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Administration's Vision for Career and Technical Education Features Adult Career Pathways

May 22, 2012

By Marcie Foster and Patrick Reimherr

Last month, the Department of Education released its “blueprint” for the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act of 2006, which is up for reauthorization next year.  According to the blueprint, the new vision maintains the law’s current focus on building pathways to help more students obtain postsecondary credentials, but raises the stakes for CTE by seeking to build a system that is better aligned with the needs of the labor market, incentivizes collaboration with other education and training systems, and expands educational opportunity for students and workers at all ages and skill levels. CTE is an essential system for low-skilled adults and youth to improve their earnings potential and gain greater economic mobility. Students in both secondary and postsecondary CTE courses have been shown to have higher rates of employment and earnings than their non-CTE peers and be less likely to receive selected income and work supports.

Through the release of this blueprint, the Administration presented its vision of a comprehensive and employer-responsive career and technical education system in the U.S.  Current law has made important strides in preparing students with academic and technical skills, largely through “programs of study,” which integrate academic and career content and help students move toward employer-valued postsecondary credentials. These programs of study foster collaborations between both K-12 systems and postsecondary institutions so students are put on a path to postsecondary education early, beginning in their high school years.

But changing labor market needs call for a system that will better prepare students of all ages and all skill levels for postsecondary education and employment – not just traditional high school graduates. Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce projects that by 2018, the majority of jobs in the U.S. will require some form of postsecondary education. CLASP and NCHEMS estimate that, by 2025, the United States will need to produce about 24 million additional credentialed adults to remain globally competitive with leading Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries like Japan and the U.K. This new blueprint for CTE aims to improve the system’s ability to help individuals meet the demands of this changing labor market and grow the country’s skilled workforce.

The blueprint proposes nine reforms under four themes: alignment, collaboration, accountability, and innovation.

  • The administration proposes to align labor market needs with CTE curriculum by establishing clear expectations for high-quality programming and allowing states to identify in-demand occupations in high-growth industry sectors.
  • The administration also hopes to encourage collaboration between secondary and postsecondary institutions, employers, and industry partners by altering the funding mechanism from direct awards given to school districts and postsecondary institutions individually, to consortia that could include school districts, postsecondary institutions, workforce development entities, adult education programs, employers, and others. This model would enable states to target high-quality programs and promote the use of evidence-based models, such as career pathway and “bridge” programs that offer seamless and contextualized education and training for students leading to postsecondary credentials.
  • The administration proposes a series of improvements around data collection to encourage greater accountability. Specifically, the blueprint calls for uniformity across definitions and performance indicators to increase comparability of CTE programs, and where possible, link CTE information with other statewide data systems.
  • Finally, the administration is proposing a competitive grant program to promote innovation, encourage best practices, and test new models for CTE education that will resemble the “Race to the Top” program for Elementary and Secondary Education.

While CLASP is supportive of the Administration’s efforts to expand the focus of CTE to include students and workers of all ages, particularly adults with low basic skills, the impact of the blueprint in its entirety on low-income, low-skilled adults and out-of-school youth remains unclear.  National CTE organizations and member associations are currently weighing in on the specific proposals made in the blueprint, particularly those provisions that would change the way that funding flows to local providers.  As more details about the blueprint are released, CLASP will analyze the likely impact of the proposals.

View the Department of Education’s Investing in America’s Future: A Blueprint for Transforming Career and Technical Education >>

Read examples of career pathway “bridge” programs in Farther Faster: Six Promising Programs Show How Career Pathway Bridges Help Basic Skills Students Earn Credentials that Matter>>

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