Posts Tagged ‘learner voice’

Delaware CTE Youth Leaders Take the Mic

Thursday, December 7th, 2023

Last month, I had the privilege of attending a briefing at the U.S. Department of Education, led by a group of Career Technical Education (CTE) learners from the state of Delaware. Their expertise and passion demonstrated the true power, inspiration and innovation that can come from centering learners in matters of policy and practice within CTE.

Over the last year, Delaware participated in Advance CTE’s Leveraging Learner Voice to Strength CTE’s technical assistance cohort and this visit to Washington DC was a culmination of this effort. Over the year, Delaware recruited CTE youth leaders to participate in two cohorts:

To prepare these learners to serve as leaders at both the state and local levels, Delaware worked with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago to provide training around culturally responsive instruction and practices. 

Presenting to senior leadership within the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE), including Assistant Secretary, Dr. Amy Loyd, learners explained the construct of culturally responsive teaching practices that they collectively developed and refined as the CTE Youth Leadership Team and how they are individually committing themselves to the implementation of culturally responsive teaching in their roles as CTSO leaders and CTE peers. Jennae Overton, state president of Business Professionals of America (BPA), led the presentation and Ahmad Edwards, who participates in Future Health Professionals (HOSA), offered thoughts on what culturally responsive teaching means to him as a CTE youth leader, noting “I will implement culturally responsive practice [by] honoring each student’s voice. I want every student to be able to open up and express how they feel about a certain topic.” 

Armed with a greater understanding of culturally responsive practices and the ins and outs of CTE in Delaware, the learners are now engaging their school-level leaders and teachers on how they can improve access and equity at the district, school and classroom levels. Dr. Wickert reflected that “As a result of this work, we have become more thoughtful on local engagement,” adding that even though the state has invested dollars to encourage a greater focus on equity at the local level, it wasn’t moving the bar as quickly or as far as they had hoped. “With the learners driving this mission and work, I believe it will have a greater impact at the classroom level,” said Dr. Wickert.

As Dr. Michael Hill-Shaner, the Education Associate/Culturally Competent Workforce Lead at the Delaware Department of Education regularly says, “It’s our job to build the stage, turn on the lights and pass the mic.” This briefing and the arc of the last year demonstrate the true power of passing the mic. I personally cannot wait to see what these learners do next and how Delaware and other states continue to live up to the promise of the second principle of CTE Without Limits so that each learner can truly feel welcome in, be supported by and have the means to succeed in the career preparation ecosystem.  

Additional Resources:

Kate Kreamer, Executive Director

By Layla Alagic in Achieving Equitable and Inclusive CTE
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Elevating CTE’s Impact in Improving Workforce Development

Tuesday, September 26th, 2023

Career Technical Education (CTE) equips students with in-demand skills and knowledge, preparing them for successful careers in diverse career pathways. State CTE Directors are tasked with the crucial duty of promoting the integral role of CTE in improving workforce development efforts and subsequently their state economies. CTE is a pathway to a skilled and competitive workforce and below are strategies to effectively advocate for CTE’s potential impact.

Work-based learning experiences, such as internships, apprenticeships and on-the-job training, bridge the gap between classroom learning and practical application. Partnering with local businesses and community organizations is critical to expanding work-based learning opportunities for CTE learners. Demonstrating the tangible benefits of such experiences, including increased employability and a smoother transition into the workforce, reinforces the value of CTE as an effective workforce development pathway. 

This can be accomplished through elevating learner voice. Nothing speaks louder than success stories. State Directors can actively showcase the achievements of CTE alumni who have excelled in their careers after completing CTE programs. Featuring these success stories on websites, social media platforms and in local media can inspire current and prospective learners, parents and community members to view CTE as a viable path to achieving their career goals.

