Credit for Prior Learning: Q&A with CCV’s Melissa DeBlois on the success of the Prior Learning Assessment Programs.

April 26th, 2023

Earlier this month, Advance CTE released a Credit for Prior Learning Messaging Toolkit in partnership with Education Strategy Group and the New Skills ready network. This toolkit provides guidance and templates to help state leaders develop key messages that engage and communicate the value and use of Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) to adult learners, postsecondary faculty and staff and employers. 

This post interviews Community College of Vermont’s Director of Prior Learning Assessment, Melissa DeBlois for insights on the need for this resource and how communicating CPL is realized at the institution and learner level.

In our conversation, Melissa shared how CCV’s simple, yet effective strategies have been deployed to empower and support adult learners in returning to the classroom to complete their degrees.

When and why was the Office of Prior Learning Assessment established? 

The Office of Prior Learning Assessment was established in 1975 in response to the need for a formalized process that would reconnect adult learners by awarding postsecondary credits for previous academic or work-based experiences. 

Who do you consider to be your core audience for communications regarding Prior Learning Assessment / Credit for Prior Learning (PLA/CPL)?

Our primary audiences are students and employers. We find that students aged 25 and up and those with military connections are particularly successful in PLA/CPL because they often already have some learning that could be documented through the PLA/CPL process.

While employers are eager for resources to help upskill their employees, I’ve also had senior leadership approach me after leading a session to ask about whether PLA could help them complete their degrees. We foster a culture where these tools and resources are open and available without shame or judgment for anyone to take advantage of.

Which communication strategies would you consider to be exceptionally high-impact?

Social media and digital marketing are huge for us. Our marketing department utilizes data to determine which platforms have the greatest impact to get information in front of our audiences. We developed some short, pathway-specific videos that feature stories of program alumni. Sharing personal perspectives has been incredibly effective for connecting with our adult population as they are able to see themselves in these campaigns and it encourages them to dream about where they could go with their learning.

Our admissions department sends automatic messages to everyone who applies. Our software has the capability to send texts and emails, but our method depends entirely on the contact information that the learner has provided to us. On the day they apply, they receive a message from me asking if they have an interest in saving time and money on their path to a degree, and it has been a pretty effective way to target folks. 

Webinars have also been effective communication tools for reaching our audiences. Now that people are more familiar with Zoom, they have the opportunity to access this information in a way that they weren’t able to before.

Are strategies differentiated based on the PLA program/initiative or target audience?

In December 2020, we developed new competency-based PLA options specific to early childhood education. We were able to generate a mailing list of all registered childcare centers in the state and sent out informational fliers and contact cards to post in their break rooms. While this approach was low-tech, it specifically catered to the individuals working at the center by placing our fliers on staff bulletin boards in break rooms or common spaces they’d be seen every day.

How have your strategies changed over time?

We collect data from those who enroll and those who attend our informational sessions. We ask them about their takeaways from the session to better understand what the most relevant pieces of information were for them. I find that there are a lot more folks who are interested in learning a little bit more before they’re actually ready to devote the time and energy to enroll in courses. We’ve seen that they are exploring well in advance, and it can often take them months or sometimes years to follow through while they make arrangements to fit college into their already full lives. 

Were there additional surprises or pushback to this program that your team wasn’t anticipating? If so, how did you mitigate these?

PLA is complicated, and I’ve seen students struggle when they try to navigate it on their own.  Our adult learners do not want to be on hold, but being short-staffed means that our capacity to serve learners is a challenge. This population doesn’t want to be bounced around from office to office. They want to talk to one person to help them figure out what they need to do and get started. We’ve addressed this by prioritizing in-person sessions where I can interact in real-time and answer their questions. We wrote PLA into CCV’s strategic plan, so expanding opportunities for our adult learners are included in all of our goal-setting as it’s part of the DNA of our institution. 

Another challenge in PLA/CPL is the acceptance and transferability of credits.  I’m hopeful that more institutions will be open to prior learning assessed credit because they need to in order to stay afloat. They need to recognize that adult learners come with experiential learning with a college credit value, and I think we’re moving in that direction.

Finally, as a community college, we don’t have a lot of funding available so we need to get creative about how to fund these initiatives, not on the backs of tuition dollars for our students. 

