CTE as a Protective Factor for Mental Health Part 2: The role of hope and positive childhood experiences to buffer the impacts of childhood trauma

May 8th, 2024

The protective factors for mental health inherent to Career Technical Education (CTE) may offer opportunities to improve mental health and overall outcomes for learners, solidifying CTE’s role in not only preparing learners for the workforce but also for life. In part two of this four-part blog series, Senior Communications Associate and Mental Health Educator Jodi Langellotti shares research on the power of hope and positive childhood experiences (PCEs) to buffer the negative effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

In the first blog in this series, we discussed how 80% of our most common health, social, and behavioral challenges are a direct result of trauma experienced in childhood. This trauma,  also referred to as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), results in changes in the developing brain that can result in challenges with focus, attention, emotional regulation, executive functioning skills, and more. The original ACEs study from the mid-1990s showed that ACEs are common, they are interrelated, and that those who experience more trauma in childhood, as evidenced by a higher ACE score, are at greater risk for negative life outcomes including disease, mental health challenges, incarceration, substance use challenges, and more.

The Life Progression of Adversity

Recreated by the author based materials from the ACE Interface Master Trainer Training

When we look at the life progression of those who are affected by ACEs and the resulting disrupted brain development, traits, and behaviors, we see a significant increase in the risk of early substance use as a coping mechanism (see chart above). For example, nicotine found in cigarettes and vape products can reduce anxiety and help to increase focus and attention. For someone challenged with attention problems and/or anxiety, smoking or vaping may improve those conditions and be an attractive coping mechanism despite the known associated health risks. This increases the person’s risk for chronic smoking-related health problems later in life, like cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and emphysema.

Even if a young person does not turn to substance use as a coping mechanism, there is still a significant risk of negative outcomes as a result of the changes in brain development as depicted in the image below. When those with ACEs have children, the risk of transmitting that adversity to their children is significantly higher when they continue to suffer from the impact of the adversities they have faced.

The Role of Hope and Support

When people feel that they have hope and support, the negative effects of adversity are significantly reduced. In the chart below, you can see that the percentage of respondents who experienced poor mental health for half of the last 30 days drops drastically when they felt they had hope and were supported, regardless of how much adversity they have experienced. This important factor, the role of hope, is often left out of ACE conversations and presentations though it is the primary reason that a person’s individual ACE score is not predictive of their individual life outcomes. Both ACEs and the role of hope and support have a dose-response relationship, the greater the dose, whether it be toxic stress or hope and support, the greater the impact. 

Recreated by the author based on materials from the ACE Interface Master Trainer Training

In 2019, new research on resilience and positive childhood experiences (PCEs) through Johns Hopkins University lead by principal researcher Dr. Christina Bethell provided statistical evidence that hope and support can buffer the negative effects of adverse childhood experiences.

The study, conducted with over 7,000 participants aged 18+, involved asking participants a variety of questions about childhood trauma, their mental health, and the health of their relationships. It is important to note, that the questions regarding trauma were not limited to the 10 ACE categories and therefore were more reflective of additional modern-day forms of trauma one may experience. 

The findings of the PCEs study identified seven positive childhood experiences or protective factors that have a lifelong beneficial, ripple effect on mental health and overall life outcomes.

These PCEs can be categorized as taking place within the home and within the community, to include the school community:

Within the home

  • Able to talk to family about feelings
  • Felt family stood up for them in difficult times
  • Felt safe and protected by an adult in your home

Within the community

  • Had at least two non-parent adults who took genuine interest
  • Felt supported by friends
  • Felt a sense of belonging in school
  • Enjoyed participating in community traditions

The PCEs study showed that positive experiences have a similar dose-response relationship as adverse experiences – the more positive experiences, the better the chance for positive mental and relationship health despite the level of adversity or trauma experienced. The PCEs study confirmed that positive childhood experiences can buffer adverse childhood experiences thereby reducing the neurological, emotional, and behavioral impact of ACEs.

Source: Pinetree Institute

The Role of Career-connected Learning on Learner Hope and Engagement

In a report released in September 2023, Gallup reported that there is a direct connection in the number of career-connected learning (CCL) opportunities experienced and a learner’s engagement and hope. This study, performed in the spring of 2023 by Gallup and New Hampshire Learning Initiative (NHLI), surveyed more than 9,600 students in fifth through 12th grades across 28 schools in 13 districts throughout New Hampshire. Significant findings include:

  • Mentors matter for hope. Those who agree they have a mentor who supports their development are more likely to be hopeful about the future than their peers who do not have such a mentor (40% vs. 25%). 
  • Engagement matters. Even students with lower academic performance who were more engaged through CCL reported having a higher sense of hope that they will graduate high school.
  • There is a dose-response relationship between the number of CCL opportunities and the rate of engagement and hope. The more CCL opportunities, the higher the student’s engagement and sense of hope.