To strengthen CTE’s position as a workforce development pathway, an investment in modern infrastructure and technology is critical. Up-to-date equipment and technology not only enhance the learning experience but also demonstrate a commitment to providing learners with the necessary tools to succeed in the workforce. Additionally, leveraging workforce and economic trends to develop career pathways that are relevant to current labor needs creates the symbiosis needed for a properly functioning CTE ecosystem. State Directors can engage in outreach initiatives to build strong partnerships with stakeholders, highlighting CTE’s contributions to economic growth and prosperity. Engaging in conversations with employers and policymakers helps foster a shared vision and commitment to supporting CTE as a critical workforce development strategy.

Promoting CTE as a pathway to improving workforce development efforts is essential to creating a skilled and competitive workforce that meets the demands of a rapidly evolving job market. State Directors have the unique opportunity– and responsibility– to lead this transformative charge. By emphasizing industry-relevant skills, facilitating work-based learning opportunities, building strong partnerships, showcasing success stories and investing in modern infrastructure, CTE can remain at the forefront of workforce development initiatives.

For additional information, resources and tools on promoting CTE as a pathway to improving workforce development, please visit:

Brice Thomas, Former Policy Associate

By Layla Alagic in Uncategorized
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States Make Progress in Strengthening Meaningful Learner Engagement in CTE

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2023

Career Technical Education (CTE) programs must be designed with learners, not simply for learners, to be responsive to their diverse needs at every stage of the CTE continuum. Being responsive to diverse learner needs can occur only if learners have direct and ongoing input into the design and delivery of CTE programs and experiences. This blog provides an overview of the Leveraging Learner Voice to Strengthen CTE Technical Assistance cohort; highlights the states in the cohort that are meaningfully engaging CTE learners to inform CTE programs and policies; and shares links to resources to support states in engaging CTE learners.

Over the past seven months, Advance CTE and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) provided training, resources and coaching to help states identify opportunities to engage learners more meaningfully in the design and delivery of CTE programs and experiences. The cohort of states (Colorado, Delaware, New Hampshire, Oregon and Wisconsin), engaged in six 90-minute virtual sessions and individual coaching sessions to work through the Learner Voice Toolkit to develop and execute on strategies for leveraging learner voice in CTE policies and programs.

Over the course of the technical assistance sessions and coaching calls, each state team developed a comprehensive Action Plan to leverage meaningful learner engagement in the development of CTE programs and policies. The Action Plans are guiding the states’  actions over the next year to improve and systematize their learner engagement. 

Action Plan Development

The development of the Action Plan took place in stages. States first completed an organizational capacity assessment to understand the existing structures, policies, relationships and resources that can support the expansion of learner engagement practices. 

States then identified high-level goals in which they envisioned what meaningful learner engagement would look like in their states to support CTE program improvement, CTE policy development, learner supports, Comprehensive Local Needs Assessment (CLNA) process improvement with learner engagement and more. After identifying the goals, states mapped the actions that needed to be taken in order to achieve their goals. 

Through the development of each state’s Action Plan, states included learners’ feedback and input. States engaged learners in focus groups, interviews, surveys, advisory board meetings and more to capture their input and reflect their thoughts in the Action Plans. States in the cohort were supported by Advance CTE with a pool of funds to compensate learners for their time and expertise engaging with state agencies. Over the course of the Action Plan development phase, states in the cohort engaged more than 400 learners.

Early Areas of Success

Prioritizing learner engagement in the development of Action Plans is not a common practice, however, states in the technical assistance cohort are already seeing the value of more meaningfully engaging learners in CTE program development and improvement. 

Wisconsin learned from learners in their state the type of communication they prefer for engagements, the compensation rate they need to engage in events and meetings, the areas of CTE that student voices are most needed and the roles they are most interested in engaging in. 

New Hampshire leveraged the input from learners from their statewide survey to develop a toolkit for regional and local practitioners to improve learner engagement at their CTE centers. 

Colorado and Oregon engaged learners in a mix of focus groups and surveys to learn what they enjoy about CTE, challenges they experience in CTE programs and ways their state agency can do a better job of incorporating learner voice. Both states focused on engaging learners who were not typically included in focus groups or surveys to ensure they had a broad range of voices.