What recommendations do you have for other states seeking to increase engagement and improve communication around CPL?

I have three pieces of advice: 

  • Profile your successful students. It is important for students to be able to see themselves in this process.
  • Be patient with the process. Adult learners need time before they’re ready to approach PLA/CPL with an open mind and trust that they can find success through this process.
  • Find your champions. Whether it’s students, faculty or employers. Word of mouth is pretty powerful in this process. We can do all the videos and profiles and all that kind of stuff, yet I still hear from students who actually enroll that they say they were referred by a friend.

What is the future of credit for prior learning in Vermont?

We’ve seen a lot of promise in competency-based pathways. We’ve broken down courses into modularized content that will allow folks to test out and complete assignments on their own without having to sit through an entire class. The response has been positive, and we’ve developed 12 competency-based pathways that are very popular for meeting the needs of learners at all kinds of places in their career paths. 

Visit Advance CTE’s Learning that Works Research Center for additional resources about credit for prior learning, including the Embedding Credit for Prior Learning in Career Pathways Policy Benchmark Tool and the newly released Credit for Prior Learning Messaging Toolkit.

Amy Hodge, Policy Associate

Melissa DeBlois is the director of the Office of Prior Learning Assessment and a member of the Prior Learning Assessment Network. In her role, Melissa coordinates and provides outreach efforts, hires faculty for portfolio reviews, course challenges, and ETES program reviews, trains faculty to teach portfolio courses, provides information to a variety of audiences via presentations, documentation, videos and webinars, and facilitates portfolio reviews. She spent the first 18 years of her career at the Community College of Vermont. Before working in prior learning assessment, she was a coordinator of academic services for the CCV-Burlington, then CCV-Winooski, academic teams. She has reviewed and developed computer degree programs on the Technology Curriculum Committee for the last 15 years. Melissa holds a bachelor of arts from St. Lawrence University and a master of education with a focus in technology integration from St. Michael’s College.

Welcome Beth Hargis as the new State Career Technical Education Director for Kentucky!

April 17th, 2023

Beth Hargis was named the Kentucky Department of Education’s Associate Commissioner in the Office of Career and Technical Education and State CTE Director last year. In Kentucky, Career Technical Education (CTE) is housed in the Kentucky Department of Education, where the Office oversees middle grades and secondary CTE, youth and registered apprenticeships and the area technical center system.

Beth began her career in industry and is especially interested in supporting state and local leaders and instructors in designing and aligning Career Technical Education (CTE) programs to industry needs. After years of working as a staff accountant and CFO of a non-profit, Beth started teaching business at the secondary level and earned two master’s degrees and a doctoral degree in secondary education and educational leadership. After a few years in the classroom, Beth became a principal of an area technical center, where she had the opportunity to take a deep dive into all aspects of CTE. That role then eventually led to being named State CTE Director.

Beth’s postsecondary endeavors have focused on program alignment and meeting industry and community needs, and she is excited to apply that background in her current role to help have the skills and support to stay in their communities to live and work. 

Beth wants to take advantage of the increased spotlight on CTE in Kentucky and use it as an opportunity to “make sure our CTE is state of the art and what our learners and stakeholders need to keep Kentucky’s economy moving forward.” There are several initiatives in the works to move that vision forward, including supporting CTE instructors through a New Teacher Institute and updated pay structures; creating new formulas and processes to center data in determining program quality, need and ultimately funding; and expanding dual credit. Beth also strives to expand access to work-based learning through healthcare apprenticeship opportunities, increasing pre-apprenticeship programs and including co-ops as career-ready experiences.

When not championing CTE, Beth enjoys spending time with her family, especially her two grandchildren and is excited about a third on the way (‘everything you hear about crazy grandparents is absolutely true’), and being involved in her church.

Please join us in welcoming Beth to this new role!

Stacy Whitehouse, Communications Manager 

Welcome Paul Mattingly to Advance CTE!

April 13th, 2023

Hello! I am extremely excited to have recently joined Advance CTE as a Senior Policy Associate. I will be supporting Advance CTE’s state policy team in a variety of programs including the National Career Clusters Framework®, Launch: Equitable & Accelerated Pathways for All and the Equity Strategy Project. My journey to Advance CTE has been a bit of a winding one and it has only strengthened my belief in the value and importance of Career Technical Education (CTE).