Looking Ahead

In the next blog in this series, we will discuss the importance of relationships in buffering the effects and intergenerational transmission of adversity and the inherent aspects of CTE that serve as protective factors for mental health.

Future blogs in this series will discuss:

  • Communicating CTE as a protective factor and continuing the conversation

Resources

Much of the information in this blog is from the author’s training as an Adverse Childhood Experiences Master Trainer through ACE Interface with Dr. Robert Anda and Laura Porter and through her volunteer work within the community mental health space.

Jodi Langellotti, senior policy associate

Congress Returns to a Busy Work Period | Legislative Update

May 3rd, 2024

Over the last few weeks lawmakers reconvened following a short recess period to address a number of critical issues, including the ongoing budget and appropriations process. Lawmakers have also held hearings with the leaders of federal agencies regarding the Biden administration’s recent budget requests and other policies and priorities. In addition, the Biden administration has made new regulatory announcements on a few issues of importance to the Career Technical Education (CTE) community.

House Holds DOL Oversight Hearing

On Wednesday, May 1, the House Education and Workforce Committee held a hearing to examine the policies and priorities of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Acting Assistant Secretary Julie Su testified on behalf of the agency and the discussion focused heavily on a multitude of new regulations the Department has proposed or implemented recently. Lawmakers appeared to be particularly skeptical of DOL’s recently proposed apprenticeship regulations which, among other proposed changes, would create a new programmatic structure for apprenticeship programs in K-12 and postsecondary education settings known as Career and Technical Education Apprenticeships (CTEAs). 

Long-time CTE Caucus co-chair Rep. G.T. Thompson (R-PA) questioned Su extensively on this topic and raised significant concerns regarding the Department’s proposal, the impact it could potential have on learners and CTE programs, and questioned the broader reasoning for this proposed programmatic structure. As a reminder, Advance CTE recently submitted substantial comments in response to this regulatory proposal and have been continuing to monitor and engage with stakeholders on this issue. A full recording of the hearing, including witness testimony, can be found here

Senate Examines ED’s FY25 Budget Request

Earlier this week, April 30, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona testified before the Senate Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-ED) Subcommittee regarding the U.S. Department of Education’s federal fiscal year 2025 (FY25) budget request. In both of their opening remarks, Chair Baldwin (D-WI) and Ranking Member Capito (R-WV) highlighted the importance of CTE and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins V), including the need to strengthen investments in these efforts and noting the need to expand access to CTE opportunities for more learners. In addition, the hearing focused heavily on ED’s ongoing challenges in implementing a newly revamped Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and lawmakers questioned Caronda on a number of other topics including the importance of student mental health and newly finalized Title IX regulations. An archived webcast of the hearing, including Cardona’s written testimony, can be found here.

Title IX Rule Finalized

In recent weeks, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) published revised Title IX regulations intended to provide new protections against sex discrimination. “These final regulations clarify Title IX’s requirement that schools promptly and effectively address all forms of sex discrimination,” said ED’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon as part of the announcement. The new rules are scheduled to come into effect August 1, 2024 and codify new protections for LGBTQ students, staff, and others against discrimination, including on the basis of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Additionally, the regulations will allow school districts to use a more uniform grievance process to address all forms of reported discrimination. More information regarding these new rules and implications for the CTE community can be accessed here

DOL Unveils New Rules on Overtime Pay

Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a new regulation related to worker eligibility criteria for overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The long-anticipated rules will have significant implications for employers across the country, including for schools, districts, and institutions. These new requirements are set to go into effect January 1, 2025. The regulations will increase current salary thresholds, currently set at $35,568, for workers entitled to time-and-a-half pay when working more than 40 hours in a week, to $43,888. By July 1, 2025, this threshold is set to increase to $58,656. DOL estimates that this will benefit approximately four million workers nationwide. More information on this announcement can be accessed here

Antisemitism Bill Advanced in the House

Lawmakers in the House considered and advanced the Antisemitism Awareness Act (H.R. 6900)—legislation that would codify the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism within existing civil rights legislation. This legislative proposal would also encourage the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to use this definition when conducting civil rights investigations when seeking to determine whether a complaint was motivated by antisemitism. The legislation was cleared by lawmakers in the House on a wide bipartisan margin of 320-91 late yesterday. Next week, the House Education and Workforce Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on antisemitism in K-12 schools.

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor 

CTE as a Protective Factor for Mental Health Part 1: The role of childhood adversity on mental health and development

May 1st, 2024

The protective factors for mental health inherent to Career Technical Education (CTE) may offer opportunities to improve mental health and overall outcomes for learners, solidifying CTE’s role in not only preparing learners for the workforce but also for life. In part one of this four-part blog series, Senior Communications Associate and mental health educator Jodi Langellotti will outline the research around adverse childhood experiences and the resulting changes in brain growth and development that can have lifelong consequences.