Delaware leveraged learners’ input and leadership and now has two simultaneous learner-led cohorts supporting the development of a new teacher preparation program of study and leadership training for Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) leaders. The learners leading the cohorts support the state agency and foster deeper engagement with their peers across their state to expand the reach of meaningful learner engagement. 

Looking Ahead

As the official cohort technical assistance sessions come to a close, states in the cohort will continue to engage in coaching sessions with Advance CTE and ACTE to actualize the goals they identified in their Action Plans. 

Additionally, Advance CTE will continue to hold space for state leaders to come together to discuss opportunities to improve meaningful learner engagement in CTE in Community of Practice sessions. These one-hour sessions will be held bimonthly from August 2023 through February 2024 and will be open to all states interested in learning more about meaningful learner engagement in CTE. To register to attend the Leveraging Learner Voice to Strengthen CTE Communities of Practice, please fill out the form on this page

Haley Wing, Senior Policy Associate, Advance CTE

By Layla Alagic in CTE Without Limits
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New Skills ready network Highlight Blog: Leveraging Learner Voice to Strengthen Career Pathways

Wednesday, July 26th, 2023

The New Skills ready network (NSrn) is part of JPMorgan Chase’s substantial portfolio in support of an inclusive economy and workforce. This five-year commitment is part of the New Skills at Work initiative to prepare people for the future of work and their $30 billion commitment to advance racial equity. With a dedication to building equitable career pathways, the New Skills ready network connects six sites —  Boston, Massachusetts; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Nashville, Tennessee — with local partners with the intentionality necessary to build a strong workforce ecosystem for all learners.

Denver, Colorado’s vision for the NSrn initiative, aims to “dramatically increase the number and diversity of students who complete selected high-quality career pathways that start in high school, continue into and through higher education, and lead to good jobs in Denver’s labor market.”

Over the past three years, the project team has achieved significant milestones in the development of high-quality, equitable career pathways including building a shared data framework, aligning work-based learning opportunities within high-quality career pathways and enhancing the learner experience when transitioning from secondary to postsecondary institutions. Under the leadership of the site lead, The Attainment Network, the project team leverages strategic cross-sector partnerships while centering equity and learner voice to enhance and improve their career pathways work. 

A critical component of the Denver, Colorado, site work includes centering and leveraging the voices of learners to understand their experiences, barriers and opportunities and shaping career pathways aligned with their needs.In April 2023, The Attainment Network held their second annual Learner Voice Symposium which brought together an audience of educators, employers and policymakers to hear directly from Colorado learners what they seek in career-connected pathways and how they define success.

Haley Wing, Senior Policy Associate, Advance CTE, interviewed Rana Tarkenton, Chief Operating Officer, The Attainment Network to discuss the importance of leveraging learner voice in career pathways and how others might replicate their efforts to meaningfully engage learners in the design and implementation of career pathways.

Overview of the Learner Voice Symposium Event

The purpose of the Learner Voice Symposium is to elevate highlights from learners’ diverse perspectives and backgrounds and provide actionable insights to improve and expand pathways for all learners. The Symposium serves as a reminder to partners of the reason why they engage in this work and elevates the voices of learners who are not always invited to the table when developing and implementing career pathways. Learners, who are not simply the receivers of the work of career pathways, but rather the experts in their experiences, provide critical feedback to leaders. 

The Symposium fills a gap in the career preparation ecosystem in Colorado; leaders developing career-connected pathways are continuously striving to improve the system and learners are disconnected from the leaders who need to hear their voices most. The Attainment Network identified this gap and provides career pathway partners the space to listen to and reflect learner voices in their work in the form of The Symposium. 

The Symposium held virtually on Zoom, included a keynote speaker who is a practitioner that engages with learners frequently and specializes in community engagement, and breakout sessions that are co-led by learners who are compensated for their time and expertise. The Symposium is attended by a wide audience including practitioners in secondary and postsecondary education, college and career advisors, state agency providers, policymakers and employer partners.  