Having grown up in a rural part of southeast Connecticut (Bozrah, CT), then moving to a small city (New Britain, CT), and now back to living in a rural area I have gained perspective on the challenges of both rural and urban communities. While the challenges are at times distinctly different there are some commonalities that many communities face.  

Before I came to Advance CTE I was most recently involved in workforce development at the local level working at a regional workforce board and the local community college.  I was the Manager of Industry Relations with MassHire Berkshire Workforce Board which is the regional employment board of Berkshire County Massachusetts. MassHire Berkshire Workforce Board administers as well as oversees a variety of state and federal workforce development programs including those which are a part of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

Prior to MassHire, I was the Director of Workforce Development for Advanced Manufacturing at Berkshire Community College. In this role, our department focused on short-term non-credit training aimed at helping post-traditional students, those making a career change and anyone looking to gain the skills needed to enter a new industry. We also provided contract training for local employers that were looking to upskill their current workforce and develop pipeline programs to find their next generation of employees. 

One of the reasons I entered the workforce development realm was because of my experience in business. I spent 15 years working in the manufacturing and supply chain industries. My first job out of college was working at a small machine shop that was involved in the defense and aerospace industries. In my time there, I witnessed the breadth of in-demand skills that the employees possessed as well as the long-term successful careers that are available in manufacturing. This was also where I was introduced to the challenges of building a robust talent pipeline for these well-paying and secure jobs. This would only be reinforced as I moved on to the next step in my career. 

After leaving the machine shop I entered the supply chain industry working for a distributor of specialty metals; primarily nickel alloys, stainless steels, and titanium alloys in a variety of forms. I worked in a variety of roles including sales and supply chain management and as a result was able to visit customers’ facilities and learn more about their challenges and the potential solutions our company might be able to provide.

The largest challenge our customers faced was recruiting the skilled workforce they desperately needed for their business to thrive and at times survive. Time and time again they shared how they were not sure where they were going to find the next generation of employees for these well-paying and stable jobs. Throughout my working career, the impact of CTE became more evident and continually strengthened my belief in the importance of providing high-quality CTE opportunities. 

While I am originally from Connecticut I now live in the Berkshires region of Massachusetts with my wife and daughter. Outside of work I enjoy cycling, hiking, and traveling. I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Central Connecticut State University, a Graduate Certificate in Public Management from the University of Massachusetts and am currently pursuing a Master of Public Policy also at the University of Massachusetts.  

Paul Mattingly, Senior Policy Associate

Welcome Eliza Fabillar to Advance CTE!

April 5th, 2023

Hello, I’m delighted to be joining Advance CTE as a Senior Advisor where I’ll be leading the strategy, design and delivery of technical assistance to support states and serving as a coach for state teams. I live in the Boston, Massachusetts area. I’m committed to educational equity and passionate about preparing all students for success in school, college, career and life.

For 15 years, I was senior project director at the Education Development Center (EDC), where I directed a range of education programs and collaborated with local and state education leaders nationwide. I coached leadership teams on design thinking, continuous improvement and strategic planning. I led curriculum design for career pathways and developed professional development for Career Technical Education (CTE) and academic teachers. I worked with a state on aligning programs of study with career pathways and facilitated professional communities of practice. 

Prior to working at EDC, I was Co-Director, Education at the Center for Media and Learning of the City University of New York for a decade. I directed a number of initiatives to advance interdisciplinary education, early college models, culturally responsive policy and practice and school-college partnerships. Recently, I served as an interim executive director for a teacher workforce development nonprofit.

Early in my career, I was inspired by young adult students while teaching at the Consortium for Worker Education.  I’m fortunate to have collaborated with so many amazing educators, leaders, and funders who share a commitment to tackling systemic inequities.  

I was born in the Philippines and grew up in New York City. I hold a Master of Arts degree in Cultural Anthropology and Education from Columbia University. I received my bachelor’s degree from the City University of New York and am a product of the New York City public school system. 