The State of Youth Mental Health

In 2023 the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released the Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Trends 2011-2021 Report showing the ten-year trend in responses to the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) administered every two years to high school students across the nation on a variety of health and behavior topics including safety, alcohol, tobacco and drug use, and mental health and suicidality.

Over the course of the last ten years, the percentage of high school students who have experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness and who have either seriously considered suicide, made a suicide plan or attempted suicide has continued to increase. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for adolescents aged 15-19,1 and in 2020, emergency room visits for suicide attempts increased 31% for youth ages 12 to 17.2

 

As school districts work to reduce their student-to-counselor ratio and increase their mental health services and programming, the conversation often drifts to the new and additional things schools must do to combat the student mental health crisis. In reality, there are certain aspects of school and work-based programs and relationships, like those found within Career Technical Education (CTE), that are already having a positive impact on student mental health.3 With some increased understanding and intentionality, CTE can serve as a protective factor for students with life-long positive benefits on their mental health.

The Original ACE Study

A major risk factor for life-long mental illness and mental health challenges is trauma experienced during childhood, more commonly referred to as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).4 A growing body of research starting with the original ACEs study in the mid-1990s now shows that 80% of our most common health, social, and behavioral problems, including mental illness and suicidality, are caused by ACEs.5

The ACEs study remains the largest study of its kind, having surveyed over 17,000 participants aged 19-94 on trauma experienced in childhood, health behaviors, disease and disease risk, mental health, substance use, and other health and social problems. ACE study participants were mostly middle-class, White individuals who were generally well-educated (the majority of participants having completed high school with some having completed at least some postsecondary coursework). Participants also had access to some of the best healthcare in the country at the time through Kaiser Permanente. 

Completed in partnership with the Department of Preventative Medicine in San Diego, Kaiser Permanente, and the CDC of Georgia with co-principal investigators Dr. Robert Anda and Dr. Vicent Felitti, the ACEs study looked at 10 categories of trauma experienced in childhood organized into three groups:

  • Abuse: physical, emotional, and sexual
  • Neglect: physical  and emotional
  • Household Dysfunction: caregiver with alcohol/substance use, parental separation or divorce, domestic violence, caregiver with mental health challenges, and incarceration of a caregiver.

For part of the study, participants completed a questionnaire, indicating if they had experienced any of the 10 categories of adversity at least once during their childhood. For each positive answer, regardless of the frequency or duration they experienced the trauma associated with the category, they received one point for a total possible ACE score of 10. 

The Findings of the ACE Study

The findings of the original ACE study paired with subsequent research found that:

  • ACEs are common and interrelated: ACEs happen across all socioeconomic levels and racial identities. Sixty-seven percent of ACE study participants reported experiencing at least one category of trauma in childhood (an ACE score of 1 or more). Eighty-seven percent of ACEs happen together e.g. a child with a caregiver who struggles with substance abuse may also experience physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse.
  • ACEs negatively impact neurodevelopment: the high levels of cortisol released during the stress experienced during traumatic events create a toxic environment within the brain that can hinder the development of neural pathways and neural connections. Those who have experienced ACEs are more likely to struggle with emotional regulation, executive functioning skills, impulse control, focus and attention, building healthy relationships, and more. When the brain develops in a stressful environment, it is wired to survive, not thrive which often results in behaviors that don’t fit societal expectations and can lead to negative life outcomes like school dropout, housing instability, chronic disease, or incarceration, and coping mechanisms like substance use, gambling, and more. 
  • ACEs have a dose-response relationship: While ACEs are not predictive on an individual level, when we look at the relationship between toxic stress and life outcomes on the population as a whole, we see that the more toxic stress experienced, represented by a higher ACE score, the higher the risk for any number of health, social, and behavioral problems. 

Population Attributable Risk

Since the ACE study, epidemiologists have calculated the percentage of the national population who is struggling with a variety of health and social problems directly caused by the adversities they experienced in childhood. The diagram below shows some various health and social problems represented as pie pieces in the chart. In the center, the gray oil slick shows the percentage of the population who are experiencing the given challenge as a direct result of ACEs. Epidemiologists call this the population-attributable risk.

If we look at the pie piece for recent depression in the lower right of the pie chart, we see that for 40% of the people struggling with recent depression, their depression is a direct result of the adversities they faced in their childhood.

Historical Approaches 

Historically, we often try to reduce the number of people suffering with any of the health, social, and behavioral problems represented in the pie pieces in two primary ways:

  • Top-down mandates: laws or policies may be enacted to make it harder for people to access substances or easier to access top-tier support from counselors, therapists, or other licensed professionals.
  • Siloed approach: programs, services, and curriculum are created to address a challenge within its pie piece, focused on increasing professional support and programs that focus primarily on mitigating the challenge without addressing the root cause.

While these approaches may help reduce the percentage of the population challenged by a specific issue, without addressing the root cause, we are often just shifting the challenge that people are facing, moving the oil around the slide, versus reducing the percentage of the population who are suffering.