Participants have the opportunity to attend breakout sessions of their choosing covering topics like authentic youth engagement in career pathways, immigrant and undocumented learner experiences, non-traditional learners and pathways and more. Presenting organizations that support the sessions include Ednium, The San Luis Valley Boys & Girls Clubs, Emily Griffith Technical College, MSU Denver and more.

All of the information shared during The Learner Voice Symposium is centered on elevating the experiences of learners and incorporating their voices in the development of career-connected pathways. At the close of The Symposium, The Attainment Network announced their Learner Voice Grants that organizations and institutions can apply for to support and enhance their meaningful learner engagement efforts. 

Impact of The Learner Voice Symposium on the New Skills ready network 

The learner engagement in The Learner Voice Symposium supports the Denver, Colorado, New Skills ready network team in their communications strategies as they develop materials and messaging to better connect learners and families to career-connected pathway opportunities. Additionally, Denver Public Schools (DPS), a secondary partner for the New Skills ready network site, and the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) are two of the grantees for the Learner Voice Grant. DPS and CDHE leverage the grant funding to support their learner engagement work in the development of local and state-level career pathways. 

With more than 175 attendees of The Symposium, The Attainment Network models meaningful learner engagement for its system-wide network. The Network, being a statewide intermediary, supports strengthening the career pathway ecosystem and strengthens relationships with system partnerships that impact learners. 

Further, the Denver, Colorado, project team also elevates the voices and feedback from learners in state-level policy. The Attainment Network, alongside the Colorado Department of Education and the Colorado Community College System, led an effort to design, collect, and report on community input to inform the HB22-1215 Secondary, Postsecondary and Work-Based Learning Integration Task Force (Study of Expanding High School Programs).

Recommendations delivered to the Task Force focus on equitable access to and successful expansion of high school programs across all regions of Colorado with a focus on traditionally underserved populations and those who have not accessed relevant programming in their educational experience. The discovery process of community feedback collection leveraged community organizations, educational organizations, and local partnerships.

Replicating Meaningful Learner Engagement

Leveraging learners’ input and feedback in the development of career pathways, CTE programs and policies is a valuable component of program improvement. Leaders who are interested in replicating The Learner Voice Symposium should prioritize including learners whose voices are historically underrepresented, leveraging partners who can support recruiting learners to bring them to the table and co-creating the event with partners and learners to ensure the content fills the needs for the ecosystem.

The Attainment Network engages in the planning and execution of The Symposium with an equity lens to ensure a diverse representation of learners, speakers and attendees. The Network also backward plans by prioritizing the outcomes they want the event to achieve from the start of the planning process to ensure there are sessions with meaningful outcomes and takeaways for attendees. 

The planning and execution of an event of this size includes a lot of logistics and leaders should consider adequate staffing, preparation that helps to keep audiences engaged and ensuring the videos and notes from the event are accessible once the event is over. The addition of a visual scribe enhances the experience for attendees throughout the session, as well as providing engaging artifacts to further share learnings after the event and marketing for future events. 

Looking Ahead

As The Attainment Network enters year four of the New Skills ready network, the project team is working towards holding more learner and community engagement events to continue the work of leveraging learner voices, input and feedback in the design and delivery of career pathways. The Network team is currently working on analyzing themes from The Learner Voice Symposium to inform the design of their Colorado Pathways Conference on September 19 – 20. The two-day conference will focus on pathways-focused education-to-workforce systems across the state and country. 

Haley Wing, Senior Policy Associate

 

By Jodi Langellotti in CTE Without Limits
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Research Round-up: Leveraging Data for Equitable Education and Workforce Alignment

Wednesday, July 26th, 2023

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 the different data sources that can be leveraged to identify and address any inequities that are present in postsecondary CTE programs. These findings align with Advance CTE’s vision for the future of CTE where each learner feels welcomed and has the means to succeed in the career preparation ecosystem.