I love to travel, hike, run races, take drawing classes, play tennis and spend time with family and friends. While I don’t like the cold, I do enjoy cross-country skiing, especially in the backcountry. I also practice and teach yoga and meditation. 

I look forward to working with the organization’s members and partners, engaging with you through technical assistance and communities of practice to advance CTE without limits. 

Eliza Fabillar, Senior Advisor

Welcome Dr. Laura Maldonado to Advance CTE!

March 20th, 2023

Hello! I am excited to join the talented team at Advance CTE as a Senior Research Associate. I started in February 2023 and will be working on projects related to policy research, technical assistance and data quality initiatives. Some of these projects include state Career Technical Education (CTE) funding research, the New Skills ready network and the Advancing Postsecondary CTE Data Quality Initiative (PDI).

I am committed to applying a data lens to projects to support learners and systems. Before joining Advance CTE, I worked at the Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research at North Carolina State University where I supported research and evaluation projects, provided writing and data coaching to future community college executive leaders and disseminated research to support evidence-based practice. I strengthened my CTE research experience by participating in the Postsecondary CTE Research Fellows Program at North Carolina State University – Sponsored by ECMC Foundation. Previous to this work, I spent over a decade as a career services practitioner in postsecondary settings, which makes me passionate about advocating for the career trajectories of all learners. 

I have participated in lifelong learning through various formal and informal settings. I earned a Doctorate of Philosophy in Educational Leadership, Policy and Human Development from North Carolina State University (go Wolfpack!), a Master of Education in Counselor Education from Clemson University (go Tigers!), and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Muhlenberg College (go Mules!). Outside of work, I enjoy walking in my neighborhood, watching movies and attempting to keep plants alive. I am a native of Pennsylvania, but I have also lived in South Carolina and Virginia. I now reside in the City of Oaks – Raleigh, North Carolina – with my husband, a secondary CTE digital media teacher and our son.

Dr. Laura Maldonado, Senior Research Associate

Building Environmental Literacy in CTE: a New Partnership in Response to Current and Future Economic Needs

March 16th, 2023

Developing environmental literacy in elementary, middle and high school is essential to prepare learners for an evolving economy and to equip them with the skills and experiences they need to tackle urgent environmental challenges, both globally and in their own communities. By 2030, it is estimated that 24 million green jobs will be created in industries ranging from energy to finance and transportation.1 Yet too few individuals enter the workforce with the necessary environmental competencies and dispositions.

A survey of college students published in 2018 identified misconceptions about the environment and the role of humans in environmental problems and scored students an average of 52 percent out of 100 percent on environmental literacy.2 Considering the role that Career Technical Education (CTE) has in career preparation for the current and future world of work, and the desire for programs to be responsive to the needs of the economy and community, the value of environmental literacy has never been more important for CTE learners.

The state of Delaware, in particular, is no stranger to the impacts climate change will bring to the jobs landscape. Because of Delaware’s geography, environmental changes threaten economic activity, well-being, and preservation of the state’s wetlands and waterways; accordingly, there is an urgent need to develop and cultivate environmental literacy among youth, not only to instill awareness and responsibility for the environment but also to prepare young people for the workplace of the future. To begin deeper conversations about the intersection of CTE and environmental literacy, Advance CTE partnered with the Delaware Department of Education to explore what environmental literacy competencies could look like within and across Delaware Pathways. 

Supported by a Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) grant through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the two-year project involves developing a cross-cutting environmental literacy framework, validated by Delaware educators, environmental literacy experts, industry stakeholders and other leaders. Once validated, the framework will be published on the Delaware Pathways website. In the second year of the grant, the project team will begin professional development activities supported by NOAA and other partners to implement the framework in CTE programs statewide. This commitment to environmental literacy is further evidenced through and builds upon the Delaware Climate Action Plan, which specifically lists “Increase the availability of climate change educational programming” as a core activity for improving outreach and education impacts.  