In order to reduce the size of the oil slick, i.e. the percentage of the population who are experiencing negative outcomes from the adversities they have faced in childhood, we must drill a hole in the center of the pie chart, where it says “ACEs”, by buffering the impact of ACEs and eventually reducing the intergenerational transmission of ACEs. If we address the root cause, then our historical approaches will be more impactful in reducing the percentage of the population who is suffering with any number of health, social, and behavioral issues because of ACEs.

Looking Ahead

In the next blog in this series, we will discuss research on positive childhood experiences (PCEs) and how they can buffer the negative impact of ACEs and reduce the intergenerational transmission of adversity. 

Future blogs in this series will discuss:

  • The power of relationships in buffering adversity
  • How CTE serves as a protective factor for mental health
  • Communicating CTE as a protective factor and continuing the conversation

For additional information on ACEs check out Adverse Childhood Experiences: Prevention for Action, Centers for Disease Control https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/ACEs-Prevention-Resource_508.pdf 

Much of the information in this blog is from the author’s training as an Adverse Childhood Experiences Master Trainer through ACE Interface with Dr. Robert Anda and Laura Porter and through her volunteer work within the community mental health space.

Jodi Langellotti, senior communications associate

State CTE Policy Update: Expanding CTE Access in Washington

April 30th, 2024

In this blog, Policy Associate Velie Sando highlights policies enacted by Washington state in 2024 that facilitate access to Career Technical Education (CTE) for learners within special populations as identified by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins V). 

As outlined in Without Limits: A Shared Vision for the Future of Career and Technical Education (CTE Without Limits), CTE plays a central role in fostering an inclusive and equitable future for all learners, supporting them in their pursuit of high-demand, high-wage careers while meeting industry demands for talent. Variables such as program expenses, transportation issues, and eligibility criteria create access and equity hurdles encountered by special populations and other impacted learners when pursuing CTE programs.  

In recognizing the diverse challenges individuals may encounter in accessing CTE, states like Washington have taken proactive measures to break down barriers and promote inclusivity. In 2024, Washington enacted policies prioritizing equity and opportunity for special populations in their state. 

Washington’s commitment to inclusivity is evident through H.B. 1889, which removes the citizenship status barrier for individuals seeking professional licenses or certifications. This bill ensures that all individuals, regardless of their legal status, have equal access to opportunities in the workforce as allowed under federal guidelines. By mandating that an individual’s status does not impede their ability to obtain a license, Washington fosters an environment where talent and skill are most valued in the workforce.

Given their historical background and landscape, Washington enacted HB 2019 which establishes the Native American Apprentice Assistance program to address the specific challenges faced by Native American communities. This bill acknowledges Native learners’ aspirations to pursue higher education and supports this endeavor by addressing prevalent systemic barriers that they face, such as poverty and limited access to postsecondary institutions near reservations. Washington aims to uplift Native American learners and empower them to thrive in CTE fields by prioritizing funding to cover tuition costs and adopting population-specific guidelines that may facilitate learner success in the program through consultations with Indigenous nations and apprenticeship programs.

Washington’s commitment to inclusivity extends beyond removing immigration barriers and recognizing cultural assets to encompass educational prerequisites. By adopting HB 2216, the state revolutionizes its hiring efforts by removing barriers to employment qualifications for certain state positions to exclude a four-year college degree requirement. This bill opens doors for individuals who may have previously been excluded from state employment by recognizing that diverse avenues of skill acquisition exist, paving the way for a more inclusive workforce in Washington.

Fostering inclusivity in CTE is imperative to ensure all learners have access to and can succeed in high-quality CTE programs; inclusivity also positively impacts a state’s economy. By dismantling barriers and prioritizing equity, Washington is enriching its workforce and nurturing vibrant and resilient communities. 

For more strategies to expand access to CTE for special populations, check out the “Maximizing Access & Success for Special Populations” briefs prepared by Advance CTE and ACTE for supporting special populations and other learners groups in need of additional support.

  • Foster Youth
  • Non-traditional Learners
  • Out-of-Workforce Individuals
  • Economically Disadvantaged Learners
  • English Learners
  • Individuals with Disabilities
  • Learners Experiencing Homelessness
  • Military Connected Learners
  • Single Parents
  • Migrant and Undocumented Learners 
  • LGBTQ+ Learners 
  • Justice-Involved Learners 
  • Tribal Learners 

Velie Sando, policy associate

Advance CTE 2024 Spring Meeting Sponsor Blog – Diamond Sponsor Certiport | Promoting the Value of CTE

April 26th, 2024

Career technical education (CTE) has the power to transform the workforce landscape. By teaching workforce-specific skills, learners can find a career-specific pathway that leverages their passion and talents. Unfortunately, in the United States, CTE is often undervalued and underutilized. 