Credential Engines’ Equity Advisory Council (EAC) report, and the subsequent recommendations, present a tiered approach for using data to ensure that CTE programs are equitable for all learners.

Overview

The primary questions that this report sought to address were twofold:

This report groups data into three tiers based on the complexity level to analyze or publish the data.


These “critical equity data points” are important to track in order to advance understanding and action about equitable pathways, transfer and recognition of learning. While each consecutive tier may require more in-depth analysis, this work will be critical in building a complete understanding of the learner experience and learner outcomes in these pathways.

Recommendations 

In their report, the EAC also identified key principles to help maintain equitable data practices. These included: 

  1. Adopt data practices to foster an environment where outcomes are improved for every learner
  2. Disaggregate data (such as program’s earnings and employment outcomes) through publically available channels
  3. Emphasize credentials of value that are relevant for learners
  4. Consider learner voice and need when designing tools to ensure data is accessible and inclusive
  5. Provide professional development for those interacting with the data, and leveraging the value of linked open data

 

These principles rely on a statewide commitment (inclusive of workforce, industry, educational institutions, and government leadership) to making data accessible to ensure that every learner has the opportunity and information required to make the best decision about their career trajectory.

Advance CTE’s Career Readiness Data Quality and Use Policy Benchmark Tool also supports state leaders’ use of accurate, timely, and disaggregated data to investigate barriers to access and take action to ensure equity, access and success for historically marginalized learners.

To access additional resources on data quality and use, please visit Advance CTE’s Learning that Works Resource Center.

Amy Hodge, Membership & Policy Associate

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

Thursday, 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

By Stacy Whitehouse in Uncategorized
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New Resource: Elevating Family Voice in Career Pathways

Wednesday, October 5th, 2022

Without Limits: A Shared Vision for the Future of Career Technical Education (CTE Without Limits) calls on leaders to ensure that each learner feels welcome in, is supported by and has the means to succeed in the career preparation ecosystem. One avenue Advance CTE is utilizing to realize this vision is  the New Skills ready network, a JPMorgan Chase & Co. funded initiative which draws on cross-sector partnerships in six cities composed of state, regional and local partners. Building flexible and responsive career pathways systems at each level requires leaders to provide meaningful and ongoing mechanisms for elevating learner voice, and the voices of learners’ families and communities, to share their unique experiences and have direct and ongoing input into the design and delivery of career pathways.

As state leaders continue to assess and adjust program throughout the career pathways continuum, including CTE, steps should be taken too identify the full scope of institutional barriers in policies and programs, develop learner-centric programs and interventions and build trust with marginalized learners and communities to ensure their voices and perspectives are brought to the forefront of decisions. 

In support of this effort, Advance CTE’s new brief, Elevating Family Voice in Career Pathways,  includes five strategies as well as actions, tools and resources leaders can leverage to effectively and meaningfully engage families in every stage of career pathways development. 

This resource details the challenges and opportunities associated with family engagement and provides promising approaches to comprehensive family engagement practices. Some examples of promising approaches and strategies that are meaningfully engaging families include:

Read about more promising examples and five implementation strategies in Elevating Family Voice in Career Pathways  For more resources on developing high-quality career pathways, please visit the New Skills ready network series page in the Learning that Works Resource Center .

Haley Wing, Senior Policy Associate

By Stacy Whitehouse in Publications
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New Mini-Brief Series Highlights Progress Towards Cohesive, Learner-Centered Postsecondary Data Systems in Five States

Thursday, August 18th, 2022

Two years ago, Advance CTE launched the Advancing Postsecondary CTE Data Quality Initiative (PDI), supported by ECMC Foundation. Through the initiative, five grantees have received funding, technical assistance and access to a national peer learning network to:

1) Examine critical problems of practice and;

2) Implement innovative solutions to improve the quality, and use of postsecondary CTE data.