The objective for the project is to demonstrate how environmental literacy competencies can be integrated into middle and high school CTE programs in the state of Delaware, including career and academic advising, and to build the capacity of state and local leaders to ensure all students, in particular under-represented and historically marginalized learners, graduate environmentally literate. Delaware Director of Career and Technical Education and STEM Initiatives Dr. Jon Wickert echoes this sentiment: “The shifting geopolitical landscape has laid bare the fact that all jobs are green jobs, and economic, public, and community health is directly impacted by public policy, business decision-making, and the consumer choices available as a result.  The next generation has no choice but to address the environmental challenges previous generations have bequeathed and it is our responsibility to equip them with sufficient environmental literacy to do so successfully.  Their future depends on it.”   

This project will hopefully serve as a pilot to bring more awareness and understanding about the environment to CTE learners, build problem-solving and critical thinking skills that link academic and technical knowledge, and equip a new generation of learners to successfully participate in a greener economy. As a final deliverable, Advance CTE will be developing a case study at the conclusion of this grant to model how states can develop an environmental literacy framework of their own or integrate the framework developed with Delaware in their own state’s CTE delivery system. Stay tuned for more information about this project!

Dan Hinderliter, Senior Policy Associate


Spotlight on CTE Month: Celebrating the creative ways states engaged with stakeholders

March 7th, 2023

February’s Career Technical Education (CTE) Month celebrations illustrated CTE’s continued spotlight in both federal and state communications and policymaking. This post recaps some of the inspiring activities from across the nation elevating both the value of CTE and the learners it serves.

Spotlight on CTE in the Nation’s Capital

CTE Month started strong this year with a major policy speech by U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, during which he highlighted the importance of Career Technical Education (CTE): “We must challenge our myopic view that emphasizing the importance of career pathways is about limiting students, or the view that its four-year-college or bust. Advancing career pathways in high schools is about more options for students, not less. What it does is prepare them for the careers of today with options, and in some cases, their employer will pay for their future education. If we do this well, our graduates will be able to compete on a global stage. It’s my intention to Raise the Bar so we can lead the world in advanced career and technical education.” 

Just two weeks later, First Lady Jill Biden’s guests for the State of the Union (SOTU) address included Kate Foley– a 10th-grade computer-integrated manufacturing student who the First Lady had met last year during a visit to CTE programs in Rolling Meadows High School. In addition, Rep. Glusenkamp Perez (D-WA) brought Cory Toppa, a construction, engineering design, and manufacturing teacher at Kalama High School and the director of CTE for the Kalama school district. 

During the SOTU, President Biden highlighted how the intersection of education and workforce development is integral to America’s ability to compete within the wider global economy. The President mentioned career-focused education saying, in part, “Let’s finish the job, and connect students to career opportunities starting in high school, provide access to two years of community college, the best career training in America, in addition to being a pathway to a four-year degree. Let’s offer every American a path to a good career, whether they go to college or not.” 

Finally, support for CTE  extended to Capitol Hill, with both the House and Senate passing resolutions supporting CTE that achieved a high water mark for the number of co-sponsors.

Spotlight on CTE in State Capitols and Beyond

Outside of the U.S. House, 25 states and at least 1 U.S. Territory had proclamations designating February as CTE Month, and many state capitols hosted CTE students for showcases and meet and greets.


Spotlight on engaging with CTE stakeholders

Many states used CTE Month as an opportunity to connect with learners, families, employers and other stakeholders.

Louisiana hosted a roundtable discussion featuring panelists from K-12, postsecondary and industry professionals at their annual conference. Michigan hosted a Value of CTE virtual conference for employers and Missouri launched their CTE Perceptions Survey to learners, families, educators and business leaders.


States used a variety of marketing channels to share stories and promote CTE. Wyoming released a CTEZine published in local newspapers. South Carolina created My CTE Story videos featuring learner stories. North Dakota shared tips for maximizing messaging during CTE Month in their monthly newsletter. Oklahoma created a week’s worth of suggested activities that fostered pride in and self-promotion of local programs during #ILuvOKCTE week.

Through social media posts, many states shared information on the power and purpose of CTE as well as success stories and celebrations of CTE learners.



While CTE Month is a great opportunity to promote and educate those not familiar with the opportunities within and successes of CTE, our advocacy and education efforts should continue year-round. For information on how you can more effectively communicate CTE, check out the following resources in our Resource Center:

Jodi Langellotti, Communications Associate

Welcome Stephanie Perkins to Advance CTE!