Matt Fritzius, CTE Curriculum Supervisor at Broward County Public Schools, said, “I think a lot of the CTE stigma in the United States comes from the vocational education of the past, classifying students as less academically inclined and ineligible for college. Instead, these students were put on specific vocational paths where they could get a job, but there wasn’t really much advancement. But the CTE of today is not the vocational education of the past.”

We were able to sit down with Matt to talk about people’s incorrect assumptions about CTE. Matt shared some ways to help change the CTE narrative, and really promote the value of today’s CTE classroom. 

Do Your Research

Understanding the current workforce landscape is crucial to maximizing the value and impact of CTE, and employers are moving away from degree requirements for job postings. A Harvard Business Review article said that “between 2017 and 2019, employers reduced degree requirements for 46% of middle-skill positions and 31% of high-skill positions.” Companies are doing away with degree requirements and instead focusing on finding employees that have the skills for the job. 

“If every student pursues the bachelor’s degree track, the workforce will be full of people with credentials they don’t need for the jobs they land,” said Matt. “Furthermore, we’ll see a huge skills gap for jobs that require a significant amount of technical training and knowledge that can’t be filled by someone with a traditional liberal arts degree or a business degree. Today’s workforce is looking for employees with a very specific set of skills for specific job roles. CTE provides students with an opportunity to learn those skills, often while still in high school.” 

Share the CTE Vision

Once you’ve done your research and understand the job landscape in your area, it’s time to share that information and vision with your fellow educators, administrators, and Departments of Education. Gather testimonials from your past learners. Talk to employers in your community about learners they’ve worked with. Find ways to get others on board and see the impact of CTE in your school, district, and state. 

Matt’s had years of experience with these types of informative conversations. “Many administrators might not even realize what CTE encompasses. I’ve had conversations with school leaders before where they say, ‘I don’t know that we have many CTE classes at my school.’ They start talking about the programs they’re offering, and they mention robotics, entrepreneurship, and hospitality and tourism, for example. Those are all CTE programs! As professionals in the CTE sphere, it’s so important that we make sure everybody understands the breadth and depth of CTE; it’s all these different avenues that CTE offers to today’s students.”

With the large breadth of programs that CTE offers, there’s a place for everyone. Learners can discover their passions, and that’s something we can all get behind. 

Help Students Find Their Passions

When students find their passion, they’re more engaged. We know well that student engagement is the gateway to true learning. Gallup has conducted millions of surveys of K12 students and has revealed some key characteristics of engaged students. Learners who strongly agreed that their school supported the strengths of each student and had at least one teacher who helped them feel excited for the future were 30 times as likely to be engaged in class than those who strongly disagreed. Learners need caring adults who recognize their strengths, potential, and goals. 

Today’s CTE programs help learners find topics that are connected to their strengths and interests. Whether they want to be an entrepreneur or an IT professional, there are CTE pathways that help learners stay engaged in the classroom and learn the skills they need to get there. 

“By leveraging CTE programs, students see a clear pathway to their goals. Students need to know that the path they take to their career, whether through a four-year university, a technical college, and/or apprenticeship program, is celebrated and supported by the adults in their lives.” 

Establish Business Partnerships

The pathway to the workforce is only complete when employers are ready to hire these skilled learners. By engaging with businesses in the community, educators understand what career opportunities are available in their areas. Employers benefit as well. By sharing the skills they need in future employees, they influence curriculum and graduation requirements. Advisory boards allow schools and districts to incorporate feedback from employers across industries. And that doesn’t even cover the impact of potential internship or apprenticeship opportunities these employers have for learners. 

Florida’s already seeing the cyclical benefit of business partnerships. Matt recently took a trip down to Miami to see the benefits firsthand. “Miami-Dade College has partnered with Tesla. There’s a Tesla training center right on the Miami-Dade campus,” Matt said. “Students enroll in the Tesla Academy program and get work experience at either a Tesla dealership or service center here in South Florida. After completing the program, they get hired as a full-time technician.” By connecting with learners before they graduate, companies like Tesla can bridge the skills gap and find the talent they need to fill crucial job roles.

Matt continued, “To me, this really speaks to the power of CTE. There are dual benefits to investing in this type of education. It benefits the learner, and it benefits the community. When you upskill people in your community, they can make more money, and that money ends up staying in the community. It only makes sense to expand programs like Tesla’s moving forward.” 

Prepare your learners to hit the ground running after graduation. Give them the skills they need to establish a successful and engaging career. Learn more from Matt on the CERTIFIED Educator Podcast here.

Advance CTE 2024 Spring Meeting Sponsor Blog – Diamond Sponsor iCEV | Five Challenges Facing CTE Data Management and How to Solve Them

April 25th, 2024

The views, opinions, services, and products shared in this post are solely for educational purposes and do not imply agreement or endorsement by Advance CTE, nor discrimination against similar brands, products, or services not mentioned.

As a State CTE leader, you’re responsible for ensuring that essential information is properly collected, stored, and communicated to relevant agencies. However, many educators find data management difficult and time-consuming.