Grantee states and agencies include the: Alabama Community College System (ACCS); Delaware Department of Education; University of the District of Columbia Community College; Florida Department of Education, and; Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

By supporting states to improve their postsecondary Career Technical Education (CTE) data quality and use, Advance CTE is attending to a foundational commitment – actionable, transparent and trustworthy data – in Without Limits: A Shared Vision for the Future of Career Technical Education (CTE Without Limits). Each of the five foundational commitments are critical to states’ abilities to enact the Vision principles. Actionable, transparent and trustworthy data underlies a coordinated, learner-centered career preparation ecosystem. 

About the Briefs

In the coming months, Advance CTE will release a series of four briefs to share strategies put in place by the PDI states to advance postsecondary CTE data quality and use. The first brief explores how postsecondary CTE data can be used in support of state education and workforce goals, and features Alabama and Florida.

The second brief advances a theory of change for centering learners in postsecondary CTE data collection and use, featuring the District of Columbia and Oregon. The topics of briefs three and four will be fostering a positive culture of data use among CTE stakeholders and building a strong data infrastructure across systems and silos, respectively. 

Shared Challenges

As with many projects underway over the last two years, states’ implementation of their PDI action plans were challenged by staff-level capacity constraints due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, many of the grantees’ plans were validated by the context of the pandemic, which demonstrated the critical nature of effective – and data-driven – career preparation systems to meet states’ education and workforce goals. 

An evergreen challenge that the PDI states wrangle with is how best to build well-integrated data systems across the silos of state agencies and in collaboration with postsecondary institutions. Further, examining and implementing ways to more effectively communicate CTE data continues to be a priority. 

Common Strategies for Success

Despite these challenges, each of the grantees has demonstrated a commitment to improving postsecondary CTE data to improve learner outcomes. All five states have used stakeholder engagement processes to drive the development and use of new data elements or reports. And each has invested in professional development strategies to foster a strong culture of data use.

Visit the Learning that Works Resource Center to read the first two briefs and for additional data and accountability resources

Candace Williams, Data and Research Manager 

By Stacy Whitehouse in Publications, Resources
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New Skills ready network Site Highlight: The Attainment Network Seeks to Scale Impact in Denver Statewide

Tuesday, 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 

By Stacy Whitehouse in Uncategorized
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Elevating the Story of Career Technical Education: June Meeting Series Day 3 Highlights

Wednesday, June 29th, 2022

On June 22, Advance CTE hosted the third and final event in its three-part June Meeting Series. The day focused on the theme of “Elevate,” and offered knowledge about raising the profile of Career Technical Education (CTE), so that key stakeholders and the public support and engage with the field. 

The opening keynote session, “Breaking Through: Making CTE Resonate in a Noisy World,” was built around the fact that Americans are bombarded with thousands of messages a day, from advertising to social media to the news. That makes it difficult to build awareness of and support for CTE. The session provided insights on how to break through, by becoming expert storytellers, sharpening messaging and speaking directly to the issues that matter most. Panelists included Teresa Valerio Parrot, Principal of TVP Communications; Leslie Slaughter, Executive Advisor to the Office of Career & Technical Education, Kentucky Department of Education; and Kate Kreamer, Deputy Executive Director of Advance CTE. 

Two key quotes from the panel included: 

The keynote session was followed by content-rich breakouts and discussions to build connections and knowledge. Each breakout session was aligned to one of the five foundational commitments of CTE Without Limits: A Shared Vision for the Future of Career Technical Education

Breakout highlights included:

“Quality: Maximizing Limited Time for Media Relations” elevated efficient methods to start and sustain meaningful relationships with local and regional media. Expert panelists included national reporters Derricke Dennis, Anchor and National Correspondent for ABC News, and Rebecca Koenig, Editor for EdSurge. Both encouraged attendees to understand the demands on journalists, and be mindful of their workflows when pitching stories.

“People are writing about education and others are writing about the workforce,” Koenig said, “but there is an opportunity to meet in the middle to tell stories about CTE.”

