directors and researchers to encourage partnerships that can benefit both.

What Can Research with State Data Tell Us?

Research can be a powerful tool to help State CTE Directors understand what’s working, what isn’t working, and what needs to change. The findings described below provide examples of how strong partnerships between researchers and state policymakers can result in actionable research.

  • In Arkansas, students with greater exposure to CTE are more likely to graduate from high school, enroll in a two-year college, be employed, and earn higher wages. The study, which was rigorous but not causal, also found that students taking more CTE classes are just as likely to pursue a four-year degree as their peers, and that CTE provides the greatest boost to boys and students from low-income families.
  • Boys who attended CTE high schools in Connecticut experienced higher graduation rates and post-graduation earnings than similar students who did not attend CTE high schools. Further follow-ups using both postsecondary and labor data could provide information about college completion and employment and earnings for different occupational sectors.
  • CTE concentrators in Texas had greater enrollment and persistence in college than their peers. Although rates of CTE concentration decreased, student participation in at least some CTE programming, as well as number of CTE credits earned, increased between the 2008 and 2014 cohorts. Unsurprisingly, the study also found differences by CTE programs of study. Education & Training; Finance; Health Science; and Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) were most strongly associated with postsecondary enrollment, particularly in baccalaureate programs.

How Can States Use CTE Research to Improve Policy and Practice?

Here are a few things states can do today to start building a CTE research base:

  • Create a codebook of CTE variables in your state’s data system: Include K-12, postsecondary, and labor force variables if you have them. Define the variables clearly – what do they measure, at what level (student, program, district), and for how many years did you collect these variables? Are the measures comparable across years and across datasets?
  • Maximize opportunities to collect longitudinal data: longitudinal databases that span education levels and connect to workforce outcomes permit researchers to conduct rigorous studies on long-term outcomes.
  • Identify universities in your state with strong education, economics or public policy departments: Make a list of questions that policymakers in your state most wanted answered, and then approach universities with these proactively. Reach out to the chair(s) of these departments to connect with faculty who may be interested in partnering on answering the questions. Universities can often apply for a research grant that will cover part or all of the funding for state personnel to work on the research project. IES, which provides funding of this nature, opens its next grant competition in summer 2020.
  • Reach out to your Regional Educational Lab (REL) or the REL Career Readiness Research Alliance to inquire about partnering on CTE research: The mission of these IES-funded labs is to provide research and evidence to help educators in the states in their region. For example, REL Central is currently working with four states to replicate the Arkansas study described above (see “Review of Career and Technical Education in Four States”).
  • Stay up to date on the latest research findings in CTE: New research is regularly posted on the CTE Research Network and other websites. This can help you get ideas for what types of research you would like to conduct in your state. Another good source of inspiration is the recommendations of the CTE technical workgroup, which was convened by IES in late 2017 to guide future CTE research directions.
  • Become familiar with how researchers approach CTE research: Learn about why it’s so challenging to understand its impact. The CTE Research Network will hold research trainings for different audiences—including state agency staff— beginning in the summer of 2020. Stay tuned!

Over the next several months, Advance CTE and IES will publish a series of Q&A blog posts with researchers and state CTE leaders talking about how their partnerships developed and what states can do to advance CTE research.

This blog series was co-authored by Corinne Alfeld at IES (corinne.alfeld@ed.gov) and Austin Estes from Advance CTE (aestes@careertech.org), with thanks to Steve Klein of Education Northwest for editorial suggestions. IES began funding research grants in CTE in 2017 and established a CTE Research Network in 2018. IES hopes to encourage more research on CTE in the coming years in order to increase the evidence base and guide program and policy decisions. At the same time, Advance CTE has been providing resources to help states improve their CTE data quality and use data more effectively to improve CTE program quality and equity.

How to Prepare for the Future of Work

March 5th, 2019

Economists and futurists no longer ask what the future of work will look like, but rather when it will come and how disruptive it will be. Automation, artificial intelligence and other technological advancements are in the workplace today. Some say that innovations should be embraced and, like technological advancements in the past, the average American, and the economy as a whole, will be better off. Others issue dire warnings that automation and robotics will render many occupations obsolete and displace millions of American workers.

So which is it? The rose or the thorns?

The answer is, it’s complicated. According to the World Economic Forum, automation is expected to displace 75 million workers around the world by 2022. That’s a staggering sum — and in just four years. But the same report predicts that 133 million jobs will be created during the same period. What is almost certain is that, in the next few years, the world economy — and by extension, the American workforce — will experience a significant transformation as businesses adopt new technologies and American workers adapt and reskill to fill new jobs.

A new study out of the Boston University School of Law illuminates potential impacts of automation by examining survey data for non-financial private firms in the Netherlands. The researchers obtained data on automation expenditures for more than 36,000 firms over a 16 year period, from 2000 to 2016, in order to measure the effects of automation on employment and wages.

The researchers estimate that wages decreased for incumbent workers by about 8.2 percent over five years as a result of automation. However, recent hires experienced no wage loss and even earned 4.4 percent higher income over five years. It follows that the impact of automation will be more severe for older, more experienced workers, who at best will experience shifts in their day to day tasks and at worst will need to pursue further education, training and credentials to adapt.