Below, you’ll discover five of the most common problems associated with CTE data management.

When left unaddressed, these issues can become overwhelming. But with the right system in place, you can overcome these challenges and put CTE at the Forefront.

1. Manual Data Entry 

Tracking data manually comes with a high chance of error. When you enter data by hand, you may end up double-checking your work and even entering the same data multiple times!

This inefficient process costs time and often leads to inaccurate reports.

 2. Difficulty Managing Spreadsheet Data

Properly dealing with spreadsheet data is easier said than done. Using spreadsheets requires correctly setting up different fields and conditional formats. Without proper formatting, even the best-designed spreadsheet can become a confusing mess.

Importing and exporting data can lead to more issues, making data analysis difficult.

Finally, different team members may have separate documents, challenging your efforts to keep a clean data set.

3. Lack of Data Transparency and Insight 

Especially when records are kept in various places, it’s common for CTE teams not to have an authoritative database to make critical decisions. Without data transparency, administrators are forced to fill in gaps or even resort to guesswork.

When you don’t have a full picture of what is going on in your CTE program, the insight you can gain from analyzing data is limited. Programs that lack confidence in their data risk falling behind in obtaining funding and complying with regulations. 

4. Inability to Track Performance Across Multiple Schools

States with a large volume of CTE offerings often struggle with tracking performance across multiple schools. When each school measures data differently, it’s up to CTE directors to reconcile these differences.

Often, the solution that works best is a data management system that ensures every school is using the same measurements to quantify success. 

 5. Your Data Is Not Focused on CTE

Finally, many administrators use data management solutions engineered toward the traditional classroom experience that don’t show the complete picture of a CTE program.

But a CTE-specific solution can track completers, CTSOs, certifications, and more. This gives you a full picture of the value of a program to learners and communities.

The Importance of Quality CTE Data Management

In ensuring learners have an ideal CTE experience, quality data management makes all the difference. When you have an effective system in place, state and local CTE leaders will be able to use program data to make key program decisions benefiting everyone, expanding program offerings and providing certification opportunities that will open doors for learners in the future.

Solve Your CTE Data Management Problems 

Each of these data-related complications can challenge CTE directors and administrators and leave with only part of the story. But when you adopt a CTE-specific data management solution like Eduthings, you can track and report on program performance and put CTE at the Forefront.

Visit the iCEV booth during the Advance CTE Spring Conference to learn how Eduthings can be your CTE command center and improve your data management with a custom solution.

State Innovations in Career Technical Education: Building a Clean Energy Workforce

April 23rd, 2024

To solve pressing climate-related challenges including droughts, forest fires, sea level rise and others, the nation needs a workforce prepared to address those challenges. The clean energy sector, in particular, helps provide solutions for the future of the planet, and the economic case for expanded investment in clean energy jobs is clear: in 2022, clean energy jobs grew in every state and, with a national 3.9% job growth, outpaced national employment growth.1 To prepare young people for the future of this emerging economy, states and local education agencies are turning to Career Technical Education (CTE) to develop both the technical and academic skills needed while providing specialized training to ensure learners are environmentally aware and can enter into environmentally-focused careers.

Some states focus on a broad strokes approach that expands access to the sector as a whole. Last year, Massachusetts created a Clean Energy Innovation Career Pathway, to “inspire the next generation of clean energy experts in Massachusetts by providing students experiential learning opportunities in the field.” In September 2023, six high schools began piloting this pathway. The state also announced multiple financial investments in the development of training opportunities, including a $2.5 million grant to Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology to create their Center for Energy Efficiency and the Trades and achieve a goal of connecting 50% of graduates to climate-connected occupations by 2026.

Other states developed more focused career-specific pathways in close collaboration with industry partners. Georgia, for example, developed an electric vehicle career pathway in response to a $5 billion investment from electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian, who seeks to hire 7,500 workers across four counties in Georgia. This type of approach reveals the importance of employer partners who can demonstrate and speak to the value of CTE training programs for the clean energy sector.

Local education agencies are also adopting hyperlocal programs in response to hyperlocal need. The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School focuses on preparing learners specifically for maritime careers, and is focused heavily on careers centered on the clean workforce, including in marine biology research, aquaculture, and ocean technologies, among other pathways. They have partnered with the Billion Oyster Project to provide learners with hands-on experiences and direct connection to mentors in the industry, in turn developing young practitioners eager to engage in this space. The Billion Oyster Project reports engaging with over 11,000 New York City students since 2014.

Environmental education, climate literacy, and exposure to workforce opportunity are vital to recruitment and retention of young people in the clean energy space. To prepare for the economic future of this emerging space, high quality and equitable CTE needs to remain at the forefront to ensure that all young people can find, decide on and engage in these types of future careers.  