One practical tip Dennis offered: “Start your email subject line with the words ‘STORY IDEA.’” Something that simple can make him jump right to the email. 

He continued, “Real stories are worth repeating. CTE is really an American story which exists all around us!”

In “Systems Alignment: A View From the Hill: A Federal Policy Update,” attendees heard from an expert panel consisting of Advance CTE’s Policy Advisor, Steve Voytek, Dr. Alisha Hyslop of ACTE and José Miranda of the Associate of Community College Trustees. Topics ranged from current priorities in Congress to the midterm elections. 

Two key takeaways from the session included the effort to l extend Pell Grant eligibility to short-term workforce training programs is moving through Congress and there is likely to be an increase in the Perkins Basic State Grant funding.

In the breakout “Equity: Student Voices: What Clicks with Me,” secondary and postsecondary CTE learners shared how they learned about CTE, what it felt like/feels like to be a CTE learner, and barriers to full program participation and success. Panelists included Technology Student Association President Gowri Rangu, 2021-2022 Future Farmers of America Utah state officer Kenadee Stubbs and CTE alumni Kendall Brown from Alabama and Faith Lanzillo from New Hampshire. 

The panelists talked about overcoming the obstacles they faced and envisioned what we can do, as state leaders, to diversify and strengthen CTE enrollment.

The panelists agreed that mentorship is essential: they were able to see themselves in career paths through diverse ambassadors, learners and professionals, who helped them choose and stay on a career path. Some shared the obstacles they had to overcome, such as lengthy application processes and difficulty changing programs, but all expressed gratitude for having found a path to a fulfilling and rewarding career. 

“Public-Private Partnerships: Centering Equity to Address Our Talent Pipeline Shortages” focused on how industry needs to think differently about how they attract, hire and retain talent. Bridgette Gray and Kate Naranjo, leaders from Opportunity@Work, an organization committed to changing hiring practices across the nation, provided expert insights. Opportunity@Work is a strong advocate for  more skills-based hiring practices, a policy construct advocated for in CTE Without Limits. These practices have the benefit of broadening and diversifying the talent pool for the private and public sectors. Recently, the state of Maryland adopted a skills-based hiring strategy and can be a key tool to ensure a more equitable and diverse workforce. 

Skill-based hiring promotes hiring based on demonstrated competencies, lived experiences and credentials. Some years ago Advance CTE shifted its language in position description to allow for lived experience equivalency when assessing new candidates and position announcements do not generally list degree requirements. 

“Communicating With Data to Drive Policy and Practices and Inform Stakeholders” rounded out the breakout offerings. The session focused on the story CTE administrators are able to tell with data, which can invoke a sense of urgency in addressing the needs of learners and the economic ecosystem. Panelists included Josie Brunner, Data Strategist in the College, Career and Military Preparation Division at the Texas Education Agency; Scott U’Sellis, Data Manager at the Kentucky Office of Career and Technical Education; and Brennan McMahon Parton, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at the Data Quality Campaign. 

“The average person is not going to go looking for nine different tools,” U’Sellis said. “You need one tool that gives them the answer they want. Ask people, is this interesting data to you, does this help you find what you really want to know?”

Brunner boldly asserted that the storytelling power of data is full of potential: “We need our data to say to learners that no matter where you are in your career journey, there’s a place for you,” she said. 

Taking a step back, the panelists agreed that there is always a human element to the data, and that’s what can make storytelling so powerful. When looking at data, they noted that it’s easy to forget that data points represent whole people who are so much more than the data that represent them.

Further learning ahead

More than 200 people from across the country tuned in to the three-part June Meeting Series. The event will be complemented by Advance CTE’s Virtual Learning Series, a year-round webinar sequence for the general public and members. We also recently announced our first large in-person gathering since the pandemic started, our Fall Meeting, which will take place in October 2022 (more details coming soon)! 

Steve McFarland, Director of Communications and Membership

By Stacy Whitehouse in Uncategorized
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