February 16th, 2023

Howdy from Texas! I am elated to join Advance CTE in the role of Senior Advisor, Member Engagement and Professional Learning. I am a native of Odessa, Texas. I moved to Central Texas in 2009 and have called Austin my home since 2015. I recently worked at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in the Workforce Education division. I specifically was the fiscal and operational lead for the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) grant distributed to the 54 community, state and technical colleges across Texas. Previous to this work, I was employed for community colleges in Texas for 15 years with roles in student enrollment services, including directing an Adult Education and Literacy program. My favorite role was academic advisor, where I was able to coach students through achieving their dreams via academic pursuits!

In 2021, I received my Doctor of Education from Abilene Christian University in Organizational Leadership- Higher Education. My dissertation was a narrative study that highlighted the academic pathways and success of first-generation college students. As a first-gen student myself, this body of work was very rewarding and eye-opening. I received my Master of Education from Angelo State University in Student Development and Leadership- Higher Education and have a Bachelor of Business Administration from Texas A&M University-Central Texas.

I am excited to join Advance CTE and continue to be an advocate of career and technical education. I look forward to working with the organization’s membership and engaging with all of you in this work. Some of the things I love: reading, traveling, spending time with family, cooking, and spoiling my three kitties Abbie, Colbie and Stormie!

Stephanie Perkins, Senior Advisor, Member Engagement and Professional Learning

Congratulations to the Inaugural Cohort of Advance CTE – ECMCF Fellows!

January 31st, 2023

On January 25th, Advance CTE held a celebration of completion for the 2021-2022 inaugural cohort of The Postsecondary State Career Technical Education Leaders Fellowship sponsored by the ECMC Foundation.

Fellows received a special message from U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, calling them “trailblazers” and congratulating them for their accomplishments and completion of the 15-month Fellowship.

Join us in recognizing the Fellows from the 2021-2022 cohort and celebrating some of the career milestones achieved during the Fellowship.


Getting to Know the 2022- 2024 Advance CTE – ECMCF Fellows Part 5

January 25th, 2023

In September, Advance CTE and ECMC Foundation announced the second cohort of The Postsecondary State Career Technical Education (CTE) Leaders Fellowship at Advance CTE—Sponsored by ECMC Foundation. The Advance CTE — ECMCF Fellows include representation across multiple demographic categories reflecting the Fellowship’s goal of intentionally building a postsecondary leadership pipeline for underserved populations in Career Technical Education (CTE)  that closes racial representation gaps and removes equity barriers to postsecondary leadership advancement. 

This is the final blog in this series which has introduced each Fellow participating in the second cohort of emerging leaders from 14 states, including 12 professionals of color.

Caleb Perriton – Wyoming

Caleb Perriton’s career began in the automotive industry as an international trainer prior to entering the world of postsecondary CTE. Currently, he serves as Program Director of the Trades & Technical Studies Pathway at Laramie County Community College. He is an ASE Certified Master Automotive Technician and earned a bachelor’s degree in automotive technology from Weber State University and master’s degree in business administration from the University of Wyoming.  


Luv’Tesha Robertson – Kentucky

Dr. Luv’Tesha Robertson is passionate about creating seamless transitions among secondary, postsecondary and workforce programs to foster learner success, particularly for learners of color.  She has over 15 years of experience in program quality, accountability, and learner transfer and retention initiatives at postsecondary institutions and the state level. Currently, Dr. Robertson serves as Deputy Executive Director of the Office of Adult Education at the Kentucky Education and Labor Cabinet. She earned both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in financial management, conflict resolution and leadership from Sullivan University and earned a doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies from Eastern Kentucky University.


Daniel Sandoval – Colorado

Daniel Sandoval is passionate about cultivating self-reliance among learners and students from marginalized populations and has focused on serving immigrant, economically disadvantaged, racially underrepresented and linguistically diverse communities. His range of experience includes grant writing and administration, managing apprenticeship and credential attainment initiatives, and serving in leadership roles in postsecondary student services. Currently, Sandoval serves as the Director of Customized Training and Apprenticeships at Pickens Technical College and as a Psychology instructor at the Community College of Aurora. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English writing from Colorado Mesa University and a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the University of Colorado at Denver.