Advance CTE is currently doing work in environmental education by partnering with the Delaware Department of Education to explore the future environmental literacy competencies within and across Delaware Pathways. Read about the project

Read more about policies enacted in CTE Clean Energy and Renewables and other CTE-related policy trends of 2023 in State Policies Impacting CTE: 2023 Year in Review.

Dan Hinderliter, associate director, state policy

Advance CTE 2024 Spring Meeting Sponsor Blog – Diamond Sponsor Kuder | Your Ultimate Guide to Work-Based Learning Programming Strategy & Implementation

April 22nd, 2024

The views, opinions, services, and products shared in this post are solely for educational purposes and do not imply agreement or endorsement by Advance CTE, nor discrimination against similar brands, products, or services not mentioned.

Work-based learning (WBL) programs play a pivotal role in preparing learners for successful careers by integrating hands-on skills training into their educational experience. Career Technical Education (CTE) leaders can enhance the effectiveness of these programs by sharing fundamental strategies to identify key areas of opportunity for advancement, and leveraging proven tools like Kuder Connect 2 Business® to bring additional efficiencies to statewide and district efforts. Visit Kuder’s website to access the newly released Work-Based Learning Playbook.

There are six ways states can lead in providing consistent standards of quality in WBL including:

Provide Inclusive Opportunities

WBL experiences must be accessible to every student regardless of their race, identity, ability, or socio-economic background.

Promote Learner Choice and Autonomy

Encourage learners to take ownership in their career preparation and training to create more engaging and effective learning experiences.

Create Collaborative WBL Ecosystems

WBL programs require consistent collaboration between learners, educators, and employers to produce meaningful outcomes. 

Provide Quality, Sustainable WBL Opportunities

Learners need to be able to gain relevant, hands-on experience from their WBL activities while in a safe and regulated environment.

Have Clearly Defined & Tracked Measurements

There should be complete clarity and consistency on the goals, expectations, and procedures of each WBL opportunity.

Help Participants Develop Transferable Skills

Providing a quality WBL experience means reinforcing academic concepts with real, applicable skills that can be utilized within numerous personal or professional situations.

Next Level WBL Success

These critical concepts are just the start of developing a high-quality WBL for every learner in your state. Even if you’ve got a clear plan for how you want to revolutionize your local, district, or state-level WBL design, it will require a significant commitment from you and your staff to implement. 

“Kuder’s responsiveness and commitment to ensuring we’re supported for WBL completion and ICAP reporting has been outstanding,” said Brent Haken, CareerTech State Director in Oklahoma. “Working in partnership with OSDE, C2B will expand WBL in the state and strengthen education and business partnerships.”

To streamline WBL, you can leverage Kuder Connect 2 Business’ proven WBL tools to streamline the entire process with real-time reporting, business profile management capabilities, and more!

Visit with Connor Harrington, CEO of Kuder, Inc. and John Milroy, Vice President of Partner Solutions at the Advance CTE Spring Meeting to learn more about elevating work-based learning and career readiness in your state.

Learn more at www.kuder.com.

Advance CTE 2024 Spring Meeting Sponsor Blog – Diamond Sponsor YouScience | YouScience leads the way in aptitude-enabled education

April 19th, 2024

The views, opinions, services and products shared in this post are solely for educational purposes and do not imply agreement or endorsement by Advance CTE, nor discrimination against similar brands, products or services not mentioned.

In the constantly evolving education landscape, YouScience® is revolutionizing how students discover their best-fit postsecondary education and career pathways with YouScience® Brightpath and aptitude-enabled education.

Brightpath is the only aptitude-based guidance platform that leverages data and artificial intelligence to help individuals identify their aptitudes, validate their skills, and get matched with educational and career pathways.

Brightpath is used in all 50 states and is offered as a state-wide contract in several. Here are five reasons educators and state CTE leaders should evaluate Brightpath:

  • Accelerate deployment without headcount: Brightpath makes it easy to scale state-wide programs with consistency and speed without adding headcount.
  • Improve quality of results: Educators report improvements in CTE participation and love how easy it is to use Brightpath to achieve their goals. 
  • Access all products with a single sign-on: Access one or all of our core products with a single sign-on. This includes: Aptitude & Career Discovery, Education & Career Planning (including Course Planner and Resume Builder), Work-Based Experiences, Industry Certifications, and more. 
  • Support education and career initiatives: Join other educators at the state or local level who choose Brightpath for delivering value to students, educators, and employers. 
  • Utilize best-in-class data and analytics: Access custom or standardized reports that help you show what’s working, gain access to funding, and advance legislative priorities.

Aptitudes: The key to unlocking potential

Aptitudes are an individual’s natural ability to learn or perform skills regardless of environment. Knowing aptitudes is one of the most powerful accelerators to help empower individuals to leverage their natural gifts and find success. They expand a student’s understanding of what’s possible beyond what they know and have been exposed to. By understanding their aptitudes, students gain invaluable insight into the paths that align with their interests and abilities.