For policymakers and economists, this begs the question: can anything be done to prepare for automation and new technology in the workplace?

The Brookings Institute recommends five actions to prepare for the future of work:

  • Embrace growth and technology, which will encourage firms to step up hiring and training new workers as the economy heats up;  
  • Promote a constant learning mindset by expanding traditional education, reducing the financial burden for skill attainment, and fostering employer-sponsored learning opportunities;
  • Facilitate a smoother adjustment by investing in career counseling, retraining opportunities and unemployment support for displaced workers;
  • Reduce hardships for workers who are struggling through the expansion of state and federal safety net programs;
  • Mitigate harsh local impacts by expanding support to vulnerable regions and communities that may be hardest hit.

Automation and artificial intelligence in the workplace will augment human skill and improve productivity. New technologies like autonomous vehicles and voice recognition will make it easier for all individuals — particularly individuals with disabilities — to access work and participate in civil society. But the future of work will likely bring with it disruption and displacement, and this burden will be disproportionately borne by workers in particular industries, occupations and geographic regions. Federal, state and local policymakers should consider clear strategies to prepare for the future of work. The time to act is now.

Research Roundup

Meanwhile, here is the latest roundup of research and data related to Career Technical Education (CTE):

  • There’s a racial gap in CTE enrollment. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that, according to high school transcript data, white students earned more (3.2) CTE credits on average than black (2.9), Hispanic (2.6), Asian (2.2) and mixed race (2.9) students.
  • The American Association of Community Colleges developed an infographic based on a recent Pew Research Center study that depicts the different post-high school plans of today’s teens. One notable takeaway: 12 percent of teens plan to attend a two-year college and 4 percent plan to attend a technical or vocational school after high school. 
  • Skills training is pretty popular with American voters. According to polling from ALG Research, with support from the National Skills Coalition, 93 percent of likely 2020 voters support increasing investments in skills and technical training.
  • It’s not just you — CTE is getting more popular. The American Enterprise Institute looked at media mentions of CTE between 2012 and 2018 and found that the number of articles mentioning CTE has increased by more than a hundredfold in that time.

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

Work-based Learning is Predictive of Future Job Quality, According to New Study

December 10th, 2018

The Brookings Institution looks at employment outcomes for low-income learners

It’s a question that has puzzled education researchers for decades: what is the right mix of experiences in early adolescence that is most predictive of future career success and lifelong learning?

For the longest time, the rule of thumb has been “get a bachelor’s degree and you’ll get a good job.” But we know that there are other experiences on the path to a four-year degree (such as participating in work-based learning or earning an industry-recognized credential) that are just as powerful in preparing learners for their future careers. What are these experiences? And how should they be delivered to maximize learner outcomes?

New research from the Brookings Institution sheds a little bit of light on this question. The study looks at different factors that are correlated with economic success among 29-year-olds from “disadvantaged” backgrounds. The study finds that:

  • Participating in work-based learning is correlated with attainment of “high-quality” jobs later in life
  • Working (and earning high wages) at a young age predicts higher job quality in adulthood
  • Earning credentials is still the biggest predictor of career success, but sub-baccalaureate credentials are also important

Specifically, the researchers find that participating in “relationship-focused CTE” (a term they use to refer to work-based learning and other activities where students interact with industry mentors) is significantly related to higher job quality scores at age 29. This would seem to suggest that building relationships with industry mentors and completing work-based learning at an early age can help learners, particularly low-income learners, get a leg up on their careers. While the data do not provide a full picture of the quality of work-based learning in the study, the evidence is promising.

For the purpose of the study, the researchers define “disadvantaged adolescents” as those who, when they were between the ages of 12 and 18, had a family income equal to or less than 200 percent of the federal poverty line; did not have a parent with more than a high school education; had a mother who was a teenager when her first child was born; or whose family received public assistance. They defined job quality based on four factors: earnings, benefits, hours of work and job satisfaction.

CTE Research Roundup

  • In a new research brief, MDRC summarizes findings from studies of three different career-focused learning programs: New York City’s Young Adult Internship Program (YAIP), YouthBuild and Year Up. Using a random assignment research design, the researchers find significant positive wage increases for completers of each program.
  • JFF explores how the scope and length of Registered Apprenticeships can vary and poses the question: Are apprenticeships the next stackable credential?
  • The NewDeal Forum Working Group, a national network of state and local leaders, published recommendations for policymakers to help the economy adapt to the future of work. The report includes recommendations for skill development and workforce training; modernizing the social safety net; and supporting entrepreneurship, innovation and access.  
  • Mathematica Policy Research shares an update on new partnerships and research focused on pathways to postsecondary education, including an examination of free tuition programs for adult learners, a study of the Better Careers initiative in California, and research into community college career planning through the Working Student Success Network. Keep an eye out for future research.
  • A new study from JFF looks at Maine’s proficiency-based education system and finds some promising early results. According to the study, high school students who received a medium amount of exposure to proficiency-based education had significantly higher reported engagement; however, exposure to proficiency-based education was negatively correlated with SAT scores.

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

 

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