How does Brightpath work? Students engage with a series of timed brain game exercises that are designed to reveal their aptitudes and interests while also identifying careers and educational opportunities that align with both.

Why interest-only career guidance falls short

Interests are self-reported activities someone wants to know or learn about. While interests are important, for career guidance they are limiting and have proven to reinforce biases and stereotypes because having an interest in a particular career relies heavily on a student’s direct exposure to that particular career field.

Collaborative planning: Empowering students for success

Empowering students goes beyond individual assessments; it involves collaborative planning among families, educators, and counselors. Together, they guide students in applying their aptitude knowledge to course planning, participation in Career Technical Education (CTE) programs, and obtaining industry-recognized certifications. With this support system in place, students can confidently navigate the workforce transition or pursue postsecondary education tailored to their aptitudes and interests.

Interdisciplinary education: Creating personalized pathways

Interdisciplinary education takes aptitude-enabled learning to new heights by fostering collaboration among schools and districts. By viewing education through the lens of relevant Career Clusters, educators can create personalized pathways and integrated programs. This holistic approach not only enhances students’ academic experiences but also prepares them for the demands of the modern workforce.

YouScience: Leading the charge

The comprehensive Brightpath platform empowers students to discover their aptitudes and interests and provides them with the tools they need to make informed decisions about their future. By integrating collaborative planning and interdisciplinary education, YouScience ensures that students are well-prepared to embark on their chosen pathways with confidence through aptitude-enabled education.

To learn more about Brightpath, visit  www.youscience.com/brightpath.

Advance CTE 2024 Spring Meeting Sponsor Blog – Gold Sponsor SkillsUSA | The Skills Gap May be Wider Than You Think… But We’ll Close It Together

April 17th, 2024

The views, opinions, services and products shared in this post are solely for educational purposes and do not imply agreement or endorsement by Advance CTE, nor discrimination against similar brands, products or services not mentioned.

As a state Career Technical Education (CTE) leader, you’ve likely heard the phrase “skills gap” many times. We hear it often at SkillsUSA, too, especially from our current and prospective industry partners looking to secure their future workforce. At more than 400,000 student and teacher members, SkillsUSA is the largest Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) in the U.S. devoted to the skilled trades, and that’s one of the reasons we describe ourselves as “the #1 workforce development organization for students.” Another reason is our approach to closing the skills gap, one that focuses on the development of more than technical skills alone.

Yes, most discussions around the skills gap center around the need for hands-on technical skills, and understandably so. After all, the manufacturing industry alone forecasts more than 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030, and other industries offer their own daunting predictions. In fact, according to a recent report from McKinsey and Company, 87% of companies worldwide claim to either be experiencing a skills gap now or expecting to experience one in the next few years. Viewing the skills gap as mainly a shortage of technical skills is so pervasive because that shortage is such a clear and present threat to our global economy.

But there’s another aspect of the skills gap that’s just as big a threat. When we speak with industry, we hear repeatedly that entry-level employees also lack what are often called “employability” or “soft” skills. These are skills such as communication, teamwork, integrity, professionalism, and more that set employees apart as leaders, achievers, and difference-makers, which can foster success in any career… and in life itself.

Those are exactly the types of skills we work to develop in our SkillsUSA students as we accomplish our mission: to empower students to become skilled professionals, career-ready leaders, and responsible community members. When students combine those life skills with their hands-on skills, their potential is truly limitless.  

One of our teachers, Amanda McClure of Union Grove High School in McDonough, Georgia, says it best: “SkillsUSA transforms timid students into leaders, disinterested students into competitors and self-centered students into team players. I have seen the positive changes SkillsUSA makes in my students’ lives and witnessed their success in college and careers as a result of involvement.”

According to the recent “SkillsUSA Advantage Report,” released by the Student Research Foundation in 2022, SkillsUSA members consistently outperform their peers not enrolled in a CTSO in seven essential areas: earning a license or certification, meeting potential employers, being excited about their chosen career, gaining work experience, understanding the work environment, being excited about school, and connecting school to the real word. 

Those results are further proof that CTE is at its strongest and most impactful when it’s shaping the whole student into a confident, focused leader and contributor, one who’s uniquely skilled to succeed both personally and professionally. Showing the nation that CTE is unrivaled when it comes to setting students up for fulfilling, successful futures is how we put—and keep—“CTE at the Forefront” of workforce development discourse. In fact, many are already catching on about the amazing opportunities CTE programs provide. SkillsUSA’s membership numbers—the highest in our nearly 60-year history—are a testimony to that fact, and that’s thanks in large part to the life-changing work our state SkillsUSA directors perform each and every day on behalf of their student members. I know that same dedication is shared by all state CTE leaders, and as we commit ourselves to developing the whole student in all our programs, we make it clear—through the inspiring success of our students—what “CTE Without Limits” truly means.

Chelle Travis

Executive Director, SkillsUSA

 

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